For someone who served prison time and passed away just five years after his debut album was released, Tupac Shakur was one prolific artist.
It’s almost as if the spokesman for urban plight, affectionately known as the “black Elvis” by some, hasn’t been gone for the past decade. That’s thanks in large part to 2Pac’s mom, Afeni Shakur. 2Pac issued five albums before being gunned down in Las Vegas in 1996. Since his untimely death at age 25, his mother has compiled six albums worth of 2Pac’s raw material, much of it recorded during marathon sessions after he was released from prison in October 1995.
It’s not unusual for the vaults to open when a musician dies at the height of his or her popularity, but in 2Pac’s case, the output is stunning, both in quantity and in its unflinching insight. The fact that he died as he prophesied only adds to his legend.
The latest compilation, Pac’s Life, produced by Afeni Shakur and Tom Whalley, includes all new material except one verse that appeared on an earlier CD. Guests help flesh out every track, including Snoop Dogg, Ludacris and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony.
Only one song seems dated. 2Pac dedicates “Don’t Stop” to C. Delores Tucker and Bob Dole, politicians who once crusaded against so-called profane music like his. The rest is just as relevant today as when it was recorded.
It’s chilling to hear 2Pac rap he’s going to “get it on ’til I die” on “Untouchable,” while gunfire is sprinkled throughout the song. The thumping menace of “Whatz Next” has him revealing, “I’m addicted to the hustle; I’m trapped in the game.”
2Pac left us too soon. In his absence is a large body of work — an unparalleled social statement that lives on.