Artist: 2Pac featuring Stretch
Producer: StretchAlbum: Above The Rim soundtrack (1994) (cassette version only); also found on some versions of the twelve-inch or CD maxi-single for Warren G. and Nate Dogg's "Regulate", from the same soundtrack
This entry is only really going to surprise you two if you truly believe, based on all of my previous posts, that I outright can't stand 2Pac. Loyal readers will know that isn't the case: I wear my East Coast bias on my sleeve, but even though I find a lot of Pac's work to be repetitive and redundant, when he clicks, he does so with a passion that nearly every other working artist today would kill to have. Also, Tupac Shakur was born Lesane Crooks in New York, so there you go.
I trash-talk Pac's need to shout-out "Thug Life" and name-drop Alize on pretty much every fucking song during his Death Row tenure, but that, of course, was built out of necessity: he was absolutely trying to get the fuck off of the label as quickly as possible, recording tons of songs per week just to meet his quota, quality control be damned. Alas, he never got the chance to relax in the booth and get back to giving a shit about his writing, because if he had, it's likely the man could have come up with something at least half as good as "Pain", a track a lot of hip hop heads refer to as one of his finest, even though its actual release was sabotaged inadvertently by the label.
You see, "Pain" is prominently featured in the film Above The Rim, which Pac also stars in; the man was already diversifying his portfolio in 1994, leading back to my theory that, had he not been murdered on the Las Vegas Strip in 1996 (or if he weren't too busy soaking up the sun in Cuba right now), he not only would no longer really be rapping (maybe a cameo here and there), he would be acting full-time and would most likely have one or two major acting awards on his mantle. The guy had charisma: that shit is hard to fake.
Anyway, "Pain" appears on the soundtrack to Above The Rim, but only on the cassette tape version: due to time constraints, Death Row Records, the label responsible for releasing the soundtrack (and, coincidentally, the last label Pac would work for during his lifetime, but we weren't quite there yet), trimmed "Pain" from both the CD and vinyl releases. This during a time when cassette tapes were on the way out, and also during a time when downloading mp3s wasn't yet the reality, so I'm willing to bet that a lot of the hip hop heads who fucking love this song either discovered this shit long after its original release, or, like me, you have the actual tape somewhere in a box in the closet. (Death Row tried to make up for the botched release by attaching it as a b-side to some versions of the single for Warren G.'s breakthrough single "Regulate", but I don't even know if any of those versions ever made it to the United States.)
Anyway, "Pain" is the shit, and is easily my favorite 2Pac song ever recorded. Once the sound bite (taken from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, for fuck's sake) ends, producer and guest star Stretch's Earl Klugh "Living Inside Your Love"-sampling instrumental kicks in, and even with its seemingly-unmastered quality (possibly a result of this version being a remix created quickly for inclusion in the film), the raw drums and melody grab your neck and refuse to let go. Shakur's verses bookend the piece, rationalizing his mindstate and observing the futility, while the late Stretch contributes the middle stanza, sticking with the theme while utilizing his gruff voice that, no bullshit, I mistook for Shakur's the first few times I ever heard this track. "Pain" may be among the most existential tracks in 2Pac's storied career, but even after noting the pointlessness of it all, he's still quick to "load my clip and slip my motherfucking gloves on" because he's "ballin', loc".
There are some variations to this track online, mostly with where the drums kick in after the Star Trek sample plays through, but I'll always prefer this one, the first one I had ever heard. I still don't understand how they decided to leave "Pain" off of the official soundtrack, and yet still found room for that B-Rezell "Blowed Away" song that got on my goddamn nerves when I was younger. (For the record, I also have a soft spot for another bonus track on the tape, Lord G's "Mi Monie Rite", although it's been years since I've actually listened to that song.)
Do you agree or disagree with this selection? Discuss below.