Until the End of Time is the third album of posthumous material by Tupac Shakur to be released. While the first, R U Still Down?, focused on his work while on the Interscope label, and the second, Still I Rise, featured his work with protégé group the Outlawz, this two-CD set, the first of two planned, compiles tracks he recorded while on Death Row Records, which his mother, Afeni Shakur, dubs his "Makaveli period."
However, Until the End of Time's 28 songs (plus a "shout out" from Big Syke) aren't raw demos; instead, they've been remixed for potential radio airplay. Some, such as "N***** Nature," with Lil' Mo and "Thug N U Thug N Me," with K-Ci and JoJo, are clearly marked as remixes. But for the most part, Amaru, the record label set up by Afeni to handle Tupac Shakur's music, doesn't say how much extra music has been added to these recordings. Multitracked to death, Until the End of Time lacks the intensity that made the original Makaveli's Don Killuminati: The Seven Day Theory so brash and exciting. Several, like "When Thugz Cry," prominently feature female R&B; choruses incongruous with Tupac Shakur's vocals. Overproduction also mars the album's few gems, such as "Lastonesleft" and "Good Life," leaving the expected disses of then-rivals Jay-Z (on "Lil' Homies") and Prodigy of Mobb Deep (on "Why U Turn on Me").
Would Tupac Shakur have approved of all this? It's impossible to say; though as commercial-minded as anyone else, he seemed to possess a slightly skewed sense of integrity that fueled the confessionals, strip club anthems, and angry threats for which he is now remembered. That perspective is in little supply here. Unlike nemesis The Notorious B.I.G., who polished a single song to perfection, Tupac Shakur recorded dozens of tracks before compiling the best ones of the lot. By focusing on his work with the Outlawz, Still I Rise replicated this ethos with some success. But Until the End of Time only seeks to capture Tupac Shakur's voice, casually overlooking his artistic spirit.
Mosi Reeves is currently ensconced at the San Francisco Bay Guardian, where he attempts to analyze popular music without falling under the spell of the pop Zeitgeist.