Tupac album shows rapper's enduring lyrics
By Randy Lewis
Los Angeles Times
|When Tupac Shakur died in 1996, he left behind recordings of more than 200 songs. About half of those have been released.
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Those albums have sold more than 13 million copies in the United States, according to Nielsen SoundScan, accounting for more than half of his total sales of 22.6 million to date.
The new album from 2Pac (the name under which he recorded) includes more than two dozen tracks, many with guest collaborators including Tyrese, Outlawz, Trick Daddy, Nas and Mya and fresh production elements added by various producers.
The resulting songs "sound like they were recorded yesterday," says Violet Brown, urban music buyer for Wherehouse Entertainment, who has heard about a half-dozen of the songs. "These tracks are not dated at all, and what he's rapping about is very current. The lyrics are very intense he's rapping a lot about life and death."
The response of radio to the first single, "Thugz Mansion," demonstrates his connection to today's rap fans. It tops Radio & Records magazine's list of records with the most increased airplay in a single week and is No. 2 in the rankings of songs added by the most stations in the previous week.
"Better Dayz" arrives in a heavy week that also sees news albums in stores from Jennifer Lopez, Snoop Dogg, Busta Rhymes and Tim McGraw. Still, Brown expects Shakur's album to debut in the Top 10, possibly at No. 1, his stiffest competition coming from Lopez.
His last posthumous album, "Until the End of Time," entered the national sales chart at No. 1 in March of last year and has since sold 1.9 million copies.
Recent media attention on Shakur's shooting death in Las Vegas, including stories in the Los Angeles Times and the documentary film "Biggie & Tupac," has probably intensified interest.
Shakur reportedly left more than 200 recordings when he died. Slightly more than half that number have since been released, including the material on "Better Dayz." How much more can we expect?
"When we put out the last one," says Interscope Records spokesman Dennis Dennehy, "I heard there'd be one more from his Makaveli period, which is this one, then one more single album, then that's pretty much it."
An excess of posthumous releases from an artist usually trigger skepticism from fans, but, Brown notes, "As long as it's quality stuff, nobody cares what's going on."
The new collection, she says, "is very deep as deep as the rest of his stuff ... If it ever gets to the point where it's just a rehash of the same stuff, it'll be a problem."