If you haven't already, cop the album here (purely for review-related purposes of course...):
When examining the work of the highest-selling rapper of all time, it must first be recognized that there are essentially 2 2pacs. (To me), first and most prominently is his poetic and revolutionary side which I've stressed for quite a while. Too often, both opponents of 'Pac and fans alike have claimed 'Thug Life' as his motto. It's actually true; it was. Unfortunately, many seem to confuse the underlying message behind it (Quote of the day by Immortal Technique: "What the industry did to 'Pac, they did to Jesus") with acts of senseless and self-destructive violence. He expressed the hope for a revolutionary attempt at social change. Analyzing the lyrics to songs like the (technically unreleased) track 'Revolution' explain the true message behind 'Thug Life':
"I was born as a rebel making trouble for the devil/ Take this gang-bang sh*t to a whole 'nother level/ Can you feel me now?/ Armies in every city/ The definition of power/ Playas, are you with me?/... Organize these streets in time/ You'll have the devil petrified of a n***a in his right mind/... Think of the damage we could do if we wasn't high..."
^ See what I'm sayin'?
Generally speaking, post-'96 Tupac records have predominantly appealed to the commercial fans, the "other" 'Pac fans, and Nu-Mixx Klazzics Volume 2 follows in this tradition. A key example of this is the second leaked track from the album which I've discussed in the past.
However, this new remix album is better than most. Aside from the Candy Hill "collabo" and a couple of other over-the-top tracks, the album is relatively grimy, dope and true to the 90's style. The pair of Picture Me Rollin' remixes stay true to the original from the All Eyez on Me album, featuring new artists tagging along, as well as new rhythmic layers placed on top of the original beats (listen closely). For "Pacavellians" like myself, it's cool to hear an alternate version of a pretty dope song. Hey, Big Syke, Danny Ray & company are cool in my book, but to hear Kurupt and the Outlawz rock the beat along 'Pac is also pretty dope. The same can be said about 'Staring Through My Rearview'. There are a handful of alternative versions to this track (starting with the original with Yaki and Napoleon), but my favorite is the one which appeared on one of the infamous Makaveli mixtapes, and featured Yaki Kadafi and Phil Collins (yes, Phil Collins). The Nu-Mixx remix is on point as well: Dwele's smooth touch accompanies the deep and involved lyrical nature of the track with great ease.
Other examples of remodded tracks include 'Got My Mind Made Up' (which originally featured a pair of hip-hop's greatest duos: Kurupt&Daz and Meth&Red, and now features Kurupt and the Outlawz) as well as 'Lost Souls' (featuring new lyrics from original collaborators Young Noble and E.D.I. Amin).
Now on to the "new" new tracks. Let's get the "bad" out of the way first:
There's a cut on the album titled 'Hail Mary (Rock Version)'. I cringed when I read that, cringed when I heard it. As a 2pac remixer myself, I've been at a loss of finding an acapella version of 'Hail Mary' that meets quality standards. Apparently the people behind Nu-Mixx Volume Two faced the same problem. Unfortunately, they went ahead with it, perhaps assuming that the heavy attacks of the guitar, drums and bass would drone out the vocal's poor quality. But I noticed a difference and I'm sure you will too. Aside from my audiophilic (look it up) issues, this track is still troublesome to me. It reminds me of the standout track (and not in a good way) of the KorN "collaboration" on Biggie's 'Duets: The Remixes' album. Not good. However, if I can find a compliment to give about this track, It'd be that the beat seems to match well with the vocals, at least from a rhythmic standpoint. Another disappointment is the 'How Do U Want It' remix sans K-Ci & JoJo (a classic hip-hop/R&B collabo in my book). I could be mistaken, but it sounds like Candy Hill jumped on this track as well...and wrecked yet another one. But it really isn't as much their fault as it is the producer's (in this case E.D.I. Mean's) lackluster beat. Yet another talented emcee tryin' to earn a name as a producer...
Another let-down comes in the form of a track which I was highly anticipating. The 'Pain' song featuring Styles P & Butch Cassidy. It's a decent song, but it's mainly a disappointment for this reason alone: the leaked version which I mentioned in the past is simply WAY better than the album version. It's just much more fitting. The original remix's beat expressed the emotions of a dreary, liquor-soaked confessional. The "new" album version is much too pop-oriented for my taste, especially for an song like this.
Now let's move on to the good news: 'Keep Goin', 'Wanted Dead or Alive (Gangsta Party), and 'Initiated' are all examples of a "good" 2pac remix. 'Keep Goin' features eerie organ notes and spine-tingling keys, 'Wanted' intertwines West coast-styled synths alongside a smarter guitar/rock approach than the previously mentioned 'Hail Mary' for a bouncy banger, and 'Initiated' finds 'Pac spittin' alongside his Boot Camp Clik homies over a 40% soulful 60% gritty beat (which features the same sample as Ghostface's 'Apollo Kids' from the classic 200 release Supreme Clientele).
All in all, the album is strong and surprising in the midst of a lotta crap that's put out. It dwarfs 2006's Pac's Life in so many ways, at least to me: Focusing less on the glitz and glam of commercially viable guest spots and more on maintaining a strong foundation with real street-oriented hip-hop (be it West or East coast), Daz and fam did a respectable job on this latest 'Pac offering. And who better to do a 'Pac remix album? Sure, people will always be there to say "but it ain't as good as the original" (myself included, and hey, we're right). Nonetheless, when a creditable and considerable rehash project comes along, let's be respectable enough to give it a shot. Nu-Mixx Klazzics Volume Two isn't perfect, but it'll fill my MP3 player (and hopefully yours) with yet another handful of dope 'Pac tracks.
From a true 'Pacavellian at heart ;-D ... peace!
Starin' Through My Rear View (feat. Dwele)
Picture Me Rollin' (feat. Kurupt & Butch Cassidy)
Bonus Cut (not on the album):
Pain (feat. Styles P & Butch Cassidy)
P.S. Don't forget to check out my Tupac remix album titled 'Young Heart, Old Soul', set to be released right here on HHIR on September 13th, the 11th anniversary of 'Pac's passing.