2Pac The Best Of 2Pac [review]

2Pac "Best Of" compilations nowadays are a weird thing. With the crazy strings of unauthorized bootleg releases, as well as the sheer volume of NEW material that gets released every couple of years, this has to be one of the worst tasks to embark on. But, 'Pac's legend lives on, and this double CD tries to explore the duality of Pac's short stay on this planet: the Thug and the Life.

This disc starts out right, with a gangsta party. Snoop Dogg drops in for "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted", dropping that proper G-Funk. The funny thing about tracks like this is just the fact that the whole concept was in the chorus, but the actual lyrics would go everywhere. Pac would go from shouting out Snoop to just going off on people trying to hold him down. Nice intro to his THUG side. We also touch on the original "California Love", which is one of the biggest tracks in the Death Row days of Pac's life. Another funked out ride, Dr. Dre and Pac show appreciation to Cali as well as giving Roger Troutman (RIP) his spot in the limelight once again. Pac's verse on this is one of my personal favs, he just attacks the track with a smooth fury. "So Many Tears" is vintage Pac, but seems weird. It's almost a compassionate kind of thug on this one, acknowledging his past, but still unafraid to shed a few tears for his homies. "I Ain't Mad At Cha" is on the same level, but jacks the melody Blackstreet did, which was cool for the time but doesn't seem to age that well 10, 11 years after the fact. I am so glad that "Hail Mary" was included: this was the anthem off of the Makaveli CD, aiming his darts at noone and everyone, over a thick-bottomed beat. "How Do U Want It" is the joint you put on during a party full of liquored up females and niggas, everyone trying to get their swerve on. I'm not quite sure why a remix of "Dear Mama" is included on this THUG disc, or why Anthony Hamilton is on it, but my Contemporary Soul moms would love this smoothed out acoustic guitar jawn. I have to give it up, though: the old Pac, first album Pac, was my shit, so the inclusion of "Trapped" is such a blessing. This is that concious Pac, the one who understood the bullshit and was showing his Panther roots. I just wish this THUG disc was a bit more thugged out.

The LIFE disc starts out with a track entitled "Definition Of A Thug Nigga", which just seems super out of place. When something is so regimented, one disc being THUG and another being LIFE, you'd figure the lines were drawn pretty sharply. Trick Daddy shows up for the underwhelming "Still Ballin'" remix. I'm just not impressed by the beat on this one at all. "Never Call You Bitch Again" (with Tyrese) means well, but seems like a reason to include an acoustic guitar-driven beat to the disc. They should have stuck with "Thugz Mansion" and just kept the beauty and originality of that singular. This one does what Master P wished he did with "Is There A Heaven For A Gangsta". "Dopefiend's Diner" is boring and not even interesting enough to have been included on this disc. Again, that classic Pac sound is the shining moment, with "Brenda's Got A Baby" sounding more prominent today than it did 15 or so years ago, as does the uplifting funk of "Keep Ya Head Up". "When I Get Free" is the voice of that disgruntled nigga who is not rehabilitated, trying to get back into society to get back on top. One of the sleepers of this set. That "Until The End Of Time" remix is predictable and not really necessary - the original does the job.

At the end of the day, neither of these discs are perfect. They definitely paint great pictures of Pac's life, and the duality of his character, but the lines seem blurred, leading to cuts you'd assume were more THUG being on the LIFE disc, and vice versa. At the end of the day, though, 2Pac is a thug poet, a lost griot, and one of the dopest entities the Hip-Hop game had the pleasure to be blessed with. His voice is more necessary than ever nowadays, and the bright spots on these discs showcase this.

The Best Of 2Pac Part 1: THUG - B-
The Best Of 2Pac Part 2: LIFE - B+

Burn Deez: "Trapped", "Thugz Mansion", "Breanda's Got A Baby", "Definition Of A Thug Nigga", "Hail Mary", "So Many Tears"

2Pac's The Best of 2Pac (discs 1 and 2) are available NOW!

related links:
2Pac Legacy.com

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