Tupac Shakur didn't rise from the ashes on the seventh anniversary of his death as many who still haven't come to grips with his passing have prophesized and hoped. No, the poetic rebel is gone forever, but like all legends, his music continues to live on.
Unlike other icons who are no longer here to make new material, Pac's classic songs, album cuts and even tracks that were left on the cutting room floor continue to be given new life by DJs, producers and artists who won't let him fade away.
In the next few weeks a plethora of new releases will hit the stores and the streets. On October 7 Death Row Records will put out Death Row Presents 2Pac Nu-Mixx Klazzics (see "Death Row Remixes 2Pac's Klazzic Tracks"). Then Tupac's mother, Afeni Shakur, is spearheading the release of the soundtrack to MTV Films' "Tupac: Resurrection," which drops November 4 (see " 'Tupac: Resurrection' To Be Previewed At Sundance").
Currently there are countless Pac mixtapes on the streets, with the most prominent being the second installment of the Rap Phenomenon CD, which this time around is a joint venture between Eminem's DJ, Green Lantern, and DJ Vlad and DJ Dirty Harry. "We've been busting our asses for months on this one," Vlad said last week in New York of his mixtape. "It's especially important because it's the anniversary of his death and some people think he's going to come back on that day. In a way we're bringing him back. We actually created a whole album full of new Tupac songs."
Obviously Tupac didn't get in the booth and record fresh material for Vlad and company. So what the trio of spinners did for their mixtape was take Pac's vocals and piece together verses from different songs over popular instrumentals like the Black Eyed Peas' "Where Is the Love?" and original beats made by themselves or such producers as Midi Mafia (50 Cent's "21 Questions"). They've secured the services of Busta Rhymes, Wyclef Jean, Jadakiss, Nappy Roots, UGK's Bun B and Bounty Killer for the project.
"Most of the vocals, the die-hard Tupac fans have heard," Vlad explained. "For the general population, it's going to be like, 'Oh, what's that?' It's going to be a lot of stuff people really haven't heard.
"First you have to grab as many vocals as you can get of Tupac," he added about the mixtape. "It's kind of like you start working the beats around [his voice]. You visualize the song. 'What was he really talking about in the song?' Sometimes his vibe switched from verse to verse. So you have to be like, 'I'm going to take the vocals from this song and this song.' "
Red Spyda, who took an unreleased Pac verse earlier this year and pieced it with new rhymes from 50 Cent for the "Realest Killas," is now working on the other side of the fence with Pac. He's been enlisted to work on the "Tupac: Resurrection" soundtrack.
"You never can go wrong with Tupac," said Spyda, who said he received a bunch of a cappella verses to work with. "I was just sitting there vibing, thinking, 'I gotta represent again.' I like that gangsta sh-- all day so I try to make [the songs] hard. On my records [for the soundtrack] he's talking about the cops, n---s getting locked up. I'm from the 'hood so I like doing records I can relate to."
Some of Pac's friends and fans can't relate or forgive some of the revamping of Pac's music, especially when it comes to pairing his verses with the vocals of people with whom he never worked or met or even liked.
"You gotta put a price on fame," Suge Knight said in April before barking about how he didn't like the fact that Nas rapped on the remix to "Thugz Mansion" with Tupac, given that Pac lyrically lambasted Nas on the Makaveli album (1996's Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory). "It can't be to the point where you'll do anything for a hit. Be a man and respect yourself" (see "Suge Knight Calls Tupac/ Nas Track 'Disrespectful' ").
Not only was Knight upset about the officially released "Thugz Mansion" single, he also was heated over the aforementioned "Realest Killas" smash, dismissing it as a bootleg.
Knight doesn't stand alone. Outlawz member Fatal Hussein has also hissed about pairing Pac with others (see "Ja Rule Breaks His Silence, Teams Up With Tupac's Homie On New Dis Track"). The verdict is still out on how people will feel about new collaborations with artists such as Wyclef, whom Pac went at on "When We Ride on Our Enemies," and Nappy Roots and T.I., whom he never met.
"People are trying to maintain beefs they don't even know anything about," Vlad said. "We're not trying to have the [beef] era frozen in time. We're showing how great Pac was by taking his old records and giving it a modern backdrop and including people who are relevant and have respect for Pac."
"I say they're full of sh--," Red Spyda said about the negative attitudes toward the Pac remixes and collaborations. "At the end of the day the only thing that matters is if it's hot or not. I think it's gonna get played out after a while only because corny people have been doing it. They don't really realize that what I did with Biggie's 'Realest N---as' and Tupac's 'Realest Killas' was planned out. Some people are thinking, 'If I put a record out there with Tupac I'm gonna blow up.' We was thinking we wanted to make magic. It's gonna get played out only because of the corny mutha----ers." One thing that will never get played out is people's love and admiration for Tupac. Seven years later, he's still one of the most relevant MCs, alive or dead.
"He's timeless, because when you hear Pac you can tell that an A&R didn't tell him what to say," Red Spyda surmised. "A label exec wasn't like, 'Change the hook. Make it more for the clubs.' It's timeless because it's real. It's not even a song, it's him talking to you. Tupac is like one of them homies from around the way. Listening to him is [like when] y'all are just kicking it, drinking a 40 or playing some dominoes and he's telling you a crazy-ass story."