Music

2Pac: The Best of 2Pac - Part 1: Thug / The Best of 2Pac - Part 2: Life

Two separate best-of discs highlight the multi-faceted career of Tupac Shakur, throwing in a few unreleased tracks and remixes to sweeten the deal.


2Pac

The Best of 2Pac - Part 1:Thug

Label: Interscope
US Release Date: 2007-12-04
UK Release Date: 2007-12-03
Amazon
iTunes

2Pac

The Best of 2Pac - Part 2:Life

Label: Interscope
US Release Date: 2007-12-04
UK Release Date: 2007-12-03
Amazon
iTunes

Tupac Shakur packed a lot of living into his all too brief 25 years on the planet and filled his quarter century of life with a rare insight that, while profound nearly ten years ago before his death, is still relevant today. Listening to Tupac's latest double disc best-of collection, it's eerie how prescient some of his verses are, predicting his own death by gunfire and correctly observing what the socio-political climate would morph into years down the line.

Although his impact is best felt in the realm of rap and hip-hop, Tupac also made his mark in the worlds of poetry, acting, and activism. Tupac's impact is still evident that even ten years after his death, greatest hits compilations, remixes, and unearthed tracks are still a viable musical item that holds the ears and attention of fans.

These latest compilations, The Best of Tupac - Part 1: Thug and Part 2: Life were put together under the supervision of Tupac's mother, Afeni Shakur, a writer and activist who got her start with the Black Panther Party and most recently, founded the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation to promote the arts among children and teens. A testament to his longevity, Tupac is still the top-selling hip-hop artist of all time with an abundance of younger fans. Additionally, a number of younger and relatively newer artists on the scene like Nitty and Eminem (undoubtedly a veteran, although fairly young) that probably grew up listening to Tupac are willing to collaborate posthumously on previously unreleased Tupac material.

Divided into two different discs containing 11 tracks apiece, Thug and Life, The Best of Tupac, there isn't any specific grouping or chronology to the tracks. Ranging from "Trapped" and "Brenda's Got a Baby" off of Tupac's 1991 debut, 2Pacalypse Now, to the posthumously released "Ghetto Gospel", there is ample representation of all phases of his career.

Although controversial for its rearrangement and modulation of Tupac's own unrefined studio recordings, "Ghetto Gospel" is arguably one of Tupac's most lyrically moving songs, addressing the futility of racial difference and dissidence, particularly under the unifying banner of poverty. Like many of Tupac's songs, so much thought and meaning is packed into a few verses, touching on several cultural plagues and phobias in one sitting, noting "There's no need for you to fear me / If you take your time to hear me / Maybe you can learn to cheer me." The original rough track featuring Tupac's vocals and lyrics were produced and posthumously rearranged by Eminem who heavily utilized samples from Elton John's "Indian Sunset" and rearranged them to better fit the concept of "Ghetto Gospel".

Besides a few unreleased tracks, the two discs don't feature much new material. There are a few scraps that will appeal to Tupac die-hards, such as the unreleased "Resist the Temptation", "Dopefiend's Diner", and the excellent acoustic remix of "Thugz Mansion". Beyond that, there are a few remixes of Tupac classics, most of which do not differ greatly from their original counterparts. Rather, what is interesting about the mixed bag of songs on each disc is that they celebrate Tupac's own personal duality with facets of the fun-loving thug and the thoughtful urban philosopher shining on each disc, bringing together some of his best work in two single helpings.

Sitting side by side on the same disc, Part 1: Thug, are some of Tupac's best collaborations, "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted" with Snoop and the chart topping party anthem, "California Love" with Dr. Dre.

With some uptempo good-time tracks sprinkled in, Part 2: Life features some of Tupac's most relevant social commentary on songs like "Keep Ya Head Up", "Brenda's Got a Baby", and "Dopefiend's Diner", showcasing his ability to flesh out a complex and emotional story in under five minutes. "Brenda's Got a Baby" and "Dopefiend's Diner" concisely addresses how one person's problem affects an entire community and the worst of "human" nature that exists in all of us in looking the other way, the latter structured around the melody of Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner".

Perhaps his signature piece and one of the most poignant songs ever penned by Tupac, "Changes", built around the chorus to Bruce Hornsby's "The Way It Is", offers a message of hope while still painting a picture of realism. He doesn't glorify using or dealing drugs, but Tupac offers a glimpse into the world of the streets where both sides rationalize what they are doing as a means to survive. While attempting to offer simple solutions and stressing the need for a war on poverty, Tupac addresses the subject of his own mortality, oddly coming to grips with the possibility of what was sadly inevitable: "I always gotta worry about the payback / Some punk that I roughed up way back / Comin' back after all these years / Rat-a-tat-tat-tat-tat / That's just the way it is."

As evidenced by the scope of material presented in this double-disc collection, there is definitely a method to Tupac's madness. His wholly original material showcases a strong sense of catchy melody and intellectual flow, incorporating and often vacillating between reflection and humor. Every song that borrows melodies heavily from the originals they've sampled or approximated demonstrates Tupac's genuine concern for society. By taking something familiar with mainstream appeal outside of the sphere of hip-hop, it broadens the scope of the message to those who would not likely listen, tuning in rather out of curiosity regarding Tupac's use of songs by Vega or Hornsby. In doing so, Tupac realized the potential of possibly reaching out and touching someone unexpectedly and opening their mind to a world greater than the one in front of them and the importance of understanding the reverberating consequences of ignorance. After all, what good is a message if no one hears it?

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From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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