(I know that some of you two have been patiently waiting for my thoughts on the final “real” 2Pac album, the Makaveli-credited The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, but as I haven't even gotten to All Eyez On Me yet, knowing how much I like to do things in a certain order (usually chronologically), I didn't want you to wait much longer to have that discussion. Michael has helpfully supplied his own thoughts on the only official Makaveli album in existence: be sure to leave some comments for him below.)
I’ve been reading this blog for some time now, and I have noticed that many readers have grown hostile to good ol’ Max’s opinion of the late Tupac Shakur. In order to show a little bit of opposition,I have decided to review 2Pac’s posthumously-released magnum opus. (Yes, I think this album is better than Me Against the World. Sorry!).
The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory (man, what a long fucking title) was released following the incredible commercial success of his double-disc album, All Eyez On Me. While 2Pac recorded music constantly while signed to Death Row Records, this particular project marked a new path for Mr. Shakur, and not just because he adopted a new rap alias, Makaveli, which was borrowed from Italian philosopher Niccoló Machiavelli, a man who (many people misconstrued as someone who) condoned faking one's death as a way of defeating his enemies. (Hmm...) Witnessing the implosion of his new label home, 2Pac decided that a new direction was vital for keeping the company alive. Dr. Dre had already left to create Aftermath Entertainment, and Snoop Doggy Dogg (who wasn't the happiest employee at the time) wasn’t too fond of feuding with rappers he had no beef with, so Pac had to show the world that he could stand on his own.
While 2Pac’s music was known to always include socially conscious themes and dark, somber lyrics, that motif was lost a bit during the celebratory All Eyez On Me, on which he was living the high life after being bailed out of prison by a cigar-smoking walrus by the name of Marion “Suge” Knight. The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory marked the return of the melancholy Pac that America was first introduced to, although this time around the tone was even more harsh, and the sound was deadly serious. This was to be the next step in 2Pac’s career: abandoning his “2Pac” persona in favor of the blunt Makaveli who refused to pull punches.
Leaving the primary All Eyez On Me producer,Johnny J (R.I.P.) in the dust, 2Pac sought out unknown producers (ending up working with Hurt-M-Badd and Darryl "Big D" Harper the most), as both Daz Dillinger and Soopafly were too busy working with Snoop on his sophomore effort, Tha Doggfather (an album which I think is grossly underrated), DJ Quik was nowhere to be found, and Sam Sneed had faded into hip hop oblivion. As its guest list was limited in scope (most of the cameos were provided by Pac's crew The Outlawz, although Bad Azz, from the short-lived LBC Crew, also makes an appearance), The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory was a much more focused and cohesive record than anything from 2Pac's earlier catalog.
Could 2Pac/Makaveli prove to the world that he could hold down Death Row Records without the assistance of Dr. Dre (who really didn't do all that much on All Eyez On Me anyway, although revisionist history seems to suggest otherwise)?
Read on to find out!
1. BOMB FIRST (MY SECOND REPLY) (FEAT. E.D.I. MEAN & YOUNG NOBLE))
I dread most rap album intros. However, this one actually means something, as Pac lays out his mission statement: he doesn’t give a fuck about who confronts him, he will retaliate, making it clear that he was not specifically aiming at the East Coast. Once the music kicks in, you are assaulted by a monster of a beat with furious lyrics by Makaveli and his merry band of Outlawz. A very effective introductory track, which leads seamlessly into...
2. HAIL MARY (FEAT. KASTRO & YOUNG NOBLE)
...this classic song. Ohhhh maaaaan. I love this song. While Max pictures Pac walking through a cemetery while listening to Me Against The World's “So Many Tears”, I imagine Makaveli wandering within a 16th century Satanic Italian tabernacle when listening to “Hail Mary”, searching for any hint of repentance. What an awesome song.
3. TOSS IT UP (FEAT. DANNY BOY, K-CI & JO-JO, & AARON HALL)
Sequencing a party song after that depressing-ass “Hail Mary”? Somehow, the experiment works, even though K-Ci’s (from Jodeci) line, “Your taste is fine as gravy,” sounds a bit dumb. “Toss It Up” (which was the first single from The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory) is a good track which includes a vicious attack directed at Death Row Records defector Dr. Dre during the second verse: “No longer “Dre Day”/ Arrivederci” (Italian for “goodbye”). Did our host include that Italian vocabulary lesson just because of the whole Machiavelli connection? Probably not, but it would be kind of cool if he had. The dis is also especially bitter as Dr. Dre actually produced the original version of “Toss It Up” (the song that made the final cut is actually a remix: the story goes that the original version used the same beat as what Dre eventually sold to Blackstreet for their hit “No Diggity”, which helps explain both the Dre dis and the fact that “Toss It Up” sounds almost exactly like “No Diggity”). Ouch.
4. TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A. (FEAT. VAL YOUNG)
After a scathing dis aimed at Dr. Dre, 2Pac/Makaveli wanted to let his fans know he still loved the city of Los Angeles. While the QDIII-produced “To Live and Die In L.A.” (also a single) is definitely not the best song on the project, you can really hear the sincerity in the man's voice: he sure was a passionate young fellow. Jesus, I hate hearing Pac praise Suge Knight in his verses his songs, seeing as Suge was the guy who got him involved in gangs and shit in the first place, eventually leading to his death. Despite this minor quibble, this was still a nice, pretty laid-back song. The video makes me smile, too.
5. BLASPHEMY (FEAT. PRINCE ITAL JOE)
“Should we cry when the pope die? / My request, / we should cry if they cried when we buried Malcolm X.” Awesome. “Blasphemy” is my favorite song on The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory. Maybe that has something to do with the fact that this is the first song on here that doesn't feature a guest verse. No, that can't be it.
6. LIFE OF AN OUTLAW (FEAT. THE OUTLAWZ)
The beat sounds appropriately creepy, and Pac’s lyrics sound great , as did the chorus. So it's too bad that Makaveli's weed carriers Tha Outlawz don’t sound nearly as decent. Also, Napolean’s little introduction was more than a little bit pretentious. I still think this is a good song anyway.
7. JUST LIKE DADDY (FEAT. THE OUTLAWZ)
I fucking love this song: the instrumental is one of my favorites of all time. Unlike on the last track, Tha Outlawz are focused and on point with their verses, with Yaki Kadafi being the standout. Performer. Too bad that guy was killed shortly after 2Pac was. Sigh.
8. KRAZY (FEAT. BAD AZZ)
Well, here we are: “Krazy” is the first song that ever made me cry. Seriously. Again, Pac’s delivery is fantastic, and the sense of isolation this man creates with just his words is absolutely genius. If anyone wants to criticize 2Pac for being overly dramatic and “acting” like a thug, they can listen to this song, be proven wrong, and then proceed to fuck off. Everything about this song is beautiful, and Snoop’s homey, Bad Azz, even lends our host a surprisingly good verse.
9. WHITE MAN'Z WORLD (FEAT. DARRYL “BIG D” HARPER)
This is a good song, but it doesn't stand much of a chance after being sequenced directly after “Krazy”. I especially liked the line, “I passed the casket and gently asked him, / ‘Is there a heaven for g’s?'”.
10. ME AND MY GIRLFRIEND
The stark contrast between this song and the previous one is a bit harsh, although the great beat makes you not really care after a while. Inspired by “I Gave You Power” by Nas, 2Pac/Makaveli spends the majority of this track talking about finger fucking his gun and whatnot. This is a really good song which I would have loved had it not been for that incredibly annoying interruption about a minute in. I’ve always wondered if Suge Knight’s fat ass just threw that in there after Pac died just for kicks. It ruins the atmosphere created by the beautiful beat and incredible hook from our host.
11. HOLD YA HEAD (FEAT. HURT-M-BADD)
I want to use this space to say that I really love the production on The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory. It is a fucking shame that 2Pac died at what seemed to be the height of his career. Fucking hell.
12. AGAINST ALL ODDS
The delivery in this song is just trademark 2Pac. The Hurt-M-Badd instrumental compliments his voice flawlessly, making this a killer of a track and a perfect way to end The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory. The end of the track is a bit hard to listen to (hell, the entire album is, really) when you remember that he passed away before it even hit stores, but, strangely, it makes all of his work that much more poetic. What an way to go.
FINAL THOUGHTS: The awkwardly-titled The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory happens to be my favorite album of all time, in any genre. The project was a bold new step for 2Pac’s career (and a huge step forward for West Coast rap in general), although, unfortunately, 2Pac/Makaveli never had the chance to follow through on the promise showcased on here. The production (what the fuck ever happened to those guys?) was spot-on, perfectly tailored for 2Pac’s style and personality. Simply amazing. Side note: Pac apparently made amends with Nas just days before his fatal visit to Las Vegas and promised to remove the his offensive bars directed at God's Son. For some reason, I think this story is really cool and I wanted to share it. It's just too bad he never got an opportunity to actually do it. Sigh…
BUY OR BURN? Um, BUY! Seriously, buy this album. Even if you aren’t the biggest fan of Mr. Shakur, you really can’t deny the quality of this record.
BEST TRACKS: “Blasphemy”; “Hail Mary”; “Just Like Daddy”; “Krazy”; “Hold Ya Head”; “Against All Odds”
(Questions? Comments? Concerns? Leave some of your thoughts below.)