Thug Life Vol. 1
Thug Life was more than just a lifestyle the late Tupac Shakur epitomized. Thug Life was more than just a tattoo across someone’s stomach. Thug Life was a collection of childhood rappers, Big Syke, Rated R, Macodoshis, Mopreme and Tupac himself. Interscope released the first and only album, Thug Life Vol.1. on October 11, 1994. You remember this album, you just forgot it existed. Let’s revisit!!!!
Thug Life Vol. 1 (1994)
When you first listen, a warm drum cadence welcomes the listener. Then you hear a rendition of the beautiful “For The Love Of You” by the incomparable Isley Brothers. I swear every rapper has used this sample at some point in their career, but this version is the most soulful. When Pac rhymes
Stuck on full, Tangaray got a nigga high
Lord knows I don’t need another DUI
I led a Thug Life; Heartless hustler
Just ’cause I fucked; Don’t mean I trust her
It’s the direct opposite of the soothing sample, but somehow this melodic piece is something special. Pac started and ended with verses while the rest of the crew got busy during in the middle. This song embodies the entire celebration of the Thug Life mantra.
Thug Life – Bury Me A G
Tupac was an extremely conscious soul and was very aware of his mortality. This is evident throughout this project, but was most evident in one of his best songs ever, “How Long Will They Mourn Me”. Warren G and Nate Dogg (RIP) created the perfect backdrop for Tupac and the rest of the crew to reflect on. Nate singing on the hook is certainly legendary.
All my homies drinkin’ liquor, tears in everybody’s eyes
Niggas cried, to mourn a homey’s homicide
But I can’t cry, instead I’m just a shoulder
Damn, why they take another soldier?
I load my clip before my eyes blurry, don’t worry
I’ll get them suckers back before you’re buried (Shit)
Retaliate and pull a one-eight-seven
Do real niggas get to go to heaven?
How long will they mourn me? Bury me a motherfuckin’ G
Hearing this song with Tupac and Nate Dogg together rhyming about those that are no longer with us are sure to illicit some type of emotion.
Thug Life – How Long Will They Mourn Me
The Johnny J produced the ultra smooth “Pour Out A Little Liquor” revists the topic of death again. The Spice 1 vocal sample just helped this become a flawless victory. This gem was first on the best soundtrack of all time, Above The Rim. Tupac reminisces on an illicit childhood, but touches on the loss of one of his crew.
“Drinkin’ on gin, smokin’ on blunts and it’s on
Reminiscin’ ’bout my niggas that’s dead and gone
And now they buried, sometimes my eyes still get blurry
‘Cause I’m losin’ all my homies and I worry
I got my back against a brick wall trapped in a circle
Boxin’ with them suckas ’til my knuckles turn purple
Thug Life – Pour Out A Little Liquor
Tupac goes solo on the albums final song. “Str8 Ballin” featured a triumphant Easy Mo Bee production, where Tupac fully embodied the Thug Life lifestyle he worked hard to portray. He also touched on his mortality once again.
Don’t want to go to the pen, I’m hittin’ fences
Narcs on a nigga back, missin’ me by inches
And they say how do you survive weighin’ one-sixty-five
In a city where the skinny niggas die
Tell Mama don’t cry, even when they kill me
They can never take the game from a young G
I’m straight ballin'”
Thug Life-Str8 Ballin’
The above 4 songs were the Mt Rushmore of the album. The music didn’t end there though. “Shit Don’t Stop” is a west coast jam over a funky Parliament sample that featured the vocals of 90’s girl group Y? N-Vee (google them) on the hook. “Under Pressure” had an extremely dark groove. “Cradle To The Grave” was another standout. The whole crew shared their childhood stories and how hard it was to escape their surroundings. Tupac sat on the bench while his team handled “Street Fame” and “Don’t Get it Twisted”.
Thug Life Vol. 1 is essential for any Tupac fan. He was certainly the best rapper and most charismatic of his crew, hence the reason why he has two solo songs and his hooks and rhymes were all over the album. This was right before all the east coast/west coast malarkey and Tupac was just interested in making music. This project showed the brilliance of a conscientious yet shameless thug, who seemed obsessed with his demise. Shame on you if this album was missed…..It captures raps (if not all music) most enthralling and polarizing artists of our generation.
Related: Prince‘s influence on Tupac