DAR Classic Hip Hop: 2Pac's Makaveli (Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory)

By @CherchezLaPorsh 

1. Bomb First (My Second Reply)
2. Hail Mary
3. Toss It Up 
4. To Live And Die In L.A.
5. Blasphemy 
6. Life Of An Outlaw
7. Just Like Daddy 
8. Krazy 
9. White Man'z World 
10. Me And My Girlfriend 
11. Hold Ya Head 
12. Against All Odds

As hip hop fans, we already know the culture is filled with history, dating back to 1972 when DJ Kool Herc essentially created/founded the entire culture. Over the years, hip hop has produced some legends, those who would uphold the essence of the culture, who would bring awareness and shed light on struggles that were taking over neighborhoods across the nation. Many would do this the only way they knew how, which was through music. We’ve heard and seen the impact Slick Rick, N.W.A, Ice Cube, KRS-One, Rakim and so many others had on the culture. Although I just named legends of unmatched caliber, a great thing about this genre is each one of these legends is in a category of their own for a unique reason. It wouldn’t be until 1991 when the nation would get to hear the first installment of yet another unmatched mind in hip hop. Tupac Shakur would release his debut album “2pacalypse Now” that same year and he would also grace film with his cameo appearance in “Nothing But Trouble”, as well as a role in "Juice".

What we didn’t know then was that Tupac was just starting. With his parents being in the Black Panther Party for 10 years, Tupac came into hip hop with strong sense of appreciation and a profound amount of knowledge for his African-American roots as well as an unwavering belief in the equality and fair treatment of his people. As his popularity grew so did his audience and Pac used this platform to speak on any and all issues he believed in, those that upheld the values and morals he stood for. Whether in interviews, his lyrics or his poetry, fans were guaranteed to hear unfiltered, uncensored thoughts and opinions, no matter how controversial. This would be both the rise and fall of Tupac. Every rap fan anywhere on the earth who was at an age of comprehension will remember the East/West Coast feud that would involve almost every rapper at the time. If you weren’t supporting the West, you were automatically supporting the East. This created the most divisive and most tumultuous time in hip hop. Gangster rap was just emerging, violence was being outwardly spoken about and although most “rap beefs” would surface on diss tracks, this one was different. Tupac never held back and was outwardly speaking his mind on the east coast, on BIG, on Bad Boy, Nas, Mobb Deep and anyone who represented New York. We had just seen an album release from Pac, when almost suddenly news hit that there was one in the making, under his new alias “Makaveli” it would be called “The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory” and scheduled for release March of 1997.  To say that fans were ecstatic was an understatement. It was an entirely new approach and we knew it would sound different than anything before it. The anticipation began.

I won’t get into the details or theories surrounding Tupac’s fatal shooting, but ultimately on September 13, 1996, it would be the day hip hop had to say farewell to someone who became a pillar of the genre. The devastation was unreal. Denial was almost a reflex and the shock and profound sadness seemed to be never ending. Reading the headlines “Wounds from drive-by shooting kill gangsta rap superstar” or “Tupac Shakur dies of gunshot wounds” seemed like a sick and twisted joke and the world was waiting for answers. Rumors started flying, and every person had a theory as to who was behind it. Although he had just released “All Eyez On Me”, the album we were patiently waiting for suddenly hits shelves 4 months earlier than expected and we saw his first posthumous release in November that same year. It was as if Tupac was “speaking from the grave”. Here we are today, taking a look at the twelve track, short and perfectly put together album and appreciating the brilliance of an artist that will forever be remembered for his contributions to rap and literature. Even though a majority of it has featured MC’s, it’s still fantastic. Let’s get right into it.

First off let’s look at album title and cover art. This album has a few different names and is one of the reasons why it works to create these theories. There’s a printed sleeve that says “Exit 2pac: Enter Makaveli” and then the track title being “The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory”, some just call it “Makaveli” some “The Don Killuminati” and others simply “The 7 Day Theory”, and all are correct. I personally refer to it as "Makaveli" because had Pac continued on, that would have been his new alias. What does “The 7 Day Theory” refer to? The total length of time it took to write, record, mix AND master this album. When you have the ability to create a masterpiece in a week, you highlight it. As for album art, usually I’m not a fan of people portraying themselves as prophetic entities, as it's something about making yourself to the likeness of prophet when you aren’t one is a bit bold, but I would expect nothing else from Tupac (also there’s a perfectly stated disclaimer right there). The art's message is clear: he was depicting his crucifixion by the media seeing as though he was coming off immense coverage due to the east/west feud. Throughout his time in the “limelight”, Pac had always been painted as a danger rather than an artist/actor/poet. The cover art adds just the right amount of visuals needed to magnify the dark gloomy effects of the music.

The album starts off with “Bomb First (My Second Reply)” which features E.D.I. and Young Noble. They re-enact that media angle. It also works as a direct catalyst to the conspiracy theories side with lines like:

“Resources tell me a number of less fortunate rappers have joined together in conspiracy to assassinate the character”.

The spoken intro goes on to refer to all the east coast rappers like “Nas, the ring leader”, “Mobb Sleep”, “The Notorious PIG” (I’m rolling my eyes) and so on until we get Pac’s “second reply” in statement form where he essentially gives his version of what the east/west feud was about. To that he says:

“It's not about East or West
It's about niggas and bitches, power and money, riders and punks. Which side are you on?”

Like I said before, as much as one tried to stay “neutral” on the matter, there was always a side you were associated with. This definitely shows the impact and divisive nature of the entire feud. Tupac uses this track to introduce his new alias of “Makaveli” and immediately we get the dark and gloomy feel. Pac’s literary devices are almost immediately heard, and his references are always on point “spiritual lyrics like the Holy Qur’an” and he wastes no time tying in the theme from the “statement” we had just heard:

“Let me introduce the topic/
Then we drop it
Expose snakes cause they breath freely/ 
See me ride? Located world wide like the art of graffiti/"

The gunshot sound we hear mid bar is intense to say the least but follows the entire album. As the verse goes on, we hear the same names dropped again. Nas, Mobb Deep, Jay-Z are all referenced and it feeds into the hook incredibly. Pac almost sings it and it flows so perfectly in that way.

“We, bomb first when we ride/
Please, reconsider 'fo you die/
We ain't even come to hurt nobody tonight/
But it's my life or yo' life/
And I'ma bomb first”

On the production side, Big D Harper and Tupac create a fantastic starting point for the album. The background noises, the sound effects, the busy-ness and mayhem just adds to the energy Tupac already brings. It’s high energy in the most aggressive of ways and is perfectly in line with what they are going for. This proves to be a key element of the album and a great one to start with.

The second track is highly acclaimed and one of the obvious favorites. “Hail Mary” and it's an interesting title considering the album art, but what I love most about this is the production. If there is one reason I would call this album a cinematic one, it is because of this. I love Pac’s adlibs at the beginning, with the bell sound in the background. It sounds like a church bell for a reason and just ties the title in so well. This track features The Outlawz. As much negativity as they got for their additions on “All Eyez On Me”, they bring a much higher caliber of rhyming on this track. Pac’s verses are flawless and the track is set up as a conversation with “Mary”, so the entire thing is a giant juxtaposition. The most spiritually driven lyrics against one of the darkest background instrumentals on the entire album. Here’s what I mean:

“Bow down, pray to God hoping that he's listening/ 
Seeing niggas coming for me, for my diamonds, when they glistening/
Now pay attention/
Rest in peace father
I'm a ghost in these killing fields”

“Come with me/
Hail Mary, Run quick see/ 
What do we have here now, do you wanna ride or die/
La dadada, la la la la/”

The guttural vocals, the lyricism with all the background instrumentals is impressive. I haven’t heard a hip hop track this imposing done in such a way.

Next we’ve got one of my favorite Tupac songs ever. “Toss It Up” featuring K-Ci & JoJo, Danny Boy, and Aaron Hall, which makes for a break in the darkness and like every album in history, is the dedication to the females (albeit in a vulgar but kinda tasteful way). However, it’s not all that, as it also takes jabs at the rappers Pac was beefing with and becomes violent in the second verse. The song is a masterpeice. We’ve seen this collaboration before (Pac and Jodeci members) and each time it’s nothing but engaging and entertaining. On the production side, we have Dametrius Ship and Reggie Moore. These guys maintain the continuity of darkness, but add an upbeat tempo to balance it a little. K-Ci and JoJo’s vocals are nothing less than amazing, and their chemistry with Tupac is perfect. Here are my two favorite verses:

“Ohhh, it's K-Ci baby/
Mmm that want you lady/
Ohhh, don't act so shady, baby your taste as fine as gravy/
The way you move that thang/ You make me wanna sang/
Girl you make my bells rang/ make them go jing-a-ling!/"

And of course this verse of Pac’s:

“How Do You Want Me, What's Yo Phone Number, I Get Around/
Cali Love to my true Thugs, picture me now/
Still down for that Death Row sound, searching for payday/
No longer Dre Day, arrivederci/
Blown and forgotten, rotten for plotting Child's Play/
Check your sexuality, as fruity as this Alize/”

Again, I love the way the track is set up. It’s truly perfect.

If you’re a fan of Tupac, you know that not many goes harder for California than he does in music. We heard it on “California Love” and again here with “To Live And Die In LA” featuring Val Young. This is simply an ode and a great way to rep his city. With a sample taken from Prince’s “Do Me, Baby”, it’s no wonder this track elicits positive feelings rather than the others(on this album). Of course, Pac would never depict LA in any other way. My favorite is how it started with the reporter and I find it absolutely hilarious. “He's talking about killing people, I had sex with your wife and not in those words...but he's talking about I wanna see you deceased”. Another thing I really appreciate is that Tupac doesn’t skim on the reality of living in LA, he talks about the violence, the women, the neighborhoods all of that, but he also makes it known, despite any negativity it’s still “all good” here, take a look:

“California -- what you say about Los Angeles
Still the only place for me that never rains in the sun and everybody got love”

“Everybody got they own thang, currency chasing/
Worldwide through the hard times, worrying faces/
Shed tears as we bury niggas close to heart”

“Automatics rang free, niggas lost they way
Gang signs being showed, nigga love your hood/
But recognize and it's all good/, Where the weed at? Niggas getting shermed out/
Snoop Dogg in this muthafucka, permed out/”

Of course the perfectly sung and incredibly catchy chorus make it amazing as well. Again, another fantastic track with near perfect prodiction that is a fan favorite from the album.

The next track is “Blasphemy” featuring Prince Ital, where we find ourselves right back in that dark and gloom that’s so signature to this album. This track is interesting and one that is thought provoking. It challenges the mainstream thought process on organized religion. It's known that Tupac has always been a believer in God but never religion and this is the run down of that. We get a ton of insight, a lot of fantastic concepts and his own take on rules to the "the game" (it would be comparable to BIG's "Ten Crack Commandments" and NWA's "Appetite For Destruction"), in fact we hear it in the very first verse. Take a look:

"There's ten rules to the game, but I'll share with you two/
Know niggas gon' hate you for whatever you do/
Now rule one -- get your cash on, M.O.B./
That's Money Over Bitches, cause they breed envy/
Now rule two is a hard one, watch for phonies/
Keep yo', enemies close nigga, watch yo' homies/
It seemed a little unimportant, when he told me I smiled/
Picture jewels being handed, to an innocent child/
I never knew in my lifetime I'd live by these rules/
Initiated as an outlaw, studying rules/
Now papa ain't around, so I gotta recall/
Or come to grips with being written on my enemy's wall/"

The chorus is dope as well. Almost sung in patois, it adds a depth and variation that is much appreciated. Tupac's flow and delivery that we love so much is heard throughout but I love it the most here. His emotion and "heart" is heard and that adds so much more insight for the listeners.

I'm going to skip over "Life Of An Outlaw" and  "Just Like Daddy" both featuring The Outlawz. Like I said the Outlawz are impressive on this album (more than on All Eyez On Me) and both tracks are good, but in my opinion neither is critical to the overall album. I appreciate the added rhymes by Pac, that's always a good thing, but they aren't stand out tracks.

"Krazy" is another favorite track on the album. It features Bad Azz and production is done by Big D (we heard his work on the very first track) so the instrumentals and loops are done in the same vein. I also think it's this track that is Pac at his most honest, he references a lot of past experiences, he's open, vulnerable and relatable. He talks about his (wrongfully given) prison sentence from '94-'95, he talks about the Bloods and Crips and his mother and father. The chorus serves as a break in the serious subject matter and is incredibly catchy as well. Another well delivered and perfectly placed track that is the "soul searching" side of Tupac.

As we approach the end, we get to a powerful track and one of the most underrated on this album. "White Man'z World"  featuring Big D, and the track title speaks for itself and is the essence of Tupac's belief in the empowerment of African American women and men. The lyrics are powerful, the samples are the same and he holds nothing back. It's that uncensored, unfiltered approach and rawness we know we can expect from him. The track is brilliant and timeless. Everything he mentions from beginning to end still holds true and is still relevant in that "this is a white man's world" and here's what I mean:

"I ain't sayin I'm innocent in all this
I'm just sayin'
In this white man's world
This song is for y'all"

"Apologizes to my true sisters, far from bitches
Help me raise my Black nation, reparations are due, It's true/ Caught up in this world I took advantage of you/
So tell the babies how I love them, precious boys and girls/
Born black in this white man's world/"

"Proud to be black but why we act like we don't love ourselves/
Don't look around busta (you sucka) check yourselves/
Know what it means to be black, whether a man or girl/
We still struggling, in this white man's world/"

And if that wasn't incredible enough, he uses a snippet from Minister Farrakhan:

"The seal, and the constitution, reflect the thinking of the founding fathers, that this was, to be a nation by white people, and for white people. Native Americans, Blacks, and all other non-white people were to be the burden bearers, for the real citizens of this nation"

There's no way I can quote all the gems in this track, but this is a glimpse. Tupac had always been vocal about injustices against the African-American population and he never missed an opportunity to say it. I love and appreciate the honesty.

The next track is easily one of Tupac's best, as the album reaches "Me And My Girlfriend". I think the entirety of hip hop has an interesting relationship with this song. Many believe Pac was the originator of this concept...he wasn't. Many say that actually Nas was, but what Tupac did differently was give "the gun" a voice, as it becomes a character in this story and thus giving the twist it needed to be so clever and so notable. No other version really took the same approach. The female who is "the gun" is Virgynia Slim who was working at Death Row at the time and provided the voice. The aggression is perfect, the breaks to allow the character development is perfectly played out and the personification of the gun is brilliantly used. Nas may have been the brains behind it initially, but Pac perfected it. He perfectd it so much that the concept and title have been used over and over again throughout the years. In my opinion, this is one track that is critical to not only the album but to Pac's catalog, as well as the entirety of hip hop.

The final two tracks are "Hold Ya Head" and "Against All Odds", both of which are phenomenal tracks. The first mentioned song is yet another of empowerment and awareness of the treatment of black boys/men. Another timeless track which the lyrics are relevant some 20 years later. Tupac was insightful and his wisdom on global issues was unmatched. Tracks like these are always appreciated. There is a truth that shouldn't be silenced.

"Against All Odds" is the quintessential depiction of the "coastal feud" as the third verse blatantly talks about Puffy, bribes, the murder of Pac's boy Stretch and the chilling reality of the line "Probably be murdered for the shit I said" is a tough one for fans to swallow. Considering it all played out the way he had said makes this album really from beyond the grave (so to speak). Many have used this to create theories around the death of Tupac, but what will always hold true is that "Against All Odds" is the most open and uncensored recounting of the biggest feud in the history of hip hop and with that, Tupac ends his album.

"Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory" was a truly a highlight in '96 for many reasons. Not only was the track list almost perfect, but this was the last studio album he would record before his death. I know there's much criticism around this album, but I really feel it's misplaced. There was so much of Pac weaved in each track, that any fan would appreciate everything he put into it. Tupac never ceases to amaze and he makes sure that every album comes with at least one classic, and we were lucky enough to get almost a dozen. Hip hop will never be the same without Pac but we'll forever have his brilliance on tracks and through speakers.



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