Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Eminem's Tupac

This is kind of a random, oddball one. It's one of the many posthumous 2Pac releases, where one of his old acapellas is recycled into a new song... though in this case, at least they're up front about it and labeling it a remix. This is from the soundtrack to Tupac Resurrection, supposedly one of better-produced 2Pac documentaries, though I haven't gotten around to watching it yet. It's called "One Day At a Time (Em's Version)," and is copyrighted 2003.

When I first picked this up, I have to admit, I couldn't figure out what the non-Em's Version was. I didn't remember - and couldn't find - an old 'Pac song called "One Day At a Time," and I didn't recognize his verse from anything older. Sure, I could find a few "unreleased" mp3s and youtube videos online, but nothing official; and I didn't believe all the sites with bootleg compilations touting a special unreleased exclusive. ...Eventually I sorta figured it out.

I found it on Spice 1's 2004 album, The Ridah, called "U Gotta Take It (One Day At a Time)." It's only on the first pressing, though - later editions removed a couple songs, including this one. The version here was produced by Rhyme Syndicate veteran Hen-Gee, and it's... just okay. It features a guest verse by another Rhyme Syndicate affiliate, LP (L-Politix), which is alright. 2Pac's verse is decent, but frankly kinda trite. Spice 1 kinda plays into the same schtick, and the rest of the song is filled out by some average, G-funk R&B singing by Headstrong. It has a sincere vibe, which devoted fans will respond to, but to the rest of us, I think it mostly just comes off as cliché.

And now we have this version, which was both produced, and features a verse and hook by, Eminem (it's not the only time he's worked with a 2Pac verse either, as an MC or producer). It also has The Outlawz on here, taking the place of Spice's pals. So, instrumentally, it's not much better... I don't know if anyone really rates Em as much of a producer, but this one isn't bad, just kinda flat and lifeless. It feels like he took the beat from a 'Make Your Own West Coast Gangsta Rap' kit... not that Hen Gee's was much more impressive. Eminem's verse was pretty good, but only in the "Em now competes against pop records when it comes to songwriting, and we all have to accept we'll never get the Eminem from the 90's back" tier. The Outlawz sound good on here, but nobody spits anything particularly amazing.

So, what's weird - or what else is weird - is that this version actually came out first. This is from 2003, and Spice's album dropped in 2004. And yeah... Before you point it out to me, I should mention that if you google Pac's verse, it does come up in a couple of random online songs, specifically "Till We Meet Again" and "Not Afraid (Remix)" featuring Eminem and Biggie. But I'm pretty confident these are just examples of the bazillion mash-ups out there that fans and amateur DJs have made of 2Pac acapellas, now masquerading as legit songs.

So how did the remix beat the original out? Well, it didn't really. This song did see an earlier release, back in 1999, called New World Order. A label called Big Star Entertainment released a compilation just like a lot of indie west coast compilations at the time... it featured a bunch of obscure artists they were working with, and one or two big name guests to make it marketable. The idea was that you'd buy it because of the 2Pac and Spice 1 song (plus there was a Kokane appearance and another song with Spice), and then you'd hopefully become a fan of their roster. So "One Day At a Time" (as it's titled on this disc) was originally the opening track on there.

So, this is a song that's had a long and storied history. Since 2Pac passed in 1996, this was clearly sitting on a shelf for years before it went to Big Star... and I can see why. 'Pac has certainly had better collaborations with Spice 1 (like "Jealous Got Me Strapped" or "Gangsta Team"), and if it weren't for the mad rush to put out everything he laid his voice to after he died, this song's a perfect candidate to be cut from an album and forgotten about in favor of better material. As for which version you'll prefer now, I think it will depend entirely on which guests you're a bigger fan of, since none deliver particularly stand-out work; and the beats are pretty evenly matched. But you probably fall either in the category of needing both, or being fine without either one.

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