It’s Been 19 Years Since We Lost Tupac Shakur. Re-Live His Brilliance (Audio)
Nineteen years ago today (September 13, 1996), Tupac Amaru Shakur was pronounced dead in a Las Vegas, Nevada hospital. In his final year of life, ‘Pac transcended from incarcerated poet to Rap’s reigning superstar. In his wake, the MC left some of the most dramatic, fiery, and profound music and moments that ever graced the culture.
Like so many great artists and personalities, Tupac lived contradiction. Few male MCs have made as impactful songs about women’s issues, and yet he served time for sexual assault. ‘Pac spoke out against Black-on-Black violence, and yet led a vitriolic campaign against a number of his professed foes. He was born and raised in New York City, and yet championed the West Coast he embraced later in life.
Living only into his mid-twenties, Tupac Shakur recorded music at a tireless pace. Not including Thug Life, Tupac released four albums in five years—including his last living works, 1996’s All Eyez On Me double LP. He worked with a cross-section of the industry, including MC Breed and Rappin’ 4-Tay, Boot Camp Clik and Redman, as well as Madonna and Roger Troutman.
In a typical brick-and-mortar record there, there are more than 25 albums by Tupac Shakur, or one of his two groups. This is independent of bootlegs, mixtapes, and cease-and-desisted works. Admittedly, of the posthumous material, little of it can stand next to the music the lyrical legend made in his life. However, with so much material available, Tupac still made (and released) incredible songs that are not easily available to purchase. 1994’s “Pain” is one of them. A fixture of Above The Rim, a Jeff Pollack film (and script written by Barry Michael Cooper), “Pain” is one of the film’s symbolic back-beats. While Shakur’s “Birdie” character is a villain in the film, the artist’s song is in fact a force of momentum.
Featuring an evocative Earl Klugh sample, Live Squad member Stretch guested and produced a potent song that very much signals the demeanor of ‘Pac’s next two years. “Pain” is self-righteous, uplifting, and fearless. The song refuses to yield to trends, and instead creates its own drama—making it indisputably authentic. While it’s no radio single, the B-side 12″ single (also available on early cassette versions of the platinum soundtrack) never made CD, and Heads suffered without it. As we collectively take time to remember a great MC on a day forever associated with his life and death, “Pain” exemplifies what makes him great.
It’s interesting that at the time, Tupac was not signed to Death Row (despite the label handling the soundtrack). That would change in one year. This may be the most meaningful collaboration between ‘Pac and Stretch (a/k/a Randy Walker). Later in 1994, following the Quad Studios shooting, Shakur would lay responsibility on the then-Tommy Boy Records artist (among others). One year to the day later (November 30, 1995), Stretch was fatally shot in a drive-by in Queens, New York. The following year, one of Stretch/Live Squad’s other celebrated productions would appear on Nas’ It Was Written, care of “Take It In Blood.” So much exposition to a song that’s not even available to so many.
What is your favorite Tupac Shakur deep cut?