February 16, 2021

2Pac "Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z." (Feb. 16, 1993)

"Over the 12 months of 1993, the Wu-Tang Clan, Snoop Dogg, A Tribe Called Quest, Queen Latifah and more than a dozen other rap groups released albums that helped change the sound of America. That year one of the most influential rappers to ever hold a microphone released his breakout album. In January 1993, Tupac Shakur was 21 years old. He was about to drop his second album, and the first feature film he starred in had been a success. He was on the cusp of superstardom. Kevin Powell, a young journalist at Vibe magazine, was trying to talk his editors into taking a story. "I explained to them, 'Look, there's this young man who is the son of a Black Panther party member, Afeni Shakur. He already has one album out called 2pacalypse Now and he's in this really controversial hit film called Juice. He's someone we should really be paying attention to,'" Powell remembers. Vibe eventually paid attention; so did radio; and the album Tupac released in February, Strictly For My N.I.G.G.A.Z., landed three songs on the charts.... "[Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. was] a record you could party to, but then also had a sense of cultural resonance to it," John Singleton says. "That was that time — black people were pissed off but we wanted to party at the same time." 1993 was the year following the Los Angeles riots, which had been sparked by the Los Angeles Police Department's beating of Rodney King.... "Keep Ya Head Up" is a song about society's mistreatment of women. The other two hits from Tupac's album, "I Get Around" and "Holler If You Hear Me," are not. The songs seem to come from different places, but Powell says that's Tupac..."

"When you look at his album Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z., it's him," Powell says. "Half of it is very deep social political commentary and the other half is the kind of stuff that became associated with thug life and the kind of gangsterism that became associated with hip-hop." J. Cole says these two sides are what make Tupac more than just an actor playing a role. "Some people criticize him for being on such opposite ends of the spectrum. But I learned growing up — at least in my case, and I like to think for everyone else's case, whether they like to admit it or not — that's more human than anything." But Tupac and his second album also represent something bigger, says Powell... "There's no other singular figure in hip-hop like Tupac Shakur. He wasn't the greatest rapper in the world. He didn't necessarily have the best lyrics all the time, but there was not a figure that captured what hip-hop is and where it came from: working-class black American and Latino and West Indian people from New York City and black and Latino people from the West Coast. No one captured that the way he did." - NPR. As always, I recommend taking the time to revisit the project below. R.I.P., 2Pac!