Can’t Sell Dope Forever is not an album; it’s not even a mix tape. This is ghetto doctrine, or rather doctrine for the ghetto, in its most consumable and purest appearance. It’s real, relatable and the soundtrack for countless denizens of inner-cities.
Catchy Title, Dope Album
The provoking title, Can’t Sell Dope Forever, forces you to decipher its literary function; it can be rhetorical, didactic, informative, or nostalgic. There are times in the album where it flails all four limbs of functions.
Due to their underground and righteous status, both collaborating groups, Dead Prez and Outlawz (Tupac’s living and posthumous group), render an undistinguishable tone throughout the album; it becomes almost futile to determine which group, which member is rapping at any given time. However, this plays out perfectly in the context of the album. The message becomes one uninterrupted, singular, momentum-building message that remains consistent throughout the opus.
This notion of monolithic singularity is introduced on the opening track, 1Nation, “East, West, North South // it’s all the same to us // we all struggling and hustling to get us a cut…and all hoods look the same from the outside.
On the eponymous track, the song begins with the requisite announcement that “this is the remix”, thrice in succession. While, this could be easily overlooked as insignificant or confounding (no sight of the original, anywhere), it would not be farfetched to speculate that this song serves as the remix to common rhetoric and attitude regarding selling drugs in society; it outlines the fundamental reasons for drug selling-–financial and survival–but also debunks and strips all reasons to little more than a cinder of corruption and circumstance, “My nigga /Every new nigga think he not gon’ get caught /the same thing next man thought sitting in court…Cuz the war on drugs /is just a war on us /and the wrong time to see it is when you in those cuffs.” And apropos instances like these demonstrate the effectiveness and presence of a foreboding (and daring) agenda to juxtapose the glamour and reward of drug dealing.
Many of the tracks are content-driven, possibly explaining the lack of urgency or necessity for a clean-cut, colorful delivery that goes completely ignored by both groups. Both don’t rap as much as they are commenting on their own commentary, criticizing criticism, and attempting to sell their sale of a drug-free community.
Like a Window
The lone solo sets belong to Stic.man of Dead Prez, who reprises his role for a second go-around on “Believe” after delivering his seeming elegy of his brother on “Like A Window”. On the former, Stic.man recites his verse resolutely and stoically, “I know I can // I’m sure I can // Get this dope out my veins // I believe I can //I know I can // I’m sure I can, with a committal self-referential, self-help vow.
The centered-self (not self-centered) aspect of his healing is often riveting, “I got things I wanna do // with my life that I aint did yet // I know I went close to the edge // but I aint there yet”, while maintaining its streaming flow of reality, “I believe in myself, I just made some bad choices // I still love myself and I aint ready for the coffin”. Stic.man employs an understated and maligned technique: rhyming words with the same words. This coupled with the soothingly thumping beat makes the track particularly memorable.
Production on Can’t Sell Dope Forever
The production is not note-worthy or compelling but does wisely take a back seat to the driving lyrics. Most of the production is strictly commissioned to the intention of the song; it appears upbeat, “Like A Window”, when it needs be yet reincarnates as a stingy, tingling sound on “Can’t Sell Dope Forever”.
The Bottom Line
This brief opus (just totaling over 39 minutes) is not exceptionally brilliant or even refreshingly new but it is daring enough to effect a positive and impassioned reaction. In the end, the album serves as an oral (and aural) self-help manual in which many teens, backpackers, fans, and addicts, no less, will find helpful, relevant, and ultimately satisfying.