If B.I.G.’s Born Again, Big L’s The Big Picture and Big Pun’s Endangered Species proved anything (other then hopefully dissuading any aspiring emcee from donning the “Big” moniker) it’s that posthumous efforts are a risky proposition. Though each of the aforementioned projects had their moments, and offered some rare gems. The majority of the material included was primarily studio-excess, and it’s certainly debatable whether these cut and paste endeavors furthered the artists’ legacy, or in worst case tainted it.
However, if there is one thing the beloved Tupac Shakur does not have to worry about, it is having his legacy tainted. After all, the immortal thug’s popularity continues to swell, and since his death, Pac has achieved a cult-like status that rivals Kurt Cobain. Culled from the Makaveli sessions (94-96), Until The End Of Time, displays every side of Pac’s enigmatic personality, celebrated playboy, solider, thug, martyr, and muse; even from the grave Pac handles each role with an unabashed swagger. If ever there was a walking contradiction, it was Pac, and this remains one of the most captivating aspects of his legacy.
While Pac was the quintessential Cali “G”, and its most combative representative, he was also an effective moralizer, capable of generating deeply personal tracks that touched masses. While he did not tap into that arena with great regularity, when he did the results were oft-times sublime (“Dear Mama”), and that trait holds true here. Though Pac spends a great deal of time detailing his sexual conquests (“Let Em Have It” & “Fuck Friendz”). Softer moments such as the pensive Until The End Of Time, the revealing “Happy Home”, which depicts a man, who yearned for a simpler life out of the spotlight, and the street-survival manual “Letter 2 My Unborn” show how much the attention-seeking Pac craved normalcy. Also, Pac proves just how far ahead of the curve he was on “Everything They Owe”, which demands reparations from the Government for years of oppression—”you violated, now I’m back to haunt your nights, listen to the screams of the lives you sacrificed.”
While End Of Time is not as schizophrenic, or venomous as Makavelli, Pac’s schoolyard bullyism’s, and disdain for Dr. Dre, Mobb Deep , and Jay-Z boils on the antagonistic exchanges of “Good Life”, and “Fuck Freindz”. Yet, he saves his most paranoid ramblings for Bad Boy, and arch nemesis B.I.G. with “Why U Turn On Me”—”they say we hate the East Coast, but that’s funny, got allot of love for any nigga getting money, I made a song about my enemies, and niggas tripped, it was hip-hop until Tupac fucked Biggie’s bitch.”
Though Pac was a passionate, and emotional emcee (which were his strongest attributes), he was not a superb lyricist. However, it was not so much what Pac said, but how he said it, as the pure intensity in which he attacked the mic was enough to make us hang on his every word. Yet, without suitable production, even Pac’s tyrannical rants, sexual escapades, and brief bouts of introspection become monotonous. Pac, by name alone should command an A-list squad of Cali Funkateers. However, his Death Row/Suge Knight affiliations are probably still haunting him from the grave. As surely, the Row’s infamous past is at least partly responsible for dissuading potential collaborators from wanting to get entangled in the Row’s web.
It’s no secret that Pac’s work ethic was unparalleled. However, with Pac’s vast musical catalog being given the McDonald’s treatment by his curators (every release is being super sized into a marathon double-disc session), where is the quality control? It would be an injustice to not hear the work Pac completed before his death. But some restraint is in order, as we do not need to hear every mediocre solo track, or sloppy Outlawz posse cut Pac appeared on, spun into an even-sloppier remix (just give us the sizzle). Burdened with lackluster production, and an excess of filler-material, Until The End Of Time, is a wildy inconsistent, and over-indulgent effort that will only satisfy Pac loyalists. To put it mildly, Pac deserves better.
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