The only thing different about the two versions of “California Love” is the beat. Oh, but what a difference that beat makes. The original version (which I think people are more familiar with) uses a Joe Cocker sample that’s made it onto a couple other rap records. It’s insistent and menacing, and maybe not the best match for the upbeat, celebratory song. The remix subs out the Cocker sample for a replay of funk group Kleeer’s smooth 1983 jam “Intimate Connection”. Here’s where the song sounds the most like California. It’s also got more of a connection to Dre’s Chronic-era work. It’s smooth and silky and makes you want to dance. That music, combined with Roger Troutman’s vocoder asides…SO GOOD. And while Dre’s table-setting intro rhyme is what it is, ‘Pac’s second verse wins you over. Mr. Shakur was never a great emcee from a technical proficiency standpoint, but man…the charisma leaks out of these speakers when he takes over on this song.
Strangely, “California Love”’s remix is the only version featured on All Eyez On Me. The “original version” was a stand-alone single before later being included on ‘Pac’s greatest hits album. The remix was also the version I heard first. I can distinctly remember hearing it premiered on Hot 97 in early January 1996, never even giving a thought that it would be the last new track Dre recorded for Death Row, the label he co-founded. Or that 2Pac wouldn’t live to see the year end.