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The Story Behind Digital Underground’s EP: Tupac Shakur’s Debut

ROOKIE DEBUT OF TUPAC SHAKUR

Aaron was the coolest kid I knew.  I met him in third grade in 1987 when he was drawing rock band logos on his paper bag-covered math book. Whitesnake. Def Leppard. Poison. 

I was a metal head since I could walk, thanks to a much older brother who attempted in vain to grow his curly hair into a Paul Stanley style flow.  But from kindergarten through second grade, my immature classmates didn’t know Peter Criss from Peter Parker, and so I banged my head in the relative solitude of a shared bedroom in our tiny apartment.

But here was Aaron. He was different. He had swagger and confidence, and by middle school, he considered his parents in a way I never would my own – as easily avoidable obstacles to the adolescent goal of being chill.

And so, we bonded over glam and hair and metal and we hung out enough from ’87-90 to be near best friends. (I probably considered him my best friend. He probably didn’t think the same of me.)

But something happened in the summer of 1990.  We separated for a few months, and when we got back to sixth grade, cool had changed.  Metal had gone schlock, and Aaron had left it behind.

They say grunge killed hair metal.  I disagree.  I would contend that there was a narrow window between 1990 and 1991 when glam was suddenly uncool, and what replaced it wasn’t the Seattle sound. It was rap, both popular rap and the gangsta variety.

THEY SAY GRUNGE KILLED HAIR METAL

I started sixth grade hanging on to “Unskinny Bop”, but Aaron had moved on to a rap group with a man in a Groucho Marx nose rhyming about coitus in a Burger King bathroom.  I wasn’t hooked right away, but I knew I had to learn to be.  In 1990, I dove into that band (Digital Underground) and others, from the poppy hip-hop of MC Hammer and C&C Music Factory to the hard core N.W.A. and EPMD.  

My dalliance with rap was short lived. My brother introduced me to Soundgarden in 1991, and by 1992, when Alice in Chains’s Dirt blew my face off, I (and Aaron, and seemingly everyone else at my school) left rap behind.  But I wish I didn’t.  Because there’s a song that was released in 1991 that I should’ve loved, but it got buried in flannel and angst. 

In 1991, Digital Underground released an EP to follow up their album, Sex Packets.  The EP, creatively named This is an EP Release, ultimately reached #29 on the Billboard Top 200, and its number one single should’ve been a massive hit. “Same Song”, track one on side A, is a banger.  It’s a rap song in a style I adored, before pavement-shattering base, autotune, and triplet flow took over.  It’s poppy, it’s melodic… and it features the debut verse by a guy named Shakur.

Genius is a funny thing.  You’ll be told some bit of culture is “genius”, but you won’t get it.  That’s not genius.  Genius is consuming something you normally wouldn’t, and being blown away just the same.  Genius is universal. I’m not a rap expert, but from listening to Tupac Shakur’s recording debut on “Same Song” emerges the universal recognition of genius.  I can’t explain it, and I won’t try, because it would sound laughably ignorant.  But it’s there, in his only solo verse, and when you play the track, you’ll simply know it when you hear it.

Tupac Shakur’s life was ultimately cut short, and his catalog was left more concise than it deserved to be.  But before you load up your vinyl stash with Me Against the Worldand 2Pacalypse Now, make sure you grab the record that started it all.  Sure, he’s a rookie on This is an EP Release, but for one song at least, he’s also the MVP.

VINYL SPECIFICS:

The album cover features caricatures of the members of Digital Underground, with what is seemingly a wildly inaccurate caption describing who is featured.  Now, I don’t see someone here who obviously looks like Tupac, but I can’t be sure that he isn’t in there, because he’s mentioned in the caption.  Then again, so are Bette Midler and Louis Gossett Jr., so who knows.  

The characters are on a white background, except on the UK Part 2 release (only the UK release was split into two parts) which has a black background.

Original Release Year: 

1991- USA (1), Europe (1), Denmark (1),  Italy (1), US Promo (1)

          UK release was split into Part 1 and Part 2.  Part 1 misspells Tupac’s last name as Shackur on “The Way We Swing”

*Most common variant:

UK Part 1 Release

*Rarest Variant:

US Promo  – says “PROMO COPY NOT FOR SALE” on the label next to the Tommy Boy Records logo.

Highest confirmed sale price**: 

4/23/2021  – $100 – US Promo VG+

*According to discogs.com “haves” at time of article publication

**According to popsike.com and discogs.com sales history at time of publication


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