More than four years after his death, Tupac Shakur’s legacy continues to reach the hearts of fans with the release of Until the End of Time (Death Row Records). The collection knocked Shaggy’s publicly acclaimed Hotshot to the number-two Billboard slot after the album enjoyed two weeks at the top of the charts.
Until the End of Time, the fourth Shakur release since his death, represents the end of both Shakur’s career and his life. It was written at the same time of his final official album, Makaveli, which hit stores a few months after his November 5, 1996 murder.
The latest album has quite a lineup of contributors, including Outlawz (Shakur proteges), K-Ci & JoJo and Left Eye from TLC among a few other artists. Most of the songs were not given a final mix before Shakur’s death, but the time spent mixing and mastering each track was undoubtedly worth the effort.
The album starts out with “Ballad of a Dead Soulja,” a song punctuated by heavy keyboards set to sound like an organ with a compelling back beat that complements the anger in Shakur’s vocals. The chorus is deeply influenced by early R&B, but the melodious vocals contrast considerably with Shakur’s recurring theme of living the “thug life.”
Not all the songs are so saturated with rage. The title track takes a new twist on Mr. Mister’s “Broken Wings,” producing a more upbeat song that appears to be a replica of “Keep Ya Head Up” off Strictly for My N.I.G.G.A.Z. and “Changes,” another posthumous beat released on 2Pac Greatest Hits. The song adds a stronger bass line to “Broken Wings” to create a hip-hop sound and changes the chorus slightly. But the track in no way matches the success of either “Keep Ya Head Up” or “Changes” and does not do justice to Mr. Mister’s version of the song.
Continuing through the album gives a listener an astonishing sense of d?j? vu because some tracks sound faintly similar to Shakur songs of the past. The natural tendency for an artist to mature musically and for that tendency to be reflected within the music was cut dreadfully short.
These songs were probably not set for release at the time of the recording, but it is at no loss of face that they have been released now. Overall, the tracks are better heard than buried alongside one of the most influential lyricists of all time.
Until the End of Time is in stores now