2Pac's been dead for more than six years, and in that time his estate has released a dizzying array of questionable posthumous material--with much more to come in 2003, by the way (the liner notes list documentary soundtracks, another unreleased double album, DVDs, etc.). On the first disc's "Intro," an unnamed street reporter wonders, "Where are these songs coming from?" After repeated listens, your best guess would be from his unfinished studio outtakes. Nevertheless, these tracks were apparently recorded during his prolific, vexed Makaveli
stage. "When We Ride on Our Enemies" demonstrates much vitriol, as Pac's verses are littered with fightin' words for rappers like Mobb Deep
and Da Brat
. Likewise, "F*** 'Em All" hurls threats at the late Notorious B.I.G.
, reminding fans of the time when media-induced East Coast-West Coast feuds were way out of control. The ghetto Elvis's tales of slum grandeur reach their zenith when he serves up his explicit boasts to women on "Fair Xchange." Gripping.
It's too bad the first disc's last track, an acoustic version of "Thugz Mansion," undermines much of the credibility of this project. When Pac's alleged enemy Nas's vocals are mixed in to appear like he's sitting next to Pac by a fireplace all warm and toasty, sharing rhymes, you immediately smell the influence of executive producer Suge Knight. The second disc is just as dodgy, but might resonate more with new fans simply wanting to hear good beats and rhymes. "Never Call U B**** Again" is a tidy love song that R&B crooner Tyrese complements well, while the title track featuring Ronald "Mr. Biggs" Isley provides a necessary escape from much of Pac's brooding imagery. In the end, the quandary of this double disc has nothing to with Pac but with producer Johnny "J"'s middling G-funk-lite beats and Suge Knight's involvement. This one's for collectors and curious onlookers. --Dalton Higgins