Death Row / Interscope, 1996
In the discography of Tupac, the man above all classification, it is rarely quoted as his best. It is however my favorite. Makaveli The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory is the most singular and symbolic coronation he could offer to his career and therefore to his life. We often speak about “musical testament”: we are here in a literal sense of the expression, the whirlwind of events and chances was so powerful, that it disturbed our good sense. Dozens of theories have taken shape to explain it, so much the very existence of this project is difficult to believe. Explanations.
Pac can’t take it anymore, full of rage, he is convinced that it was the Bad Boys who tried to kill him in ’94, during the (first) shooting, in NY. In the elevator! He was going up to see them in the studio and was shot by robbers, and as if by chance when Puff and BIG came down, alerted by the shots, they were so surprised ! Amazed to see Pac in a pool of blood ! But he interprets it as amazement “they didn’t manage to kill me!”. “So it wasn’t a robbery, it was a conspiracy! Proof of this was that BIG, who called himself my friend, didn’t even come to see me in the hospital!”. Later, Biggie would simply explain that he wasn’t allowed in because Pac’s room was, understandably, extremely guarded for fear of someone coming to “finish the job.” Suge rubs his hands together, “we declare war” he says right into Pac’s eyes as he posts bail. Free, but locked in his vengeful paranoia, he becomes a bulimic of writing, swallows the prods one after the other, only stops to eat and go dancing. Sometimes he dismisses people who are supposed to do a feat with him because they are too slow to write their verse, “if you’re not ready, you don’t rap”. All Eyez On Me was recorded in record time and ripped it up.
Pac’s 1996 is richer than the entire lives of millions of people. After the tidal wave of AEOM, the beef with Bad Boy is at its critical level, Vice Magazine transforms it into a East / West war, the disses follow one another, the fights accumulate, threats, bodyguards, beatings, robberies of rappers, tensions during the concerts, here is the atmosphere which reigns. Suge Knight dope even more 2Pac, who swore loyalty to him to death, to strengthen him in his hatred like a trainer to make his pitbull go wild. Puff does everything to get Biggie to respond, and when Biggie drags his feet, Diddy makes sure that a simple phrase (“Who Shot Ya?”) is seen as an attack on the other side…
But Pac doesn’t stop there, like an animal hunch, it seems in hindsight that he knows his time is running out. He records all the time, he hardly enjoys his success, he is flamboyant but it is not the ultimate goal. In May, Hit Em Up is released, the most violent diss track ever, a blast against Bad Boy, and all NY. He enters the terminal phase of paranoia. Frenzied, he insults Dre, and Snoop takes a last plane with Pac, a gun hidden under his cover, convinced that Pac will kill him. He will never see him again. The plane landed in Vegas.
We all know the story of Tyson’s fight and 2Pac’s death a few hours later. We won’t go over who and how. Many theories exist and the most probable is that of the revenge of a certain Baby Lane after an umpteenth fight, in which Pac had illustrated himself with Suge by his violence and his zeal. What is the level of responsibility of Suge, difficult to say. What counts for today is this album.
MakaveliBye bye bye, let’s get high and ride
Oh, how do we do these niggaz but I’m not gon’ cry
I’m a Bad Boy killa, Jay-Z die too
Lookin out for Mobb Deep, nigga when I find you
Weak motherfuckers don’t deserve to breathe
How many niggaz down to die for me? Yeahh-yeayy!
West coast ridah, comin right behind ya
Should’ve never fucked wit meeee
I want money hoes sex and weeeed
I wont rest till my road dawgs freeee, bomb first!
2Pac is no more. He imagines his death in this album, and as in some ancient cultures, after his death, the dead man changes his name. He is Makaveli, in homage to Nicolo’ Machiavelli, a famous Florentine philosopher of the 15th century, known for his text “The Prince”, a strategic-political advice for Lorenzo II of Medici. Pac relates to the father of political realism for his approach to combat by using the fears of his enemy. Machiavelli, writes a methodological synthesis to take the power and keep it. And imagines the simulation of death to better observe his opponents (those who know the Vikings series will smile). Pac imagines himself mystically floating around these enemies and haunting them, observing them, pursuing them. How not to remain speechless in front of all these coincidences and not to dive into the plot that he himself draws up: the album is called Killumianti, The 7 Day Theory. The K for KKK, linked according to him to the illuminatis, a globalist group trying to impose a global dictatorship and that he exhorts us to fight. 7 as the 7th of September, day of his shooting, 7 days, as the 7 days that were used to write, record and mix the album, 7 days that separate the attack of which he is victim in Vegas and his death. 7 months that separate his death from the initially planned release of this album (March 97, instead of November 96)…
Two videos realized during his life will be released: Live and Die in LA (the title alone is prophetic, with the “mistake” which is more a feint of fate, since he will die in Las Vegas) and Toss It Up, an erotic hit attacking Dre. Then will be born the misty Hail Mary, ghostly symbol of the project. On 12 tracks, we discover a Pac at the height of his fury (one of the best intros of the history), dark, marked by a heavy reflection. He alternates destructive fury, wounded by betrayal and envenomed by revenge, towards Mobb Deep, Jay-Z and the whole world, and howls of joy, as if, like a condemned man, he was enjoying the last celebration before the scaffold (like the Death Row logo). Strange, badly mixed (unthinkable for this label), it transpires of urgency and accentuates the cover of fog and mystery which envelops us with the listening of this testament. His grave seems to speak to us when messages scroll in reverse, excerpts of columnists and TV news denouncing him intermingle with satanic voices, prayers, gunshots. Put in mirror with Biggie’s Life After Death and all the most far-fetched theories will have more credibility. When reality catches up with fiction, fate seems to betray its usual discretion.
The cover is fundamental. On the cross, a map is drawn linking different cities in the country with a large African-American population. Pac imagines himself as Christ, God made man and put to death by his own brothers. Pac is nailed to the cross by his own people, by those he tried to protect and awaken. Like Christ, he is the sacrificial lamb, he will rise again and they will realize their mistake. Then his word will endure. Placarded on a sepia paper serving as a testament, the cover recalls his killing by the media, hence the Parental Advisory covering his private parts, evoking his conviction for sexual assault which was used for and for which he always claimed his innocence.
It is said that he wanted to leave Death Raw and found his political party. His death will have a much greater impact, in music and beyond. The timing of this album was perfect, in the music industry and in the entertainment society, which is accustomed to sanctifying dead artists, and this project should have been a symbol. It will not be. Because it contains the real Pac, perhaps his most embarrassing side, less recyclable, less “mythifiable”. A boundless energy comes out of it, but not the motivating and revanchist one of All Eyes On Me. It is a much more vast energy, a fury of life that goes hand in hand with an anger that wants to awaken, to awaken more than to fight personal injustice.
Can we really say that this is a posthumous album? No. Because in the end what is its ultimate message? What is the conclusion of all this rage and this dive into limbo? If we remove the letter K from MAKAVELI, let’s put the letters back in their order: IM ALIVE.