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Capturing Shakur's Passion and Defiance

Record Rack

November 20, 1998|SOREN BAKER

**** 2PAC, "Greatest Hits"

Death Row/Interscope/Amaru

In the late Tupac Shakur's prime, fans craved his latest recordings for several reasons. The rapper defiantly questioned authority, and his affiliation with the then-mighty Death Row Records heightened his appeal and influence. But it was his willingness and ability to effectively express his feelings as a confused young man under constant scrutiny that allowed rank-and-file listeners to empathize with the high-profile rap and movie star.

Furthermore, 2Pac--whose 1996 killing is still unsolved--rapped with equal intensity about his love for his mother, his sexual desire, his gangster tendencies and life in the ghetto. For the '90s icon, any topic he addressed deserved passion and urgency.

This two-disc, 25-song collection (due in stores Tuesday) contains powerful selections from his entire recording career--except last year's "R U Still Down? (Remember Me)" double album--but four previously unreleased tracks will undoubtedly be the focus of attention.

That's especially true of "God Bless the Dead," another of his signature dedications to a fallen peer. But in this case, the subject--the Notorious B.I.G.--wasn't killed until after Shakur's death. That should excite those conspiracy theorists who believe that Shakur is still alive, though it's more likely that he wrote the song as a hypothetical scenario while he and B.I.G. were still friends.

The other three "new" songs display Shakur as sentimental, ruthless and introspective--the very qualities that enabled him to shoot to stardom.

*

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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