Be wary of albums released by any artist in the mindless zombie stage of their career — especially when the artist is dead. Nine years after Pac’s death, I still cringe whenever overzealous producers unearth yet another collection of previously unreleased tracks, because it’s the work of grave-robbing opportunists. And, if these releases have any affect besides fuelling the seven-day theory or claims that the slain rapper was last seen sipping Pina Coladas with Biggie in any place other than heaven, it’s to tarnish the reputation of a charismatic MC. A reluctant philosopher, he was a man short only in height and temper, never vision, with an incendiary tongue. As eloquent and acerbic as Black Panther Party founder Huey Newton or Malcolm X, Pac was a ghetto warrior. Every album since his death, sans the one with “Changes”, dilutes that legacy.
I’m not the biggest Pac fan out there, but my need to raise a stink is no less important. My objection to this and every other posthumous Pac release finds its origins in the quality of the new work. It’s not that I wouldn’t mind if Pac came back, but we can all live off the classic albums he released while still alive.
Of all the post-Pac albums, Loyal to the Game is the first to receive Afeni Shakur’s full blessing. What’s more, she claims it was made with integrity by — and I say this with some resentment — Eminem. If there really is heaven for a gangsta, you can bet Pac is furious that he’s working with Dre again, albeit through Eminem (not to mention G-Unit and Obie Trice), especially considering that he never forgave Dre for abandoning Snoop during his murder trial. In fact he might say something like this: “Fuck those niggaz. Don’t matter how dope any of these niggaz is, I don’t wanna be a part of Dre or any one around him.” Now, based on his sordid history with Dre, I can tell you this CD would never have received his blessing.
Eminem is one of the most underwhelming mainstream producers in the rap game and it’s hard to destroy your intent to buy this album without addressing his over-synthesized, pre-programmed, imitation Dre drumbeats. Nowhere does he capture the cold indifference he crafted on Jay-Z’s “Renegade” or the volatile temperament of Lloyd Bank’s “On Fire”, and once you’ve heard one track “Solider Like Me”, you’ve heard ’em all. “Ghetto Gospel” is especially disappointing because Eminem mistakenly pairs Elton John and Pac. And that’s not the only error; the shoddy beats detract from the already middling verses and contribute to the overriding sense of mediocrity.
It’s hard to imagine how many more albums they can squeeze out of Pac’s lifeless body, because the cutting and pasting of his vocals continue to deteriorate and they sound awful. Fortunately, Scott Storch delivers the album’s standout banger “PO N**** Blues” remix, a Ron Isley/Pac mash-up that, in a perfect world, would shame Eminem’s into retirement as a producer.
In one interview, Pac likened himself to Vincent van Gogh saying, “Nobody appreciated his work until he was dead,” which parallels Pac’s own posthumous success. In death, his music came to life for many people. Thing is, van Gogh’s body of work isn’t tainted by a bunch of hackneyed paintings cut ‘n’ paste together after his death, which is exactly what Loyal to the Game is — an unnecessary blemish that van Gogh himself would’ve cut off.