Thursday, 15 January 2009

Album Review: Tupac Shakur – The Undisclosed Tapes

Since his death in 1996, hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur has had more albums released in his name than when he was alive. Friends and family of the rapper seem to be constantly finding new recordings that they deem suitable for selling to a slathering crowd of hungry music fans. And now, with The Undisclosed Tapes, there’s another entry to the list of posthumous albums in 2pac’s name.

Tupac Shakur, during happier (and aliver) days

In this new album, there’s a definite underlying sense that we are listening to Tupac the Man, rather than the rapper, the hip-hop star or MTV’s ‘Best MC of all time’. This is shown most clearly on the first track, entitled ‘Tha Milk (It’s Off)’. This piece of music displays Shakur at his most human, and was discovered by a former housekeeper who found it on an old answerphone tape. The track, in which 2pac informs his then housekeeper that the milk in his refrigerator is past its use-by date, is purely spoken-word, with music and beats added relatively recently by famed producer DJ R-Swipe. Its banality does not detract from a powerful and meaningful insight into this troubled star.

A far more uplifting track is ‘Shout Out.’ This piece of music is pure poetry, with sweeping strings in the background and the sound of polite applause as Tupac discusses the perils and benefits of being in a rock band. Taken from a recording of the 1993 MTV Video Music Awards when Shakur presented the award for Band of the Year, this track is full of hope and optimism. It shows no indication that the rapper would go on to die in a hail of bullets like that guy in Platoon.

One of the more controversial tracks on the album is ‘Earth and Fire,’ featuring guest vocals from D-Posse. That’s how the tracklisting describes the song, anyway. This is actually a recording from a D-Posse gig that was attended by Tupac in his younger years, and he is apparently audibly shouting from the crowd. While I don’t doubt that 2pac is part of the cheering, roaring audience, I do question his input in this track.

At 88 minutes long and featuring more than fifty tracks, it could be argued that this album is full of near misses and wasted opportunities. Case in point is the thirty second long track ‘Ain’t Mad At Cha: Intro and Mistake in First Line’. It shows what one of 2pac’s most beloved songs would have sounded like if the first line was “Change…oh, wait…I forgot the next bit…stop the tape…” Sadly, that’s where the song ends and we are left hanging as to how this would have affected the rest of the piece.

Despite accusations that the makers of this CD have finished scraping the bottom of the barrel and have now tunnelled through the bottom of the barrel into some ground-like substance that exists beneath our metaphorical container, there are some good moments on this recording. Whether this is enough to warrant purchase is another matter, but it should keep fans occupied while they wait for the forthcoming 2pac: The Complete Radio Ident Collection.

Tupac Shakur – The Undisclosed Tapes is released on Tuesday from Floggin’ a Dead Horse Records, at a cost of my respect for you. A special edition feature an accompanying DVD documentary features nothing you’ve never seen before and buying it makes you a prick.

6 comments:

red said...

I've never been a Tupac fan, but I may have to check this out. 88 minutes of nonsense? Awesome.

Erin said...

If only the music of Samuel Barber had accompanied the hail of bullets in Vegas. Then the man truly would have embodied art. That, or if he hadn't changed his name from Makaveli.

Tony Spunk said...

"at a cost of my respect for you" totally tickled Tony's tremblies. Plus I got this urge to cover "The Milk (It's Off)" as that sounds like class.

Candy's daily Dandy said...

It's just a damn shame about Tupac...I'm not at all surprised he did his best work on the telephone answering machine.

Dr Zibbs said...

His music is pure nonsense.

katrocket said...

Yo. Yo. Yo!

Word.