In the decade since his death, a steady torrent of unearthed Tupac Shakur recordings have found their way into record-store bins. Although most of these posthumous albums contain at least a handful of songs worth hearing, few can truly be considered necessary. Beginnings, though hardly on par with any record Shakur released during his lifetime, is staggeringly interesting and wholly necessary for archival purposes.
Fans have long understood that what has made Shakur such an enduring figure was his ability to embody the duality of man. On one hand was the sensitive poet whose heart bled for Brenda and her baby as he urged them to keep their heads up; on the other, the Thug Life-tatted Bad Boy killer who admitted to the reality of temptation. The latter side of Shakur filled up two discs’ worth of tracks on a gangsta-rap masterpiece known as All Eyez on Me (1996), but not until now has there been a full album showcasing the optimistic ‘Pac.
The ten tracks on Beginnings have long been heavily bootlegged, but they more than any other sessions deserve to be widely officially available. They tell a story often forgotten in 2Pac lore. The superb “Panther Power” and “Let Knowledge Drop” are akin to Poor Righteous Teachers or early Public Enemy in their urgency for enlightenment. And because these recordings are Shakur’s juvenilia, there are certainly missteps (the almost arrhythmic scratching on “The Case of the Misplaced Mic,” or the awkward phrasing on “My Burnin’ Heart”). But much of what’s included on this brief artifact is a fascinating piece of the puzzle that was missing for far too long.