Saturday, October 27, 2012

Collaborating With the Dead

While we're on the subject of living performers using verses of more famous, deceased rappers to make fake collaborations, let's talk about probably the most egregious example in hip-hop history. Remember Trapp? He's actually a singer, who made a whole career collaborating with Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac... at the same time. After they were dead.

This is his first single, "Stop the Gunfight" featuring 2Pac and Notorious B.I.G., off of his album Stop the Gunfight, featuring 2Pac and Notorious B.I.G.  That's how it's billed on the cover. This came out in 1997 on Deftrapp Records. Guess who owns that label? Hint: it's not 2Pac or Biggie.

So, guess what Trapp didn't have? Exclusive, unreleased verses from 2Pac or Biggie. Surprised, huh? These are just verses taken from a song called "Runnin'," That's right, the song 2Pac and Biggie already recorded together. He didn't even get creative and take verses from different songs to make something a little less familiar to us fans.

"Runnin'" has a bit of an storied history. If you read the review for Interscope's Thug Life vol 1 by 2Pac's first group of - as Unkut would say - weed carriers that appeared in The Source back in 1994, you probably got excited hearing about this collaboration of 2Pac and Biggie.* Then, when the album actually came out, you wondered where the Hell it was. That was certainly my experience. But then, the following year, it appeared on the One Million Strong compilation album... an album built around a posse cut inspired by the million man march. It was full of interesting odds and ends like this. Then, after Pac died, the song started appearing on every dedication mix tape and unofficial Machiavelli compilation under the sun. Finally, Interscope decided to finally release it themselves on their Resurrection soundtrack album (the same one that featured the 2Pac and Eminem single I covered before) and even its own single.

Oh, and at some point during all that mess, Trapp took it to use for his own purposes.

Now, because "Runnin'" was recorded for Thug Life's album, it also featured those guys; but of course they've been cut out of this version, to give us more Trapp crooning time. Nothing else has changed. Unlike "Kings," or other songs of this ilk, Trapp didn't even change the music - it's the exact same instrumental.  All he did was remove the Thug Life guys and put himself in there. Now, to be fair, Trapp isn't a bad singer - he's kind of weak voiced, so you have to keep reminding yourself to pay attention to him when he's singing; but otherwise he sounds good. But obviously the original version, with all the other original rap verses, is infinitely preferable. This is just a song made to capitalize on all the mainstream fans who have no idea this isn't recycled music they probably already had in their collections.

My cassingle here features three versions... Two are both labeled as the Original Version, though one is actually a clean version with reversed curse words. And #3 is the R&B Version, which basically just a shorter mix featuring Trapp singing over Thug Life's instrumental by himself. And there's also "When I Come Down," which is a Trapp solo song from his album. That's right, the album billed as Trapp featuring 2Pac and Notorious B.I.G. actually doesn't feature Biggie or Pac on most of the songs... yeah, try to look surprised, guys.

But Trapp didn't stop here! Oh no. First there's the matter of the album. It deatures both versions of "Stop the Gunfight," so there's nothing exclusive to the single except the radio edit... and interestingly, it also says the R&B version is featuring 2Pac and Biggie, even though it's very specifically the version that cut them out of their own song. And all the rest of the songs are just solo Trapp songs except one. And he released that one as his second single: "Be the Realist."

I bet you forgot 2Pac and Biggie did another song together, huh? They were both guests DJ Eddie F's 1994 album, appearing in the posse cut "Let's Get It On" (also with Heavy D, Grand Puba and Spunk Bigga). So, what has Trapp done? Cut out Puba, Spunk and the Heavster, leaving only 2Pac and Biggie. Yes, using the original instrumental and everything again. And Trapp dioesn't even sing or appear on this one at all!  He's just made and appropriated a short, edited version of "Let's Get It On."

That was all in 1997. But a couple years later, we see Trapp was persisting with this enterprise! In 1999, he released four compilation albums on DefTrapp: Ladies of Gangster Rap, Latino Gansgter Rappers, Dirty South and The Pac and Biggie You Never Heard (spoilers: you DID hear all that Pac and Biggie material before; and also Trapp features on that album a lot more than either of them). They all feature a bunch of popular rap songs and of course many Trapp songs. Yes, even Ladies of Gangsta Rap features Trapp solo songs. And 2Pac and Biggie were stuck on the Latino Gangster Rappers album despite neither of them being remotely Latino.And to think, they never even knew Trapp when they were alive.

I'm not sure what happened to Trapp after 1999, but I figure there's a good chance the story ends with somebody from Death Row or Interscope sending him to the bottom of a river. But whether it ended grisly or not, I think this tale's already appropriately spooky enough for the season, don't you?.

Rappers, you'd better play it safe this Halloween... keep one eye over your shoulder and stay away from the graveyards... or else you might find yourself Trapp's next unsuspecting collaborator! MUAH HAHAHAHA!!!! 


*The November 1994 review by Kharay Turner says, "On a lighter note, the Notorious B.I.G. drops the funniest line on the posse cut "Runnin' From the Police": "Me, run from police?/ Picture that/ I'm too fat/ Nigga fuck around and catch an asthma attack."

3 comments:

  1. What's the deal with the CDS's from '98 like this:
    http://www.mattscdsingles.com/acatalog/Online_Catalogue_2pac_455.html#a10995

    ?

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    1. There seemed to be open season, for some reason, on the rights to that song... even the 1 Million Strong album wasn't an Interscope project, so it's curious why they got it, then Trapp did, etc. I don't know if somebody was improperly selling the rights, or if people just figured that because Interscope shelved it, they wouldn't realize what it was that the other labels were using? Things can get a bit weird when things drop off the copyright radar and turn a bit "grey"... I once got a copyright warning for some indie label that represented J-Love's mixtapes against a video I did about Kool G Rap's "Hey Mister Mister." I can't imagine those guys owned the rights to that song via the mixtape... it was recorded for Warner Bros. But WB probably doesn't even realize they own that song.

      So I guess it was a bit of a free for all on that song, even though somebody could've probably legally squashed it all if they really wanted to.

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  2. I remember this p.o.s. I was hyped to hear a Pac and Biggie collab, back then I wasn't aware it was a straight jack of "Runnin'".

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