R U Still Down? (Remember Me)
Amaru / Jive Records, 1997
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 02/03/1999
Even though my exposure to the music of Tupac Shakur has been limited, I truly believe that he was one of the most talented rappers to ever grace the stage. Although his music often spoke of the thug life he led (and which eventually claimed his life), he always offered rays of hope to his listeners, as well as a touch of humanity. The two albums I've previously reviewed by 2Pac, Me Against The World and All Eyez On Me, I've found to be nothing short of brilliant.
So why do I feel that the first real posthumous release of Shakur's music, R U Still Down? (Remember Me), is a bit of a letdown? (No, I'm not forgetting about the side project Makavelli, but seeing that this album was already scheduled to come out prior to Shakur's death, I'm choosing not to list it as a posthumous release.)
Oh, don't get me wrong, it's not that this two-disc set from 1997 is bad by any means. These 26 tracks often show the same talent that I've heard in previous albums from Shakur. But it almost strikes me that had Shakur lived, some of these tracks would not have been released, because they were not up to his standards.
Case in point: The original version of "I Wonder If Heaven Got A Ghetto" is a decent enough rap, though I'd be hard-pressed to say it ranked among his best works. So why the need to provide a second version, done in a hip-hop style - a version that pales in comparison to the original? Likewise, the first version of "When I Get Free" is a decent enough rap - why weaken it with a continuation of the story on "When I Get Free II", a track that is nowhere near as good as the first?
Another thing that strikes me as odd about R U Still Down? (Remember Me) is I don't ever remember hearing Shakur sound this angry before. True, there's always been an undercurrent of violence in a few of Shakur's songs, but this time, he sounds pissed, and he sounds like he means what he's saying. "Hellrazor" is a great rap, but it's sometimes difficult to listen to, because you can hear the pain in Shakur's voice. Same with "I'm Losin It," a rap that I don't consider one of the better tracks on the album - Shakur's voice actually scares me here.
Even with these shortcomings, there's a lot of great material on this set. "Open Fire" takes a little time to get into, but after about three listens, I found myself getting into it. Shakur continues, even in death, to offer both slaps in the face to the negatives in life he saw ("Fuck All Y'all", "Fake Ass Bitches") as well as signs of hope to his listeners ("Hold On Be Strong," "Nothin But Love").
And, of course, there's the look at the "thug life" that Shakur both saw first-hand and lived ("Open Fire", "Thug Style", "16 On Death Row"). While some of the imagery is violent, I don't believe that Shakur was necessarily an advocate of that type of life. Instead, I believe that it was what he knew, and most songwriters talk about what they know in their lyrics. (For the record, I'm also impressed that there is some original music on this album, proving that one does not have to rely on samples in the world of rap.)
R U Still Down? (Remember Me) has some good moments on it, but it is not the perfect tribute that one would think such an album would be to Shakur and his work. Supposedly there is still much more material in the can; I'd still be interested in hearing it, so long as it was consistent with Shakur's best work.