Born Busy – “That’s My Man Throwing Down (Acapella)“
from Demo (1988)
Strictly Dope – “A Day In The Life”
Strictly Dope – “My Burnin Heart”
from Demo (1989) / The Lost Tapes (ZYX, 2000)
Because I read on twitter that today would have been 2Pac’s birthday it seemed like the right time to finally set off this series that has been bouncing around in the back of my brain and the front of my saved posts. Pac is arguably the most important rapper of all time (other than Drake, of course) but as of late the discourse around him in rap circles/our circles/teh blogosphere seems limited at best in recent years. At least compared to popular interest. Pac’s problem is that he defies middlebrow analysis. The streets love him because they mostly see his blustering rage, overlooking the sensitive art school kid and Panther descendent who played a role so well that most, including him, forgot (or just hoose to ignore) that he was playing a role. The academic world considers him because they are aroused by that contradiction. Nothing baits the ivory towers like dichotomy.
So he’s canonized by some as thug, others as a poet, many as confused, but rarely as just a rapper. Is that because he wasn’t a very good rapper? This has long been the relative rationalization in the blogosphere, a forum where Pac is chronically undrepresented. For many our circle, a world where acts like Hard 2 Obtain and Totally Insane (both good groups, naturally) are hailed as unheralded legends, he is a footnote. But back in the real world, he’s the most influential rapper of all time. For better or worse. Well, mostly worse. With few exceptions, most of Pac’s obvious successors have filtered out only the worst of his character traits. Very few picked up on his intensity, work ethic or revolutionary themes but they did adopt his overblown thugisms, unnecessarily dramatic adlibs and penchant for valuing quantity over quality. These things happen.
But surely the most visible rapper on the planet must have had some success at rapping? We all fawn over his descendants to varying degrees, so he must have done something right. So I am stepping to the plate and giving a thorough listen to the entire living Pac catalog. Not just the albums, but whatever else I can get my hands on – cameos, remixes, demos. At least until I, or you, get bored. Being a sentient rap music listener in the 90s, I know most of his singles, a couple by heart, and owned a few of the albums, but was never a Pac head like that. This project will be an exploration for me, learning by immersion. I’m sure any Pac stans that check this site already have everything and then some, but whatever. One of the more frustrating things about Pac’s body of work is that it’s not only immense, but also scattered and recontextualized thanks to the rampant necrophilism that surrounds it. As such I’m trying to approach his catalog with a loose eye for chronology and put a lot of those random verses in a proper historical perspective. So tonight we starting at the top with a look at some early demos. Jump for words. (more…)