*** 2PAC & THE OUTLAWZ
"Still I Rise"
On this 15-cut collection of unreleased material (due in stores Tuesday), the late Tupac Shakur displays the passion, rage, insight and awareness that made him one of the decade's most charismatic rappers. He criticizes what he sees as President Clinton's neglect of America's poor in "Letter to the President," and he reflects on the grim realities of the streets in "Teardrops and Closed Caskets."
Like the 1994 album 2Pac made with the group Thug Life, this project--recorded in 1996, judging by some of the topical references--was intended to advance the careers of some of 2Pac's rapping friends, but the members of the Outlawz quickly become little more than an afterthought here, mainly providing bridges to the next 2Pac verse. Young Noble, E.D.I., Kastro and Napoleon are passable rhymers, but they add little to the hard-core rap table.
These slickly produced songs have obviously been altered since 2Pac recorded his vocals--on "The Good Die Young," the group sends its condolences to the victims of the Columbine, Colo., school shooting.