As part of a short series, the first entry in my Current Top 10 Of Hip Hop

(Note: “top 10” does not imply “top 10 songs”.)

10. Song: 2Pac – “Do For Love”

As Jeff Chang discusses in this archived article from the San Francisco Bay Guardian, few hip hop artists have been successful in producing a mixture of hard and soft output while retaining respect for both aspects of their work. Tupac Shakur is perhaps a rather extreme example of this, since his harder tracks were some of the hardest records being made and his soft tracks some of the most poignant. The fact that “Troublesome ’96” (part of a set of previous NYLPM favourites and one of the most spiteful tracks officially released by Shakur) is immediately followed by the teenage pregnancy warning (“Let me show you how it affects our whole community…”) of “Brenda’s Got A Baby” on his Greatest Hits compilation is a reflection of the breadth of the subjects covered by his work.

“Do For Love” is a beautiful, reflective track built around a sample of Bobby Caldwell’s 1978 track “What You Won’t Do For Love”. A cynic might suggest that 2Pac, rather than being a good rapper, was (on record) a great actor who was also able to rap. Either way you view his work, though, there’s always the sense that 2Pac was using dramatic techniques (in the same way that the classic soul vocalists delved into the song until the lyrical and melodic emotion was real rather than implied) to bring the extra edge to his best raps. On the basis of “Do For Love”, it’s hard to argue.

Tell me who knows a peaceful place where I can go
To clear my head I’m feeling low, losing control
My heart is saying leave, oh what a tangled web we weave
When we conspire to conceive, and now
You’re getting calls at the house, guess you cheating
That’s all I need to hear cause I’m leaving, I’m out the door
Never no more will you see me, this is the end
Cause now I know you’ve been cheating, I’m a sucker for love