2Pac + Outlawz, Still I Rise (1999)
Tupac Shakur died over three years ago, yet he remains one of the biggest names in hip-hop, thanks to a steady stream of posthumous material. A three-disc compilation, R U Still Down? sold several million copies, as did a greatest-hits set. Meanwhile, the infamous “Makaveli” set of bootlegs are shaping up to be the most popular unauthorized recordings since Prince’s Black Album from two decades ago. Still I Rise, a collaborative effort between 2Pac and his group the Outlawz is the newest official chapter to be released from his archives. Opening with “Letter to the President,” a litany of ghetto hardships to an uncaring Chief Executive, the group rolls through 15 surprisingly relevant cuts. The libidinous playa of “How Do U Want It” and “Toss It Up” is nowhere to be found; instead songs like “Secretz of War” and “As the World Turns” place the Outlawz’ street shenanigans in the context of American race and class conflicts. Still I Rise is impossibly flawed: The production is uneven and the master of ceremonies is hopelessly overexposed. Yet 2Pac’s commitment to politically charged street music remains an anomaly among his selfishly thugged-out clones. These songs are remixes of demos recorded during 2Pac’s life. Thanks to typically uninformative packaging by his estate, there are no official dates indicating when the material was originally recorded, leaving his fans to speculate in endless online rumors, YouTube comments and messageboard posts. Producers include Johnny J, QD III, and Daz Dillinger. This was a co-release between Amaru Records, the label set up by 2Pac’s mother Afeni Shakur after his death (Amaru is Tupac Shakur’s middle name), and Death Row Records. Interscope handled distribution.