There are few phrases quite as damning as "Music Inspired By…" That tag has been proudly affixed to everything from Christian devotional albums to the Speed 2 soundtrack, aggressively testing the boundaries of the term "inspiration."
Culled from the same journal entries and free verse that made up the posthumous The Rose that Grew From Concrete, The Rose Vol. 2 assembles another batch of hip-hop dignitaries and asks them to draw inspiration from a few scattered odds & ends. The catch, though, is that the best of Pac's leftovers have already been snapped up for a steady string of remix records and new releases (there have been seven since his death). As a result, the bloom on this Rose comes not from the strength of the words, but from the spirit of the contributors. Fortunately, most of the cast are up to the challenge: Dead Prez offer a characteristically fearless reading of "If I Fail," their steely voices supported only by a deep bass arrhythmia and a single blinking radar tone. Talib Kweli, in one of the record's few uptempo performances, sets "Fallen Star" against a backdrop of humid, late-7'0s R&B.
The record's most surprising and engaging turn, however, comes from a convincingly subdued Ludacris, who softens his tone and departs from his script to offer a candid and impromptu interpretation of Shakur's prose. In an instant, the words "Inspired By" are transformed from insult to high praise.