January 27, 2004

MixTape Friday: Live Fast, Die Young
By Canyon Cody
Originally published at The Heights

2Pac rapped, "Marvin Gaye used to sing to me." All music fans can relate to Shakur's feeling that a musician was speaking directly to them. As a result, the premature deaths of Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, John Lennon, and Marvin Gaye were as painful to many fans as the death of a close friend. Unfortunately, the next generation of musicians failed to learn from the mistakes of their forefathers, and we have all suffered through the deaths of some of the most talented artists of the last decade.

Sublime "KRS-One" 40 Oz. to Freedom

Sublime recorded its debut album for under $1,000 and sold the first 30,000 copies out of the trunk of lead singer Bradley Nowell's car. After signing to MCA, Sublime's self-titled third album sent the band into superstardom and expanded its fan base beyond the beaches and half pipes of Southern California.

On 40 Oz. to Freedom, Nowell demonstrates his eclectic musical taste in his ode to rap pioneer KRS-One. Nowell's song shows how hip-hop can educate the masses by expressing the otherwise muffled voice of America's disenfranchised. KRS called it "edutainment." Nowell sings, "In school they never taught about hamburgers or steak/ Elijah Muhammed or the welfare state/ but I know/ and I know because of KRS-One."

Nowell died of a overdose on May 25, 1996.

2Pac "Keep Ya Head Up" Strictly For My N.I.G.G.A.Z.
2Pac, of course, doesn't deserve to be on this mix, because he isn't actually dead. Pac's keeping it real in Cuba with Elvis, just waiting for the perfect time to come back like Superman after his "death" to save rap from evil-doers Nelly and Ja Rule.

On "Keep Ya Head Up," 2Pac sings a ballad to oppressed women that sounds so sincere that one could almost forget his misogynistic raps and sexual assault conviction. 2Pac sang about the reproductive rights of woman at a time when Newt Gingrich was fighting against a woman's right to choose: "And since a man can't make one/ He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one."

Shakur was murdered on Sept. 6, 1996.

Nirvana "Stay Away" Nevermind
Listening to Nirvana again isn't the same as going back to listen to Sublime. Sublime conjures nostalgia; Nirvana smells of regret. Nirvana was the perfect band at the perfect moment, but listening to it again 10 years later isn't as fun as it should be.

On "Stay Away," Cobain sings some of the incomprehensible lyrics that typified Nirvana. Reading the actual lyrics tends to ruin Nirvana's songs; they are never as profound as Cobain's voice made them sound: "Monkey see, monkey do/ I'd rather be deal than cool/ Every line ends in rhyme."

Cobain died from a self-inflicted gun wound on April 8, 1994

Notorious BIG "Everyday Struggle" Ready To Die
Like 2Pac, Biggie eerily prophesized his own death on "Everyday Struggle." On the chorus, he sings, "I don't wanna live no more/ Sometimes I hear death knockin' at my front door." Biggie lacked the political philosophy of 2Pac, yet managed to tell his story in a poignant, personal way.

The song is also a good reminder that Rudolph Giuliani wasn't always as popular as he was after 9/11. Biggie expresses his opposition to the mayor's policies, which were viewed as racist and draconian by much of the New York black community. BIG was just trying to make a honest dollar selling crack, but "our mayor Guiliani/ ain't tryin to see no black man turn to John Gotti."

BIG was murdered on March 9, 1997.