The Rose That Grew From Concrete

You can't help but feel how much greater this album would've been had the author been around to orate the verse himself...

There’s no doubt that Tupac’s untimely passing has left an impenetrable void in the heart of hip-hop. A void record labels have been desperate to fill with a woeful array of applicants. From one-dimensional hunk DMX to the Real Hand Shandy Eminem. With his life and work already a subject of study on the curriculum of American universities, Tupac’s legacy is now poured over by professors and admirers alike.

Perhaps it’s this posthumous veneer of new found respectability that explains the ”play it safe” philosophy behind the ”The Rose That Grew

From Concrete’. Based on the anthology of the same name, this collection of Tupac’s formative poetry confirms his Mishima-like status as a warrior poet. So it’s a shame that these awkward, sensitive, impassioned signposts to his latter works are marred by the polite, perfunctory backings that dominate this album. An easy listening milieu of jazz tinged world music, FM R&B and MOR contributors, designed one suspects to project Tupac into the cosy bosom of the African American mainstream – for an Oprah-coddled generation of music lovers who once back peddled away from rap, but who are now belated catching up with what they missed out on.

The affair opens with Tupac himself drawing parallels between the storytelling of the African griots to today’s hip hop generation of mic slingers, an Afro-centric tone and theme which runs throughout the album. It’s no surprise that the strongest cuts are those based on the most powerful poems: Pac’s paeans to the Black Panthers are dealt with respectfully by Mos Def.

His poignant pro-women poems ‘Tears Of A Teenage Mother’ and ‘Why Must You Be Unfaithful?’ underscore why another recent Tupac book was dedicated solely to the letters of lovelorn female fans around the globe. ‘A River Flows Forever’ is lent weight by Tupac’s mother Afeni, ‘Lethal Weapon”s Danny Glover and the cast of ‘The Lion King’. And the hauntingly prophetic ‘In The Event Of My Demise’ is solemnly delivered by Tupac’s Panther godfather Geronimo Pratt.

Quincy Jones and Mac Mall render their own readings of ‘Starry Night’, a poem dedicated to Pac’s favourite painter and spiritual soul brother Vincent Van Gogh, a kinship based on their mutual heart-on-sleeve sentiments and the fact that both men’s lives and art were completely indivisible.

The evocative Native American chanting on ‘The Sun And The Moon’ courtesy of Chief Littlehawk, is a perfect spiritual touch to end on. But it’s only when Tupac’s own voice is faded into the mix, like on the title track, that any real gravitas is generated. And you can’t help but feel how much greater this album would’ve been had the author been around to orate the verse himself.

function comps() {“”,”comps”,”toolbar=no,width=400,height=300,resizable=no,scrollbars=yes,status=yes”)


To win a copy of ‘The Rose That Grew From Concrete’ [url=]click here

Spencer Kansa