Tupac Shakur's corpse still being picked over

Somewhere � probably at that classy strip club in the sky where all great rappers go when they die � Tupac Shakur must be having a good laugh.

Imagine what he might think: "All those nights I dropped by the studio just to record anything that popped into my head � and now it's all gone to No. 1! Again! You people are crazy!"

Yeah, you're right: Maybe not. Maybe he'd be proud that yet another posthumous collection is a smashing success. Maybe he'd love how much his believers still stroke his ego � or worship him as an urban messiah, however you care to see it.

This one, the fourth since his shooting death in 1996, is called "Until the End of Time" � a double-disc set culled from his lousiest period (well, the Outlawz stuff is pretty rank, too), when he recast himself as a martyred thug named Makaveli, presumably to work out his frustration with the rap scene, the "gangsta" life, the dead end of his artistry.

Whatever. It's dull. It needn't have been released. It only taints his reputation.

Had he lived, he would have dismissed a lot of this material � perhaps even shelved it altogether, because there are indications that he was bored with rap at the time of his death and more interested in acting.

Most obviously, had Tupac lived, he surely would have edited himself.

'Pac was a potent poet, sure, but he tended to run at the mouth � bragging endlessly, repeating minor points he had made definitively on earlier albums, wasting space by shouting down his enemies. The more we hear � and by November, when a second gathering of Makaveli outtakes is due in stores, his recordings from the hereafter will outnumber those he created when he was alive � the more we realize he was just an ordinary thinker with an extraordinary flow and galvanizing charisma.

I'm not dismissing his plight. I'm criticizing the upkeep of his coffin. Albums like "Until the End of Time" make you wonder who's minding the 2Pac store. Is Afeni Shakur, his mother and perhaps biggest inspiration, becoming another Yoko Ono, peddling piffle just to keep the spirit alive?

Excuse the clich�, but can't we let the guy rest in peace?

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