After in-depth explainers on Watergate and the Clinton affair in seasons one and two, respectively, Slate podcast Slow Burn took a left turn in its third season, leaving behind politics to look at the Tupac-Notorious BIG murders in the mid-1990s.
The eight-episode season, which concluded in mid-December, proved a success, drawing over 7m downloads, according to Vulture (which also reported that host Joel Anderson is gearing up for a five-city tour showcasing a new episode — the new live norm for podcasts?).
The season begins with Anderson reassessing a famous photo of Tupac on a hospital gurney after being shot in November 1994, of him flipping the middle finger to who the host always presumed was the photographer; in fact it was Biggie Smalls; his circle in fact looked up to Tupac, whose best work was still to come at the time.
This is the essence of Slow Burn; we presume we know all there is to know about Nixon, Lewinsky, Pac — but there’s so much more to the picture, to the story.
The episodes all clock in around the 30-minute mark, examining the rise of rap in America and its parental-advisory legacy; the media-driven east-v-west divide; the ‘artistic’ Tupac giving in to a more menacing side; and just why the murders of these black men weren’t solved.
Indeed racism underpins the series (Slow Burn’s fourth season is centred on the rise of Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke).
Just like Bill Clinton came out of season two looking particularly guilty with hindsight, Tupac’s treatment of Faith Evans, Biggie’s wife, taking advantage of her to score points in the simmering feud while promising to help elevate her career, looks particularly awful in our post-MeToo era.
Slow Burn’s third season is never less than riveting, though pop culture’s fascination with the rappers means much of it will already be well known to many.
Their music lives on though — as do their legacies, heard through myriad songs from some of the biggest artists of today, from Eminem to Kendrick Lamar.
YOU’VE GOT TO HEAR THIS
Season five of Dissect has just wrapped.
With each season focusing on a different major rap release, from Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy to Frank Ocean’s Blonde, the latest offered track-by-track dissections on Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN.
It’s nerdy but reaffirms Lamar’s genius.