Amid all of the generally disappointing posthumous 2Pac releases, the Tupac: Resurrection soundtrack is a diamond in the rough, an affective listening experience that adds a few new productions to a broad sampling of the rapper's early, underexposed recordings.
Intended to complement the corresponding film, Tupac: Resurrection was obviously a labor of love for Afeni Shakur, who became the caretaker of her son's legacy following his murder in 1996.
The first couple releases she oversaw, beginning with R U Still Down? (1997), were spotty and somewhat ill-conceived; however, on Tupac: Resurrection she makes some wise decisions.
For one, she outsources the new productions to a trustworthy producer on a hot streak, Eminem, who works his magic on a trio of tracks: "Ghost," the powerful album opener; "One Day at a Time (Em's Version)," a thoughtful posse track with Em and the Outlawz; and "Runnin' (Dying to Live)," a fascinating collabo between 2Pac and the Notorious B.I.G. that emphasizes the tragedy of their respective murders rather than the drama of their rivalry.
For two, she compiles quite a few previously released yet seldom-heard songs from 2Pac's early years, practically all of them career standouts: "Panther Power," one of the earliest songs Pac ever recorded, dating back to approximately 1989; "Same Song," a Digital Underground song from 1991 that includes a brief yet sharp verse by Pac, his first appearance on a major-label recording; "Holler If Ya' Hear Me," a riotous song from Pac's second album, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.
(1993); "Bury Me a G" and "Str8 Ballin'," a pair of highlights from the Thug Life album (1994); and "Starin' Through My Rear View," yet another thoughtful song, this one from the Gang Related soundtrack (1996) and built upon an eerie sample of Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight"; and more.
And for three, she closes the album with "The Realest Killaz," the extremely popular mixtape collabo between Pac and 50 Cent, where the latter absolutely blasts an unnamed rapper (Ja Rule) for blasphemous impersonation while at the same time brashly declaring, "Till Makaveli returns it's all eyes on me." When all is said and done, some may express disappointment that there's so much previously released material here, or perhaps that Eminem is ill-suited as a collaborator, yet it's hard to deny the emotional impact of this soundtrack's journey from the rapper's afterlife present (the new productions) to his brilliant beginnings (the early recordings) and back (the 50 collabo).
In a relatively brief 55 minutes, Tupac: Resurrection frames 2Pac's legacy as well as any best-of retrospective could while simultaneously eschewing the obvious hits and bringing several long-buried gems to light in the process.