The continuing chart career of Tupac Shakur has long been the source of humour and astonishment. Despite being murdered in September 1996, hits in the rappers name have kept coming at a steady pace, a testament to just how productive he had been in the months leading up to his death whilst at the same time providing endless fuel to the conspiracy theories that suggest he is not actually dead. Now the line of posthumous hits reaches its zenith as 2Pac finally lands himself a UK Number One hit.
Ghetto Gospel is taken from the album Loyal To The Game, a selection of cuts cobbled together from unfinished studio sessions, most produced by none other than Eminem himself. Although the album has been available since last year this is the first single release to chart and it does so in spectacular style, shouldering Crazy Frog out of the way to shoot to the very top. Prior to today, his biggest hit single had been Changes which peaked at Number 3 in February 1999. In all this is 2Pac's 17th chart hit - no less than 15 of which have been posthumous.
Perhaps impressively Ghetto Gospel is the fourth posthumous Number One hit of 2005, the total swelled a little artificially by the trio of Elvis Presley re-issues which hit the top at the start of the year. The last batch of posthumous Number Ones came at the start of 2002 when both Aaliyah and George Harrison hit the top a few months after they both passed away. In all 2Pac is the tenth act in chart history to top the charts from beyond the grave but he is far and away the one who has had to wait the longest. The eight years and two months that have elapsed since his death easily eclipses the two-year gap between the deaths of Jim Reeves and Jackie Wilson and their own Number One singles. Elvis' Number One hits this year came in the 27th year since his death of course but he had also hit the top in September 1977 just weeks after he passed away.
Mention must also be made of Elton John's co-credit on the track. His vocals are present thanks to the sampling of the track Indian Sunset which first appeared on his 1972 album Madman Across The Water. By insisting on a performing credit, Elton can thus claim his seventh Number One hit single, an impressive total for an artist who in his 1970s heyday had famously only ever topped the chart once. It also continues a noble Elton John tradition of only topping the chart with songs that have been remixed, re-released, or re-recorded. His only chart-topper to have been a totally original track was of course Don't Go Breaking My Heart, which true to form he re-recorded in a new version in 1994.
The second biggest new hit of the week comes from an artist whose name sounds like he should have been a mid-50s crooner but who is actually just a new R&B talent. The first act signed to Ludacris' new Disturbing Tha Peace label (his debut album even being credited to "Disturbing Da Peace presents...") Bobby Valentino is being pitched as the latest member of the soul dynasty that stretches from Barry White through Luther Vandross and R Kelly. Debut single Slow Down is a colour by numbers seduction ballad that in truth doesn't contain anything new either musically or lyrically but which has clearly caught the imagination of enough people to be worthy of a Top 5 new entry. Hard to argue with that really.
Also making their debut in a very urban dominated chart are New York's MVP whose mission statement is to "steer rap off the streets and onto the dance floor". Hence the appearance of Roc Ya Body on dance label Positiva as the track attempts to steer a path between pop and hip-hop. In truth, the effect is only half successful and the single falls into the trap of sounding just a little too cheesy in an attempt to be as club friendly as possible. When hip hop has matured to the point where Akon can spend a spell at Number One detailing his angst and loneliness it almost seems a step backwards to hear the three members of MVP banging on about how good their party is going to be. Once again you cannot be too damning of an easy Top 5 hit single but the height of sophistication this most certainly isn't.
To rescue us (and indeed to show us how it is done) is Missy Elliott who storms in at Number 7 with the intoxicating Lose Control. Although this is her first single under her own steam for more than a year she has barely been absent from the charts this year, thanks to appearances alongside the likes of Christina Aguilera, Tweet and Ciara, who returns the favour Missy did on 1 2 Step by singing the chorus on this new single. Stir in a few samples from Fatman Scoop (who could read out his shopping list and make it sound like a call to arms) and you have a bubbly, intoxicating rap track that is as cool as MVP are naff. Charting Missy Elliott's chart trends is hard work thanks to her willingness to appear alongside just about everyone else in the industry on record but Lose Control is her first Top 10 single as the primary artist since I'm Really Hot hit Number 10 in November 2003.
There is a welcome entry at Number 9 as Hard-Fi chalk up their biggest hit so far with Hard To Beat, the follow-up to Tied Up Too Tight which gave them a Top 20 breakthrough in April. Stirred in with this weeks R&B and hip hop dominated Top 10 they sound almost out of place - but let nothing take away from the fact that with another great single they are now Top 10 hitmakers.
In the meantime, it is back to rap we go with 50 Cent and a new entry at Number 10 for his latest single Just A Lil Bit. Impressively enough this is his fourth Top 10 single of the year already, thanks to his appearances alongside The Game on his two hit singles. On his own, this is merely his second chart appearance, the follow-up to Candy Shop which hit Number 4 back in 2005. With this single his 100% Top 10 record remains intact but unless he makes a seemingly unlikely climb next week this will go down as his smallest hit to date.
At Number 13 on the chart this week are an act with an almost impossible job. The Stereophonics' last single Dakota was an instant classic, the tale of a long lost romance being almost universally hailed as the best single of the year so far. The record majestically soared to Number One in March and although its career in the upper reaches was cut short by the appearance of its parent album in the shops it carried on selling as a download long enough to loiter in the charts for almost four months. Just how do you follow something like that? Well rather cleverly they haven't even tried, instead selecting the rather more difficult and intense Superman as the next single from the Language, Sex, Violence, Other? album. No tinkling melody or sing along chorus here. Instead, the track is an intense rock workout that you would imagine sounds awesome when performed live but on record ends up as a bit of a racket. If it was an attempt to avoid pigeonholing then it worked a treat. A few eyebrows will be raised at the fact they have followed up a Number One hit with a Number 13 single but in truth, this was just what the doctor ordered.
Whither pop music? Well, I guess it has to take a back seat for once as the final new entry in the Top 20 is yet more hip-hop in the rather rotund shape of Bizarre. Although he is a new name in a solo sense this is far from his first chart appearance as he doubles as a member of D12. Yes, we live in a world where even the individual members of Eminem's posse are in a position to have their own spinoff chart singles (although this is really no different to the parade of So Solid Crew members who all found themselves with their own deals in parallel to the short lived career of the band as a whole). His presence in the Top 20 means that a massive nine of the 20 biggest selling singles of the week are either rap hits or tracks that feature rappers at the core of the track. Whither pop music indeed.