Tupac Amaru Shakur collection opens at University library

Fresh off the heels of my 2Pac post and review of his classic album, Makaveli The Don Killuminati; The 7 Day Theory comes this news.

Right in time to acknowledge the 15th anniversary of his death, The Atlanta University Center has opened a collection of his writings and other material in their Woodruff library. This further cements his iconic legacy and place as a highly influential figure in American and now literary history.

For the full scope of what this collection is about, check out this link and even visit the site of the non-for-profit bearing his name.

http://news.yahoo.com/tupac-amaru-shakur-collection-opens-research-atlanta-university-184504711.html

http://www.tasf.org/

Very Classy. Not much of a hubbub going around the internet about the anniversary yesterday, but this closed things out rarely quietly and respectable in my humble opinion. In other words,

“2Pac Back!”

(19) Classic Sounds….

Like…

15 Years.

Dude, I wasn’t even 15 years old when my favorite rapper of all time was pronounced dead. I remember hearing the news from the television in my father’s room. I ran in to hear that 2Pac was indeed dead. I immediately felt a weird sort of gravity. A week before, I was joking about him surviving and probably rapping with an iron lung. This time tho, I sincerely realized the impact of death from a distant place. It was a significant year; 1996 had marked the passing of my father’s mother – my Granny. It was my first real and close death, so coming of age as a 13 year old going on 14, the absorption of what loss feels like hit me unforgettably. My Aunt Charlene called me to see if I had heard. I don’t even know how she knew that I liked Pac, or if it was just an assumption based on my music love, but I wasn’t nearly the 2Pac fan that Iam now. I wouldn’t call myself a fan back then. I just liked a good amount of his singles and held fond memories of watching his videos with my big sister Veen. But like most every other hip-hop fan and listener in New York City at that period in time, I had read the VIBE and Source articles and recently heard “Hit ‘Em Up” and I thought the nigga was crazy!

So when we come to a point like this, and the handful of you who consistently visit this blog notice that this is my second review of a classic 2Pac album within a span of 3 months, or if you’re a random visitor and notice that, then the latter of you wonder why I started this post off this way, and the former of you understand that I would not let this month go by without properly acknowledging the anniversary of the death of the most prolific and poetic rapper ever. I mentioned in the prior Pac post that I’d come back this month and pay respect properly, and especially as I prepare to deactivate my blogger status, it makes the most sense that I wrap up this year in significant ways.

It’s this album, that made me the fan that Iam today. I picked a great point to become a Pac historian because had I re-acquainted myself with his music with the All Eyez On Me LP, I think I would have had an underwhelming assessment of him as an artist. While an intended triumph and celebratory effort, that album did more to invoke West Coast hip-hop unity and pride and re-introduce Pac as a retaliatory and party-friendly force in rap than exhibit his skills and personality. It was surface stuff. And tho it can be argued that since The 7 Day Theory is a posthumous work that it may not be Pac’s final vision – especially considering that there are hundreds of songs that he recorded in that year and a slew of Makaveli sequels that hit the mixtape circuit immediately after it’s release, these are still his thoughts and expected execution of such. I began seeing the posters for this album in October. It was releasing on election day of ’96. I didn’t like the cover. I thought it was too much. I heard pieces and bits of it on blocks as cars rolled by and so on. I didn’t really hear it until months later when I was chilling in a pool hall downstairs from my building, which ironically, had a huge airbrushed poster of Pac from his All Eyez On Me cover with the quote, “even thugz cry, but do the lord care?”. I thought it was amazing how a bunch of street dudes from Harlem, my hometown… shooting pool, rolling dice and playing video games, who 4 months ago would otherwise be blasting “Who Shot Ya??” by Biggie, all were just in full out Pac mode, blasting The 7 Day Theory from the jukebox and reciting the lines. I just stood there and soaked it all in.

The first song that made an impression on me was the actual first song off the album. “Bomb First (My Second Reply)” is like no other 2Pac song; It booms, has incredibly aggressive energy without sounding crazy amped, and is full of organized confusion. For those who were not previously familiar with Pac’s Outlawz crew, this song was a great introduction. A tamer follow-up to “Hit ‘Em Up”, this track is still laced with venom but more calculated and stemming less from the mind of a scorned troublemaker and more from the mind of someone fully ready to go to war and taunting his enemies to come out of hiding. It was definitely a battlecry, complete with a dramatic introduction and conclusive explosion and even little clever jabs at Bad Boy and Xzibit (who I was a fan of at the time). What moved me the most however, was that the beat was decidedly east coast. I was used to Pac rapping over the whiny, bouncy and r&bish sounds that had defined California hip-hop. This dark beat with it’s bassline that uses the same sample as a dozen of Hip-Hop songs from the 90, including Naughty By Nature‘s “Uptown Anthem” (who I also knew Pac was cool with) was a change of pace, and to me a sign of where Pac was going before his life got cut short. The outlawz’ Jersey-brewed voices and wordy delivery also helped foster this vibe and added an East Coast co-sign that showed that Pac was not leftist, just beefing with most of the popular rappers along the Atlantic. My ears were wide open from this point.

To hear a song like “Hail Mary” follow such a dynamic lead off is almost overwhelming. What these two songs placed next to each other did for street dudes is indelible. The message is remarkably stark. It’s a sequence of get-back, promises, exposition of plans and credos that lead to quotables that have been repeated time and again. Tho I never fully understood every line of this song (like “mama told me never stop until I bust a nut” – huh?? Why would your mother tell you that?), everybody else seems to, so whatever. Besides, Not understanding Pac is a great departure from the usual route of being able to predict every other damn word that he was about to say (see, “hennessy” and “enemies”). This was also a departure from his one line chorus style and saw him using full out sentences and refrains for hooks on most of the songs on this LP, even chanting – dare I say singing? on this one. The cryptic and gothic feel of this song became the thugs’ anthem and the perfect single to really drive the whole I-just-died-but-I-may-still-be-alive-somewhere-and-outsmarting-you-all feeling that came around his death. This beat too was not typical West-coast fare, and tho it sounds non coast specific, it just resonates with the spirit of hardcore, melodious Hip-Hop. It was the ultimate posthumous song and declaration. The irony in the biblical reference on such a grim track just tied into the whole Christianity play of the album.

Speaking of which, by the time I got to the 5th track, “Blasphemy”, I had faithfully owned this album on tape and was amazed when I heard this. It has a weird beat that is more atmosphere and background for Pac’s vocals than a production. It sounds like everybody was high and producer Hurt-M-Badd was playing with modulated or distorted oboe sounds and Pac said ‘yeah, lets keep that!’ On this under-appreciated song, Pac toys with lots of Christian imagery, incorporating dogma into his verses and making comparisons while questioning texts from Biblical scriptures. It’s a testament to where he was spiritually at the time, in light of his other contemporary tracks like “Black Jesus” and references to Jehovah. He seemed to be at a crossroads but enlightened somewhat, making peace with not accepting the traditional practices handed down, but forming his own definition of God for thugs and Black people overall. Profound lines like “We probably in Hell already, our dumb assess not knowing/everybody kissing ass to go to heaven ain’t goin!” and “brothers getting shot, coming back ressurrected/is this that raw shit? – nigga check it!” will have anybody thinking…

A song that took a bit more time to grow on me however, is “Just Like Daddy”. It’s a little creepy of a concept, but it became a saying after this album became popular. This was more or less a vehicle for Pac to let the Outlawz get a little shine on the female demographic, tho they don’t quite pass as believable in the ladies man department like Pac naturally does. The song fits right in time in a much needed slot right after the darker songs that came before and the heavier songs that follow. It represents the essence of this album, a very honest mix of Pac’s thoughts and feelings at this point; some lighthearted material full of love and calm, to juxtapose with his most angst-ridden and burdensome sentiments and questions. The “Impeach The President” sample underneath once again added to the east coast feel and helped the even flow of west-meets east that seemed to be the formula in production for this project. The samples were all subtle and nicely soaked in other sounds. Besides, no Pac album would be complete without a good song “for the ladies” or 2.

This album may be remembered more for songs like “Hail Mary” and “Me And My Girlfriend”, yet in all honesty, it should be revered for the deeper songs like “Blasphemy” and the 2 in the middle of the album; “Krazy” & “White Man’z World”. While “Krazy” may sound like a return to the usual Pac rhetoric about getting high, being in jail, questioning the fate of a thug, this finds Pac coming from a more mature and contemplative perspective. It’s more sedate, and less hopeless than previous songs of the same vain like “Life Goes On” or “It Ain’t Easy”. When he says simple lines like “I came a long way, but still I got so far to go”, you believe him and almost feel him wanting change. On a less optimistic note, on “White Man’z World”, he kind of accepts the reality of being in a disadvantaged predicament, but calls for a social revolution of Black people not embracing second class status. While he does so with fervor, this is accomplished more through his adlibs, as his verses are less focused on any particular subject and are more 1st and 2nd-person recitations that feel like something that he just needed to get off of his chest. Interestingly enough, it’s the jail talk on this song, that sounds more appropriate for the song “Hold Ya Head” which is a loose dedication to those on lockdown making it through bids, but sees Pac doing more of that 1st person diatribe that he did on “White Man’z World” with a little bit of bragging. It’s the sounds chosen in the production of these songs tho, that is truly the glue. The smooth and rich feeling of replayed samples and real instrumentation in ways that weren’t ever really explored or prominent in rap music coupled with hard hip-hop snares and great use of dramatic segues into each song delivered a  mix that allowed 2Pac to be the final and most powerful instrument on the songs. They evoke definite moods that deliver Pac’s message clearly. This is not Pac rapping hardcore over r&b, or getting deep and conscious over crunk funk, this was the perfect mix…And most of it displayed a thinking Pac who was reflective and strategic.

That doesn’t mean that all strategized Pac was calm. On the aforementioned “Me And My Girlfriend”, he made a cult classic out of a used concept. He pretty much killed it for everybody else after unfortunately, tho he sparked everyone’s desire to follow the trend. On a cinematic and thumping beat (on which Pac gets production credit) that sounds very mafia movie inspired and works for both coasts, Pac rips through this song on an extended metaphor about his lady being his gun. It took alot of us a minute to digest. The whole woman-as-a-metaphor-for-an-object thing was still relatively fresh and new to Hip-Hop fans. We were easily impressed when it was applied to something very dynamic and tangible like guns. Nevermind the fact that  2 years earlier, Organized Konfusion did verses as a stray bullet, or that Common addressed the whole state of Rap music and Hip-Hop culture as if it were a woman, Most of the rap listening public at large hadn’t heard this technique used until Nas‘ personification as a gun on that summer’s “I Gave You Power”. It was mind-blowing. My personal theory is that most of 2Pac’s beef with Nas was rooted from a place of true fandom. I think Pac listened to Nas heavily and respected him, until he started listening a tad too closely. In all honesty, to take offense to any of the lines from Nas’ second album, you’d A) have to understand the bullshit he was talking about, or B) really be rewinding his songs and reading along with the lyrics sheet included with his LP. 2Pac seemed to be rubbed the wrong way by Nas’ brief line in the first track off his album where he claims to have got shot and stitched up and left the hospital in the same night. Something Nas just said for dramatic effect, but something that Pac actually lived. But to catch that line, you’d have to be listening quite intently. I think Pac was listening hella hard, as a fan first, and then felt some way. And even through all of this, especially given the timeframe of when the album came out in relation to his album, and how huge the response was to “I Gave You Power”, I think Pac Loved that song, and in the spirit of competition and ego, felt the need to outdo and 1-up Nas by going the only next place that one could go after turning themselves into a gun...Loving one. So If “I Gave You Power” was the classic rap song of that summer of 1996, then “Me And My Girlfriend” was undoubtedly the classic rap song of that fall. BTW, this song should have never been remade by Jay-Z and Beyonce. Never…

The videos alone for this album should tell you that this is close enough to the version of this album that Pac would have made had he been alive long enough to see it to the release date. Before my visit to the pool hall, I saw the clip for “Toss It Up” late one night on Rap City and thought, ‘what??! I thought all the media outlets said that “I Ain’t Mad At Cha” was the last video he ever made?’ It was weird. I was kind of mad thinking that his final video would be of him parading around LisaRaye and cars with c-list singers instead of the meaningful one with him getting shot and going to heaven with the great musical legends. So you could imagine how flabbergasted I was when I saw the video for “To Live And Die In L.A.” just come out of nowhere months later. I was more shocked that it was being played on NYC radio stations. But this brought a sense of peace back. Whereas “Toss It Up” is the only song on this album that is reminiscent of the reckless and flamboyant vibe of All Eyez, “To Live And Die..” brought more of that calm, reflective but radio friendly spirit that made this album evenly measured.  I was more relieved to think that this was indeed Pac’s final video, a laid back but raw and lamentable ode to the city that made him the man that he became. And even tho he’s not an L.A. native, you can tell that he was directing it towards those who grew up in Los Angeles and the natives. He described the lifestlye and hood culture there so vividly and passionately that it made me want to go there just to see why he and all these other west coast dudes seemed to love it so much. If you watch the video, you see how it makes sense that this was the video where he literally rides out into the sunset. He looks like he was having a genuinely good time, if only for the moment. I even find amusement in the fact that even in the midst of the feel good aura he keeps the pace and balance of the album alive by making time to throw a dart at Dr. Dre at the end and remind us all that he’s still in war mode, just taking a break to love life. 

“Toss It Up” is not a bad song at all, nor does it change or ruin the mood, it’s just a song that I never listen to on here. Maybe because Iam a New Yorker, and this is the only track on here that has that 90’s West coast style of production that I mentioned earlier and expected the album to sound like, or maybe because I absolutely hate the singing, but I’m just never in the mood to hear that shit. Along with “Life Of An Outlaw”, these are the only tracks that I skip on the album. But by definition, a classic album is not so much about whether or not you only choose to listen to your favorite songs on the album, but whether or not you can play it from beginning to end. And since the flow and theme of this album aren’t disturbed at all and every last song has it’s own independent value, this is indeed a classic. And I can attest to listening to this from front to back a zillion times.

“Life Of An Outlaw” is actually one of 3 songs on which 2Pac recieves co-production credit, making this the first and only album where that happens. It’s just telling of the direction that he might have been headed. It also marks an important place in his rap history where he flexes the widest vocabulary of his career and doesn’t rely on his go-to sentences and phrases. He steps it up lyrically and flow wise, using different patterns, more syllables and compounds adding to the effect of that west meets east influence sprinkled across the album. One can only imagine where he was about to go as an artist from this point. Whoever did the sequencing on this LP had the ear to present Pac in the most honest and balanced way possible and closest to his own intent.  With production from 3 unknown beatsmiths (including an up and coming QD3) this seemed to be an ideal marriage of sound for Pac’s new strategic mindstate and a perfect comedown from the party that was All Eyez. Moreso than any other of his albums where he appears to be preoccupied with a particular angle (Death on Me Against The World, Police Brutality and injustice on 2Pacalypse Now, etc.), this was the most well rounded – even with the slant of him being in wartime mode. This album changed the way I looked at 2Pac as an artist, and subsequently changed my life. It’s apart of the top 5 albums that influenced me as a rapper.

With that, my favorite songs on here are “Krazy”, “To Live And Die In L.A.”, “Bomb First”, “Blasphemy” and the super classic “Against All Odds” which is arguably the best closing song on a rap album ever, right next to “Suicidal Thoughts” and “Regrets”. To understand this song is to understand exactly where Pac’s mind was at in that time. He named names of non-rappers, real street dudes with sketchy stories who were all somehow tied together, he talked to the rap figures who were saying slick shit in interviews, he told you why he was mad, and asked you what would you do if you were him? The effects in the background and the talking were the perfect compliment to mark the tone of this track. It’s climactic and impactful. If “Bomb First” was the taunting, this was the declaration. He got it off of his chest. If you don’t like this song, you just don’t like 2Pac and you probably stopped reading this review 8 paragraphs ago.

Yet and still, this album is undeniably a complete classic. And for that it gets 16 Candles out of a possible

4812 or 16.

4(Classic Just because where it stands in Hip-Hop, whether it be the time of it’s release, it’s influence, or the popularity of it’s singles overall)

8(Classic because it was solid for it’s time, but may be a little dated or less than amazing by today’s standards)

12(Classic as a complete release and probably celebrated widely on the surface, but possibly lacking one key element – be it one song that doesn’t fit, a wack guest appearance, lyrics, lack of depth or beats)

16(Classic all around)

R.I.P. Homie. Thanks for the music…

(16) Classic Sounds…

Like…

What, you thought I wasn’t gonna do a Classic Sounds review of a 2Pac album?? Yeah, why would I do a review of an album by my favorite rapper of all time, on what would be his 40th birthday, coming up on the 15th anniversary of his death??

Let alone his debut album.

Pac represents so many things to hip-hop culture. His career is a study in itself. Often criticized for the duality of his stances and expression, that was the very thing that made Pac so compelling. It was anger and anti-establishment, then it was gentle and compassionate. It was poetic and then it was brazen and brash. It was California-centric, but at the same time it was universally pro-Black.

I remember being in my sister Veen‘s room and seeing that she had this album on tape, and thinking to myself 2Pacalypse Now?? ‘What kind of title is that?’ It was on the arrival on the movie Juice, and I had just saw the video for his lead single “Trapped”. I was in 4th grade, but I wasn’t impressed. I just knew I had heard his name here and there, usually in the vein of something controversial. I remember thinking, ‘oh, he’s that trouble-making rapper that’s playing a bad guy in that movie’. Boy, was that a foreshadowing understatement…

Who would have known that this would turn out to be the rapper who I’d identify with the most 6 years later, and carry my tangled up, anxious and brooding self through my teenage years? somehow, despite any concrete similarities, in a world of glorified stick-up kids making get money anthems, backpackers, hot boys and Diddyisms, I related to the outspoken, borderline paranoid, son of an ex crack-addict, ex- militant single parent who championed “thug life” and the pursuit of fucking and getting fucked up, with oh-so-poetic sensibilities. Pac was many things…But the magic is in how all of these equally strong components of his character boiled within the same pot. This means whatever image 2Pac brings to mind may very well be true. But the bigger truth is that he has always been so much more.

As one of the rare Hip-Hop artists who’s work got progressively better with each release, if not the best example of it, Pac is a great research subject in that you can see where his division of  focus was and what parts of that pervaded through the bulk of his career. While most rappers release their most groundbreaking and provacative work at the beginning of their careers, anyone familiar with Pac’s catalogue knows that 2Pacalypse Now was just the tip of the iceberg.

Here, Pac seems to embrace a role of being the outspoken, more street-oriented off -shoot of the classic Cali group Digital Underground, which he was an unofficial member of. The “Rebel” in his own words. Much like Kool G. Rap was to the Juice crew, this album would serve to affirm Pac’s loyalty to the peeps that put him on, but also as the platform that would catapult him to eclipse them right afterward.

Taking this angle, this is the most civil yet aggressive version of Pac. Still very much so from the ‘I’m an emcee’ school of thought, this is the period where you’ll hear Pac using the wordiest and quickest flow of his career. He puts force in every syllable as opposed to dramatic emphasis that would later become his signature style. He vacillates between a measured delivery and a loose flow, even implementing elements of stacking and compound twisting, ala Bone Thugs.

Nowhere else is Pac’s early 90’s personality captured on track so completely.Even though the beats here mirror the times and contain alot of what helped lay the framework for what would become the West Coast sound, this album really is made up of instrumentals that really don’t fit any kind of niche. The overly dramatic bassline and cheesy keys on “Brenda’s Got A Baby” scream PSA, and some of the tracks where Pac just spits his version of bravado sound like they were borrowed from the east coast, back when people weren’t distinguishing rappers by region. Take for instance, the reverse distortion, repetetive hard piano loop and scratches accompanying the Ed O.G. vocal sample on the introductory track “Young Black Male”. In one verse, 2Pac makes his statement and  shows a lyrical dexterity that he rarely displays. He also presents the recklessness that compliments the social awareness that makes this album complete.

And that’s explicitly what 2Pacalypse Now gives you. As noted before, Pac had many sides and felt passionate on a multitude of issues that he split up within his body of work. One thing that remains constant is that throughout the span of his life, though some issues became more dominant than others, there was a dedication to the causes that he felt near and dear to. In other words, Pac stayed true to what he believed. Whatever he was fighting for on this album, was the same thing that he died fighting for. It’s here, on this debut, that we get a more Black and White version of Pac, with his concentration fixed on inciting riotous self-defense against crooked establishments – particularly police, painting vivid scenarios about social ills through storytelling, and making a name for himself as the young hot head doing things his own way. The tying together of these focuses is evident from the first transition of “Young Black Male” into “Trapped”. While the former is a boastful first shot in the air, the latter is less so and incorporates more of a narrative from a victimized angle.

The ebb and flow of the LP basically follows that lead, swinging back and forth from the kind of overconfidant and foreboding rap that we’ve come to know Pac for, to social commentary. Pac seems extremely entrenched in the world of police brutality and the injustices that are associated with the long arm of the law. All thru the album, cops are characterized as vicious, racists overseers who live to profile Blacks and keep law enforcement and judicial processes a numbers game. It becomes Pac’s one man rallying cry for inner city Black men to take action against such trespasses. This is clearly from a sentiment in which Pac felt that he was speaking not only for himself, but for every young Black male like himself that he knew. An interesting point, considering that this album came out the year right before the now infamous Los Angeles riots and even more ironically so, before Pac caught a serious charged of allegedly opening fire on two officers in Georgia. This fervor is captured in angry songs like “I Don’t Give A Fuck”, but none more stark and musically gripping as on “Violent”. Over an old distorted reggae dub beat that was souped up to build intensity, this is one of the rare tracks where you’ll hear Pac spit over an unconventional sound but marry it perfectly. The now outdated synths work against the speaker rattling bassline to give a cinematic quality to the song as Pac descriptively engulfs you in his increasing disdain for cops that elevates to a fictional me-against-them shoot-out at the end. With lines that are hard to forget like “So here I go/I gotta make my mind up/pick my 9 up/or hit the line up”, and “If I die tonight/I’m dying in a gunfight”, Pac’s strength rested in not clever wordplay, but in the simple poetry and believability of what he was saying. Even in fictional instances, these were still situations that Pac would probably act out if he found himself in them in real life.

Speaking of which, he takes a second to redirect his angst into a more cerebral outcry when he delves into his actual poetry roots and drops science while maintaining the hardcore vibe on “Words Of Wisdom” Even over an uptempo acid-jazz like breakdown, that was not something uncommon of that era…Where hip -hop was still playing with it’s jazz experimentation phase. Like I said, this album tapped into a little bit of every sound that was going on at the moment.

Another recurring theme goin on thru the album was loyalty to the hood and like-minded niggas (defined by Pac as meaning Never Ignorant, Getting Goals Accomplished). He addresses the benefits of it on songs like the soulful and more organically produced “If My Homie Calls”, and the deviation from it on songs like “Crooked Ass Nigga”. Featuring a guest verse from frequent early 90’s Pac collaborator Stretch, the man Pac would later accuse of abandoning him and alligning with his enemies, his presence on this song just serves as cruel irony…

It’s when Pac takes a pause from letting anger be the fuel behind his verses, that he leaves you with some of the most impactful songs that will leave you in thought and reflection and overall appreciation of his creative mind. He does this through the medium of storytelling. In a calm voice, he lays out the entire tale of Brenda, who has come to represent anyBlackgirl USA in innercity america who experiences a teen pregnancy that she can’t handle, completely in third person, but never from a detached sentiment. You can almost feel his empathy through the song, as if he’s talking about his little sister or someone that close. It’s so powerful that it makes you overlook the horribly overly melodramatic singing in the background and the bad beat.

The same goes for “Part Time Mutha” where he semi-autobiographically takes the role of a son, in strife from growing up witnessing a drug-addicted mother. It’s revealing in light of finding out what we now know about 2Pac, but the following 2 verses take it beyond just him aand speaks to the larger social epidemic of hard drug addiction that was rampant in the era. He enlists a random female to rap the second verse (in his cadence), and then he assumes the character of a struggling single mother himself on the last verse.

The most sharply executed of these stories is “Soulja’s Story”. Over a looming sample that is open enough to allow the listener to feel every word, but encroaching enough to set the ominous tone, Pac weaves a sequence of 2 brothers who become incarcerated and spark a prison break, again playing both characters.

The rest of the album is standard 2Pac rap that evens out his agenda and overall statement. As a complete project, it’s definitely the seminal effort where Pac’s early impact was established. Tho lacking the personal exposition and extrovertive vulnerability that lead fans to love him that his subsequent albums contained, this was Pac’s most easily digestable work until he dropped All Eyez On Me, which spared emotional complexity for mass appeal and more party emphasis. 2Pacalypse was clear, concise, and bold. He was so focused, that besides references to sex, Pac didn’t save himself any space to exhibit his female-directed material – which is just as vital and significant to the 2Pac mythos as his beef songs and conscious songs. This is the only album where that is the case. He was just too focused on getting his points across on retaliation, respect and rebellion. Besides an overbearing tone of anger that propels it, and the now, ages-old sound of the beats coupled against Pac’s rapping (which could have worked in the late part of his career as well), the album is pretty well balanced.

My favorite songs here are “Young Black Male”, “Violent”, “Soulja’s Story”,

“Rebel Of The Underground”  & “If My Homie Calls”

This album gets 12 Candles out of a possible

4812 or 16.

4(Classic Just because where it stands in Hip-Hop, whether it be the time of it’s release, it’s influence, or the popularity of it’s singles overall)

8(Classic because it was solid for it’s time, but may be a little dated or less than amazing by today’s standards)

12(Classic as a complete release and probably celebrated widely on the surface, but possibly lacking one key element – be it one song that doesn’t fit, a wack guest appearance, lyrics, lack of depth or beats)

16(Classic all around)

It’s more like a 13. Which is a fitting number.

This comes on the heels of an alleged confession by a former Jimmy Henchmen associate of being the shooter behind the infamous 1994 incident at NY’s Quad studio that sparked the paranoia and vengeful spirit that Pac would become most known for in the late 90’s.

Happy Birthday Homie…

More Negroes In The News – 2pac movie is coming, Tru-Life gets years for Murder, but this Philly kid deserves the chair!!

Ahhh, to be a minority.

Since I slacked last month, and this is  Black History Month, I figure a double dose of Negroes In The News is in order.

First off and most importantly, the good news;

There’s a 2Pac movie in the making and the casting will begin at the end of this month. Not Only is the film – tentatively titled All Eyez On Me, a biopic of my favorite rapper of all time, but it’s also being helmed by my favorite Black director, Antoine Fuqua (The man who brought you King Arthur, Brooklyn’s Finest and Training Day). There’s going to be an online casting contest where unknowns who feel like they can capture the look and essence of Tupac Shakur can participate in a virtual audition for the lead role as fans vote. I am super glad that they’re deciding to go the newcomer route. 2Pac’s personality is too strong and distinctive to have someone who we have envisioned in other roles blur that. I’m a fan of Anthony Mackie‘s acting, but his portrayal of Pac in the slopfest that was Notorious did not hit the mark. I can’t begin to imagine the pressure that Fuqua might feel to ensure that this movie doesn’t fall to similar criticism. There’s not much room for this story to get watered down. Pac’s life is a layered one, with many paradoxical elements and real historic points. Hope he consults with John Singleton on this one as well.

Now, the ugly…

You ever notice how Jay-Z distances himself from his former artists and associates right before they screw themselves out of the chance of a lifetime?? Call it the touch. He’s almost like those cartoon characters that see the anvil about to fall on who they’re standing next to and eases away without warning them of the impending doom.

He has good reason tho. Take for instance last fall’s major federal drug sweep that scooped up his former Roc-A-Fella partner Kareem “Biggs” Burke. While this self-destruction was more delayed than the usual 6 month to a year downfall timeframe for former Jay-Z affiliates, it still goes to show. For all we know, Biggs could’ve been dabbling in this shit at the onset of the Roc-A-Fella break-up and that could have contributed to Jay moving away because it’s so below the scale of what they were trying to do. On the other hand, this could just be the by-product of that very break-up and something that Biggs felt he had to resort back to doing to make up for the deficit caused by not generating industry revenue like he used to in the hey-days.

In either case, Jay must have had that same foresight when he quietly left Trouble-making rapper Tru-Life behind and pulled the plug on the experimental Roc La Familia imprint. 

Tru life and his real-life brother have found themselves charged with murder for what police are deeming as a retaliatory crime over an ongoing street beef. Taking plea agreements, Tru now faces a 10 year bid and his brother a 12 year stint for his role in the act. I guess that beats the inevitable 25 to Life that they would otherwise be serving, but damn niggas…There’s never really been a question about Tru Life’s involvement and connection to the streets. Dipset tried to make light of it during the heat of their rap spat that was more of a deflection of the real tension with Jay, but their taunting never hit any nerves. This is a guy who first started making waves by appearing on street DVD’s bragging about his crew bustin’ off shots and how they ran up in Mobb Deep‘s recording studio with guns ready to rob the group for backtracking on a verse. Once again, I wonder, is this the result of Jay dropping the kid and leaving him an unsigned, hungry, disgruntled rapper who only saw going back to the streets as an option?? Or is this the shit that the kid was on out of knuckle-headed impatience that made Jay dip in the first place?? Whatever the case is (and apparently, Murder was the case that they gave him), this is when keeping it real doesn’t pay. No one can give you years back off your life. And that’s Tru.

It gets better, order another round

This bastard here just admitted to killing his mother back in November after Thanksgiving in Philadelphia. How did he kill her? With a claw hammer. Why did he kill her? Because they had a 90 minute argument that ended with the 37 year old single mom taking his PlayStation system away. Not only did the 16 year old son strike his mother 20 times in her sleep with the Hammer, this was something that he spent 3 hours thinking about after the argument took place. I don’t even want to say anymore. Read the full story here. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/2011/02/17/2011-02-17_teen_kills_mom_with_claw_hammer_for_taking_away_his_playstation_court.html

One thing about Negroes (and yes that includes hispanics and other brown minorities) is that they never cease to amaze, shock and awe you. Whether good or bad.

Pac was on to something…Say it ain’t so Jimmy…

I’m not even gonna put up an image for this one. But since we’re talking about Beef, and 2Pac has been brought up in the last few posts, how about something that involves both?

All I have to say is that Pac may not have been the Super-Paranoid trouble-Maker you made him out to be all these years.

I know people affiliated with Jimmy Henchmen‘s Czar entertainment label, so I can’t really say much about his dealings as a businessman. He is apart of the older regime of big moguls with big egos who were very visible in the industry circa the mid-90’s to early 2000’s. But what largely separates him from his peers is his true and well-acknowledged criminal background as a former violent felon. This holds weight in a game that prides itself on street-credibility and authenticity.

Not so good when you’re being implicated as being a government informant. There’s no need for me to go into a diatribe about the whole ‘snitches get stitches’ ethos that resonates throughout the urban Black community. Tho telling hasn’t been embraced by any culture that has it’s hands in the dirt, it just has been made such a spectacle out of in the Black world – particularly the rap world.

So you can imagine how any of this news that has begun to surface this month from federal reports naming Henchman (real name Jimmy Rosemond) as an informant is a stench that he would want removed from the air A.S.A.P. Unfortunately, this is one that sticks and lingers. It’s already the lowest of the low in hip-hop to be called a snitch. To be a former reputable street figure having his named breathed anywhere near the word is living death. Even from a grown-man perspective, Jimmy probably feels too damn old for this shit to be resurfacing, as he’s moved on in his endeavors and this isn’t the first time the label has been tagged to him.

Pac first called him out on it in Industry circles and then ultimately on his infamous classic “Against All Odds” hinting that his relationship to another so called snitch “Haitian” Jack Agnant, was along the lines of treachery.

This revelation and recent development has only added fuel to that old fire, leaving people to either take things in one of 2 directions; that Henchman and Jack were both informants and had something to do with Pac’s 1994 shooting and maybe death, or that their involvement indicates some deeper darker link with government and some conspiracy stuff that I don’t even want to get into.

Some noted folks in the urban music industry have come to Jimmy’s aide and defense in light of the news, but keep in mind that all of these people are associates of his and would naturally take his side. Check out who said what from this article on Newsone.com http://newsone.com/nation/newsonestaff2/music-industry-stars-deny-jimmy-henchmen-rosemond-snitch-allegation/

At the end of his song, Pac asked “what would you do, if you were me?”

Good Question.

2PAC – Why Ya’ll STILL Don’t Get him…

And since his name just got brought up in the last post, It’s only fitting that I take this time to show love to my Favorite Rapper of All Time, 2pac Shakur.

This is an artist who is commonly casually accused of being hypocritical, but quite to the contrary, if folk took the time to actually ‘listen to the music and not just skim through it’, they would hear that he is a much more well-rounded artist.

What Pac did was never failed to give you a concise, very self-aware marriage of all of the elements of his being. These are elements that can very realistically co-exist and were never big exaggerations of his intents or capabilities. He didn’t give you Italiano-inspired scenarios of fictional drug heists or dealings, he didn’t tell you how he was gonna shoot the club up or stick niggas who floss. He didn’t brag about having a homie who ‘kidnaps kids’ and ‘fucks them in the ass’, or how he’s the king of L.A. and a prophet of the streets.

No, instead, he told you he was just a “Young Black Male”, loving the Cali life that he adopted, and had adopted him, that he became a man under, a former criminal who hung with criminals who ‘never had a record until he made a record’. He told you he was one of you, just on his flyer shit, but that he Loved you and he wanted what was best for you. Without claiming to be some urban griot or street’s disciple, he managed to always fit in songs with a strong Pro-Black message or inner-city reality theme or even positivity in ways that never came off corny or preachy. The other key factor being that like all good artists, his songs were always relatable and catchy. You never felt like you were listening to Pac’s “deep” song or his message track.

Then, he told you how he loved his strong, real Women, but didn’t love a bitch. Then he proceeded to define what a bitch is so you’d know. This is why, the same man who made “Keep Your Head Up” & “Brenda’s Got A Baby” can make “I Get Around” or “How Do You Want It”. How does one cancel the other?? Is he being crude and asking them to give him head if he lends them his chain? One song is describing what he wants to do to a particular woman and asking her what she wants, the other is addressing groupies and how (ironically), he likes to know up-front if the sentiments are mutual so as not to get caught up in rape accusations or any stalker situations. How does this take away from a song which addresses growing up poor, Ghetto life, dying friends and women (who are not the objects of his affections or lust in this case) who are struggling financially and raising children on their own?? Or a song where he’s describing an incident of teenage pregnancy and tragedy? He even makes a call to men to respect and tend to their women more so as not to have them end up as the wayward groupies he talks about in the other song. Yet and still, these 2 angles have been constants in Pac’s music from the beginning of his career, he always separates the lines and makes it clear when doing so.

He even told you he’s a mama’s boy. And then he made the first and only significant Mother’s Day rap song.

He told you what he would do in retaliation for his life if  put on the line and against the wall. Lines like “We ain’t even come to fight tonight, but it’s my life or your life…” do not imply senseless, non-provoked violence. This is not “Gimme The Loot” or “Shoot Em Up”. The most glorified it ever got to is on “Me and My Girlfriend” and even that had a purpose, or in his more militant era (though he never really lost that sensibility) when he took out his anger on crooked cops and the judicial system on songs like “Violent” or “Outlaw”. Most of Pac’s volatile energy – which he is now most notorious for – was directed at his enemies, who, instead of being imaginary foes, were real people who he aired out on record. From unnamed street folks who he probably had bad run-ins with and wanted him dead, to Industry heads who knew something and betrayed him or displayed disgusting weakness toward him, Pac knew exactly who he was talking to. Even when it was racists and cops at the top of the list. The gun talk wasn’t used to promote street gang violence or random shooting or even basic crime. Pac would often depict and describe the horrors of the aftermath of drive-bys and shoot-outs in other songs. This was war for him, usually in a self-defense regard. To put it short, the guy wasn’t a Saint by far, but while most of your favorite street rappers have always claimed to be killers and murderers, Pac was just telling you he’s ‘not a killer but don’t push him’! Doesn’t sound so contradictory now does it? I’d kill a nigga too if I believed he set me up and left a bullet in my nut.

The gem of Pac’s music however, was that for all these sides that he displayed and made co-exist, he also had the special thing that took him above and beyond; creativity. Having the most vast body of work of any rapper before Lil Wayne, Pac did come from a performance background after all, and this foundation shined through as he wove tales where he assumed characters, voices and described intricate plots. As redundant as his music can sometimes be, he has to be one of the only rappers who has rapped about such a diverse amount of topics, from friendship to religion. His songs really were just hood poetry….The fact that he could get us to listen to a song like “Can U get Away”, about taking a girl away from her abusive boyfriend with the same concentration as a song like “So Many Tears” where he shares his paranoid thoughts with us is a testament to that. He really is responsible for inventing the rap ballad, or emo rap. Just look at the beats that he rapped over.

I’ll do another formal look at 2Pac’s style and impact on hip-hop next year when the 15th anniversary of his death rolls around (WOW). For Now, pull out whatever music you have of his and listen with new ears. For those of you who never paid him much attention, Now is a good time don’t you think?

Hot-16…or more; “Run Brenda Run”

This song is featured on my upcoming Big mixtape project,

Westside Til I Die,

presented by this site right here, as well as 2Dopeboyz.com and Vaultharlem.com It’s called “Run Brena Run“, and in a way, it’s my homage to 2Pac and his classic, “Brenda’s Got A Baby“. It picks up where that song left off, not so much story-wise, but topic – wise. It needed to be touched on again. Oh yeah, and I play off the whole ‘Run’ analogy, even down to the beats I use. Be on the look out for the video for this track, directed, produced and shot by none other than resident Renaissance woman, TDJ herself.

Here goes;

“She Run Run like Re-Runs’ run,

So What’s Happening?

A sad song she done sung – cause she’s Battlin’,

a thing that can’t be un-done,

-well at least to some…

especially if you Catholic.

And she is,

so she wonder why Jesus ain’t,

intervene like ‘wait!’

You don’t need this weight.

Certainly she can’t…

wear that white dress,

got a new life in her stomach but feel life-less.

A few weeks ago she was a track star,

-fast girl – kind of fast girl who attract large, amounts of dudes by her school pushing fast cars,

they buy her food – take her shopping at the Gap but,

she 15, they 22 – that gap’s large…

and when she found out she was late – all them cats’ Gone!

She cut class more to throw up in a bucket,

they cut her from the track squad, but she keep runnin’ (awaaaay)

-she been,

pregnant for a month, baby coming in 8,

but she can’t keep Runnin Away (Can’t keep runnin awaaaay).

Now she regret what she done, feel like Runnin’ away, but she can’t keep…

Stuck in a frame – a moment frozen in time;

a baby warm in her stomach -a summer cold in her mind

-feel like it snowed in June,

she holds her womb,

cause in March,

she knows its due – it’s a Pisces.

And how them 2 fishes swim in 2 directions,

mirror the positions that she’s stretched in.

Sorta like the marks on her skin after the 2nd trimester,

How did it begin? Let her remember…

When she said ‘he’s all about his grip, always dipped, ice and leather’,

so that’s when she told her friends, that he was a go-getter.

But he got- her from the go,

and now she’s on her own,

in the fast lane joggin real slow

(But Whoa!)

Lady, lady,

take things easy baby,

Believe me,

These things change – they scream things lately,

-Call her “Heathen!”,

‘Demon and schemin’ – playin with fire’

But you just wanna sleep on a queen mattress…

and stay dreamin’, like a queen that is, ready for her throne,

ready to go home.

Ran away from it, cause she cannot take coming home to mama like,

‘mama uhhhhh…I gotta break somethin….

to you’.

But she don’t understand – it’s a new school,

Mama been young once – been in Love with a few dudes.

Ya’ll know the tune – duke,

Brenda had a baby,

threw him in the garbage – her apartment’s too crazy!

Stay there with aunts and uncles and cousins daily,

now she with a couple friends’ friends – and they rarely speak…

She barely eats, she cries to sleep,

she breaks the plates and tears the sheets

– her nerves ain’t there – she’s weak,

can’t stand it but she stay on her feet, like a race or a meet.

Keep her cross trainers on cause she know if more trouble come along…

all she gotta do is lace up her sneaks

(Keep Runnin Brenda!)

Cause every month I get another call,

someone telling someone, telling me, that there’s gon’ be another mother awww!…

but not when all them mothers are,

under 21 – they more,

like under 15, that’s just Fucking WRONG.

Blame it on the generation – they just fuckin’ more.

Yeah,

I accepted that,

But shit,

Where the protection at? They fuckin Raw??!

When Contraceptives is more,

available than they ever been,

-tell me where was Brenda when,

Sex-Ed class was demonstrating and lecturing,

showing them The Miracle of Life on television an’,

Now it’s just a miracle that life is even left in them,

Grandma gotta go an raise another infant and damn…

Might as well had a little brother or sister if you knew your mom was gon’ put like 87 percent into this,

child,

that you brought here, into this wild,

Frontier full of guns, blunts, tears and smiles.

Another single mother with no degree,

how’s she supposed to teach, a ma’fucka what he’s sposed to be??

When it’s much more exciting on the porch to see,

the newest whips niggas’ ridin’ – got the chrome on the V.

And forget about relations with the father,

child grow up waitin’ on a father,

cause he was just a booty call – or is it…

that you just, hating on the father? cause ya’ll dont get along?

and he wanna be a dad but,

you just shakin’ him off

-niggas need to understand that,

they are making more than a kid to put in cribs,

-No,

You are making more little hers and little hims,

so it’s really up to you to go and determine if,

your kids gon’ play like The Spurs, or gon’ play like The Knicks!

So who the Fuck are you?! are you gonna be that bridge?

or are you gonna burn it and go an’ create a riff??

Keep pushin’ them further and go and….make ’em drift?

When they ain’t ask to be here homey, Facin’ this…

pit of trouble duke,

mix of puzzle clues,

but if I was a New-Born coming to this New World,

best believe that,

I’d be runnin’ too

(I’m Runnin’)”

Hope you learned something.

Be on the lookout for that Westside Til I die mixtape, coming December 16th.

Here’s the exclusive link to this song for now.

http://www.zshare.net/audio/692684980b583140/