November 25, 2016

2Pac "R U Still Down (Remember Me)" (Vibe, 2/98)

"When Tupac Shakur died, in 1996, he didn't need an obituary. His archive of start-some-shit soliloquies, ghetto ballads, and odes to various revolutions thoroughly recounted the artist's turbulent life and even foreshadowed his demise. Now, under the watchful eye of Tupac's mother, Afeni Shakur - who sued Death Row Records for control of hundreds of unreleased songs, which she culled to produce the double CD R U Still Down? (Remember Me) - hip-hop's complex crown prince is given new voice. This 24-track retrospective, recorded between 1991 and 1994, is far from being 2Pac's greatest work; an unnerving sense of deja vu permeates the sprawling opus. For example, "When I Get Free," sans the countrified twang, sounds like 1992's "Soulja's Story," revisited and is resonate with the latter's warbled voice distortions. "Thug Style," one of the record's few stellar moments, is nevertheless reminiscent of 1995's "Old School," in which Shakur articulates his East Coast conception while basking in California love. Like 'Pac's erstwhile Digital Underground homies once surmised, on this album it's mostly the same song." Revisit the album, cont'd below...

"Hidden in the mire, however, are the intoxicating f#ck you-isms of "Lie To Kick It" and the lovelorn lament of "Do For Love," proof positive that 2Pac was sharpest when his subject matter got around. Although the production (courtesy of Mike Mosley, Warren Go, Johnny "J" and others) is a bit dated, it's the 2Pac of the '90-'91 DU era that commands attention. Riding the party-hearty sounds of Parliament's "Flash Light," the lively "Let Them Thangs Go" provides temporary relief from the fatalistic aura of Shakur's later work. But the fun doesn't last; instead, there's much gruesome irony. "I keep my finger on the trigger 'cuz a brotha tryin' to kill me," 'Pac screams in the scathing "Hellrazor." Too bad 2Pac wasn't around to regulate the project, because if he was, R U would probably have been an excellent EP instead of an LP-squared. Either way, remember him we will."