Finding the GOAT: Here’s a Look at When the Musical Worlds of Tupac and Eminem Collided (Video)
For those paying attention, this past week was suspenseful. Ambrosia For Heads’ eight-month undertaking “Finding The GOAT” has reached its championship contenders. Tupac and Eminem are squaring off. Less than a percent separated Rakim from taking ‘Pac’s place, but in a heated ballot-box blowout, the All Eyez On Me superstar had the votes to advance.
Just one year apart in age, Eminem and Tupac are a lot alike. Both artists bring troubled childhoods, piercing world insights, and vengeful scorn to their music. These MCs are big on branding their groups, thematic albums, and First Amendment jabs to Middle America. Both men challenge notions of race, celebrity, and masculinity. These artists criticized censorship, and vehemently challenged the correlation between Rap music and violence. As men, these artists both stopped reigning careers to be with dying fans, proving that even when they seem otherworldly, they’re never far from the people.
This is precisely why Eminem signed on, for the November, 2003 Tupac: Resurrection soundtrack. Released by Afeni Shakur’s Amaru Entertainment (distributed by Interscope), the platinum release was a break from the Death Row joint-releases of the late ’90s and early 2000s. Rather than use the album to promote Tha Row’s artists (many of which had worked with Tupac prior to his 1996 murder), this album meshed Shakur with the current stars of Hip-Hop. 50 Cent and Eminem entered the mix, two figures that then-Death Row CEO Suge Knight had openly criticized, if not attacked through current artists on the label. In this rare opportunity to make authorized Tupac music, Em would remix the album single, “Runnin’ (Dying To Live),” featuring The Notorious B.I.G.
Originally recorded in the early 1990s, and produced by Biggie and ‘Pac’s mutual producer, Easy Mo Bee, the “Runnin’ (From Tha Police)” (also featuring Stretch, Buju Banton, and Dramacydal) appeared on the One Million Strong compilation by SOLAR Records. The lesser-heard song would be extensively bootlegged after its 1995 release, due to the fact it featured ‘Pac and Biggie together, before the massive feud that followed. Dramacydal (Kastro, E.D.I., and Yaki Kadafi) would prove to be one of the earlier appearances of three rechristened Outlawz.
In Eminem’s remix, the Shady producer worked in Edgar Winter’s “Dying To Live,” adding a cathartic homage to both slain MCs (whose verses clearly complemented Em’s own pastiche). While Tha Outlawz would be included on the album, their verses, along with Buju, and Stretch’s were not in the remix. Curiously, Live Squad’s Stretch (born Randy Walker) and Kadafi (born Yafeu Fula) had both been murdered at the time of the mix (not unlike ‘Pac and Big). Stretch was killed one year to the day after Tupac’s 1994 Quad Studios attack, while Yaki died just over two months following ‘Pac’s fatal 1996 Las Vegas, Nevada shooting.
Em’s reviving mix would take “Runnin'” to the Top 20, and one of the most recent posthumous hit songs, for both Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G. On the soundtrack, he made one vocal appearance and three production mixes. Eminem put one of his musical inspirations on a pedestal, and at the same time, presumably won over legions of new fans, based on his production (as well as his MC) skills.