Due to their affiliation with 2Pac during the height of the East Coast–West Coast beef, the Outlawz (now comprised of just Kastro, EDI and Young Noble) are known more for turmoil than activism. So word of their teaming with dead prez on Can’t Sell Dope Forever might evoke more than a few head scratches from fans. But the two crews manage to find a common goal on this conceptual disc, which valiantly tackles the abundance of drugs in their community.
Cuts like the reverberating anthem “1 Nation” and the frantic title track are signs that this union could be a good move, but dp and Outlawz’s spotty chemistry hurts their overall execution. Lethargic hooks and limp grooves impair both the stic.man-produced flop “Holdin’ On” and “Came Up,” a sluggish rumination on struggling and striving that features Layzie Bone. Rapping over the sound of crickets and solemn guitars, a mumbling Noble mimics Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s patented flow with average results (“Look in my eyes/You better feel the pain/You better learn the game/I had my time in vain”).
The bigger problem, however, is the fact that Can’t Sell Dope Forever sounds more like a dp-led rally than a joint call to arms with the Outlawz. In fact, the Cali trio is absent altogether on four of the songs, as outside guests push the L.A. crew aside and bogart their way onto tracks or M-1 and stic fly solo. It isn’t until the antiestablishment riot starter “Thuggin’ on the Blokkk” and the folksy “Fork in the Road” that ’Pac’s homies get to deliver their own revolutionary-but-gangsta swagger. But all hope for the project’s cohesiveness is lost as these instances are too few and far between. In the end, it makes dp and the Outlawz’s righteous message a tough sell.—ALVIN BLANCO