News of the death of Tupac’s mother Afeni Shakur broke on Tuesday morning, and many fans went back to the song “Dear Mama” to remember her legacy. Now, the original version of “Dear Mama” has surfaced online, thanks to early Tupac collaborator DJ King Assassin. This recording predates the one that became a Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1995. It contains vocals from Yo-Yo, a rapper affiliated with Ice Cub’s group Da Lench Mob.
DJ King Assassin wrote an explanatory note to Ambrosia for Heads, giving more insight into this surprise version of the song. “The original version of ‘Dear Mama’ was far different than the version that was released, as far as the hook was constructed,” he said. “Originally, the hook was a sample of a song from the legendary rapper and friend of both of ours named Yo-Yo, from Ice Cube’s [Da] Lench Mob. The sample was ‘Wouldn’t be a damn thang without a woman,’ which was taken from the original song from Ice Cube’s ‘This Is A Man’s World,’ with the scratching done, of course, by yours truly DJ King Assassin.”
He goes on to explain that the vocals were removed due to sample clearance issues. “The day after we had finished up on everything we were in Echo Sound in L.A. when Tupac comes in the studio very upset and proceeds to explain to us that we had to take out Yo-Yo’s part because a person by the name of Pat Charbonet would not give us the clearance to use that part in the song, so we had no choice but to take it out and that’s where even the Richard Pryor excerpt, which you will hear, is completely off the released version of the song.”
“Dear Mama” details Tupac’s volatile but loving relationship with his mother, and is often cited among the best hip-hop songs ever made. Afeni Shakur died of a probable heart attack Monday evening in her home in northern California. She was 69 years old. You can stream the alternative version of “Dear Mama” below via Audiomack.