2Pac

2Pac Live

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No better than a run-of-the-mill bootleg, and perhaps even worse, the live 2Pac album Death Row released in summer 2004 is a terrible disappointment. Then again, that probably depends on your expectations. By this point, Death Row had become a clearing-house of 2Pac miscellanea: the label had released everything from best-ofs and posthumous double-disc albums to spoken word and remix collections, each release a bit more insubstantial than its predecessor. The previous year's Nu-Mixx Klazzics (2003) was a downright travesty of what a remix album should be -- 2Pac's vocal tracks pasted, as is, over lame backing tracks by Death Row's in-house band -- and just when you would have thought Suge Knight's exploitation of the 2Pac legacy could not get any more blasphemous, along came 2Pac Live. This slickly packaged album is in fact a faceless hodgepodge of spliced-together audience recordings from various club performances by the rapper during his All Eyez on Me heyday. There are some nice liner notes inside from Billboard contributor Rhonda Baraka; unfortunately, her ceremonial rhetoric belies the shoddy nature of the recordings at hand. If you've ever dipped your toe into the sea of bootlegs out there, most of them rock-related, you probably recognize the difference from soundboard and audience recordings -- the former recorded professionally from the soundboard, resulting in a clean, clear sound; the latter recorded amateurishly from the crowd, resulting in a microphone-recorded sound that is anything but clean and clear. Well, these live recordings of 2Pac are all most definitely audience recordings, where the crowd noise and vocals are high in the mix while the straight-from-DAT music is barely audible. Moreover, these recordings are from different shows (undocumented in the liners, though Baraka states that "many of [the songs] were recorded in 1996" and at one point the House of Blues is referenced) yet are spliced together as if this were one complete show -- again, belying the mishmash that this release really is. All of this would be forgivable if the performances were something to behold. But they're not. They're no better than the sound quality -- so poor, in fact, that they actually diminish the 2Pac legacy rather than add to it. If these are representative recordings, sorry to say it, but 2Pac was a sloppy performer. The rapper yells his rhymes with little finesse, and his flow is anything but flowing. But enough dwelling on all the negative aspects of this release. It does have some merit as a curiosity piece: if you've ever wondered what it would have been like to attend a club performance by 2Pac back in the day, here you go. And that's about the only good reason to bother with this release. It's that bad. So bad, in fact, you'd be better off picking up a bootleg recording or downloading random live performances off the Internet. At least those sources wouldn't try to pull your leg like Death Row yet again does here. How much further can Suge discredit his once esteemed label? Ten years after Death Row had been the most influential label in all of rap, it'd become a farce because of increasingly insubstantial releases like this. 2Pac and his many fans deserve better, much better.

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