Tupac rarely worked with producers outside of his Cali inner circle, but magic happened when he did. This was evident in his work with Easy Mo Bee on Me Against The World. The two got together and brewed up a couple of masterpieces–”If I Die 2Nite” and the single “Temptations”–standout gems on an already epic outing. However, by the time he began recording All Eyez On Me, he was much more territorial due to being in the midst of a bi-coastal beef. That just made the guest-production appearance from VA’s DeVante Swing that much more exceptional.
Much like Mr. Shakur, DeVante barely ventured out of his Virginia clique, and he almost never produced for rappers. The impresario behind Jodeci’s soulful, Hip-Hop-tinged production was most noted for his early contributions to New Jack Swing, slow, groovy and bouncy R&B/soul, and for being a pioneer of the definitive Virginia sound that we love today (see Timbaland & Pharrell). So when rap’s brightest star and an R&B production juggernaut teamed up, no one knew what to expect.
As off-kilter as “No More Pain” is, there is definitely something special going on. DeVante is a real musician and it’s illustrated well in the keys arrangement and the quietly screaming synths in the bottom layer. Devante’s loop of an original grand piano score on a hip-hop track was generally unheard of at the time. Those sounds would fit with ease into a 90’s contemporary R&B song, but DeVante added anxious high hats and a nice blend of a clap and snare, raising the blood pressure of this beat to something oh-so gangsta.
All Eyes On Me‘s engineer Dave Aron worked with DeVante, mixing the vocals and instrumental. Dave was working late at the studio, when DeVante showed up at 3 AM. The original beat was basic, without any keys. Dave recalls, “The keyboard parts he put in were very eerie and weird sounding. He was very quiet that night. Very focused. It was interesting to watch him work. He finished about five or six in the morning and said, ‘I want to mix this now.’ We mixed it that same night. It was a long night.”
Some people exclaim this beat as the best on the album, which says a lot considering AEOM is arguably one of the greatest albums ever. “No More Pain” even has its own urban legend, revolving around the drum programming. Rumors that Timbaland created the kick patterns floated around a few years ago, even resulting in this tweet from Timbo himself. Regardless, the drums are an afterthought, compared to the track as a whole and Pac’s verses. The track swells with intensity towards the end, with slicing cymbal crashes and 2Pac’s piercing words. Perk up your ears for a West Coast masterpiece.