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21 December, 2002@12:00 am

Over six years after his death, Tupac Shakur still remains one of hip-hop’s most relevant artists.  Whether Pac’s work studio-rat work ethic can be attributed to trying to fulfill his contract with Suge, or because he knew his time was running out, we’ll never really know.  Whatever the case, 2Pac has another album from the vaults, and it’s different this time. Gone are the days of sampling contemporary artists, and in with the current, fluid production.  On tracks like “Never B Peace”, 2pac describes the ills of the street over a haunting backdrop.  And with the tragic “Mama’s Just a Little Girl”, Pac shows a glimpse of his storytelling ability.  Unlike  past posthumous releases, Better Dayz actually sounds like an album that 2pac would purposely put out.  Trick Daddy sounds natural next to Pac on “Still Ballin”.  “Street Fame” features Shakur flowing seamlessly over a chilling piano.  On the flipside, the album is still a 2pac album, so it does have its flaws.  Some of the songs actually sound better over the original production intended for the songs. And in typical Pac fashion, he also continues to wild out on his enemies.  On the bitter “When We Ride On Our Enemies”, he spits bitter venom on Mobb Deep and even and the now defunct Fugees.  The same occurs towards arch nemesis Notorious B.I.G. (R.I.P.) on “Fuck Em All”, and again on the angry “Catchin’ Feelings”. 

Being a Gemini fashion, 2Pac again changes gears and shows us his innermost feelings and thoughts.  Although it was recycled, the remixed “My Block”, is twice as soulful as the original that appeared on the Poetic Justice OST.  This time using children singing the hook, Pac spits depressing bars like, “And I can’t help but wonder why/so many young kids had to die/Caught strays from AK’s and the drive-by/Swollen pride and homicide, don’t coincide/Brothers cry for broken lives, mama come inside/Cause our block is filled with danger/Used to be a close knit community but now we’re all cold strangers.”

Then there’s the ultimate version of the ghetto blues on the title track, “Better Dayz”.  Produced by Johnny J, “Better Dayz” is saturated with Ron Isley’s crooning, while Pac spits about the everyday Black experience.  The song will remind listeners why he was important to Hip-Hop-almost everybody can relate, “I  got a girl and I love her but she broke too, and so am I/I can’t take her to the place she wanna go to/So we argue and play fight, all day and night/Makin passionate love ’til the daylight/Plus we about to get evicted, can’t pay the rent/Guess it’s time to see who really is yo’ friend/Tell me you pregnant and I’m amazed/So many blessings while we stressing/Lookin for them better dayz.”

As real as Pac was, he often blurred the line between bride and bitch.  This time Jazze Pha provides fans with smooth rhythms over a syncopated drum on “U Can Call”.  2pac quickly follows up successfully with “Fame”.  The song is depressing at times because heads will be given a reminder as to why we missed his baritone. Pac glides up and down the track singing a catchy hook about the paper chase.  His fam, the Outlawz, fit like a glove with 2pac, bringing the audience back to the beautiful chemistry that was prevalent on the Makaveli album (Don Illuminati: The 7 Day Theory). 

Unfortunately, the album slips up at times like past posthumous efforts.  Cuts like “Fair Xchange” and “Thugz Mansion (Acoustic)” are both featured twice on the album as separate remixes.  Although “Thugz Mansion” is wonderfully done with an acoustic guitar and no drums, it still becomes redundant hearing the same words on two songs.  Also, the DJ Quik crafted, “Late Night” had already appeared on Suge Knight’s Chronic 2000. 

While Better Dayz does a better job at preserving Pac’s legacy then previous efforts, it still frequently smells like a contrived effort from two Executive Producers who are eager to cash in on Pac’s hold over Hip Hop—can we just get one great disc?

  Mixtape D.L.
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