Thursday, October 8, 2009

"2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted" -- a music video retrospective

I felt something was missing when I covered the "Victory" music video experience. The Puff Daddy/Biggie complex is incomplete until the whole "Rap Wars" saga is touched upon. Even if it ended up on the East Coast, it first began (and peaked) on the Westside.

If you thought Biggie's death and Puffy's rise was the rap story of the 90s, try again. Three words: Death Row Records. The rap from that label did just as much for music as grunge did for white-boy rock 'n roll. The major players and their rise to power is almost Shakespearean. Characters like Suge Knight are just stranger than fiction. Let's face it: West Coast rap is just more interesting.

There are a lot of rap videos from the early- and mid-1990s. But when it came to video making, Death Row  was untouchable. "Nuthin But A 'G' Thang" (even the censored version) is probably the most iconic from that era, but there were so many more. Like Dr. Dre, Snoop and 2Pac always understood the importance of quality videos. For that, their legacy will be sustained.

The video for "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted", the second single from the double album masterpiece All Eyez on Me, is a blueprint for all future rap videos: police harassment, champagne, fine food, fast cars and briefcases full of money.

The uncut version starts with a reference to the November 1994 incident, and lampoons the East Coast in a very incendiary way. One thing you can say about Tupac Shakur is that he had some balls. To me, the rest of the video is somewhat soporific after seeing the prologue, which is hilarious.

Concept: some kind of loose story about 2Pac and Snoop on the run from the LAPD. There's a crime scene and the cops collect some evidence or something. They drive through a police blockade in his convertible. And, for some reason a fax machine sends a detective a promo shot of Tupac, which means he is guilty... Maybe I am taking this video too literally.

There are direct references to 2Pac's jail sentence and Snoop's murder case, but they're both kinda laughing it all off, which is good advice for anyone in legal trouble: make a video about not giving a shit. Could you ever see Puffy making a video like this? No way.

Rapping in a courtroom. I can just imagine a young Ludacris seeing this and getting ideas.

Tupac and his cohorts were so hot in '96. But almost right after the murder, there was a schism in the fellowship. Dr. Dre and Snoop parted and recorded separately, and the rest of the crew just were shattered. Death Row Records without 2Pac, Dre or Snoop was neutered. To this day, Death Row is still milking their 90s revolution with compilations and half-assed DVDs.

Video facts
Length: 5:34
Director: Gobi Rahimi
Date: early to mid-1996
Est. Cost: Unknown


By the way, Tupac: Resurrection is a really epic documentary. I haven't seen the other documentaries about the whole ordeal (Netflix has at least 20 movies about this same thing), but I can guarantee that Resurrection is one of the best.

Prepare to see more Retrospectives on 2Pac, Death Row, NWA, Hype Williams, etc... Maybe I'll set a goal of publishing it before Detox comes out!

To submit ideas for Retrospective articles, or to just chat about the obscure and esoteric, contact me here.

[All images are © their respective owners.]

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