March 14, 2021

2Pac "Me Against The World" (March 14, 1995)

No recent rapper has found himself better known but less understood than Tupac Shakur. Having spent more time in court than Perry Mason -- racking up charges of attempted murder along with a conviction for sexual assault -- Tupac burst into the mass consciousness as a tabloid-ready fiend. It only helped the media's cause that Tupac could fit an age-old cliche -- the angry young black man hellbent on revenge. Not that Tupac himself stood blameless in hawking this flat, inhuman image to the media. Every sneering statement and threatening gesture he made seemed calculated to appall and titillate viewers of the 11 o'clock news, leaving him a virtual cartoon of rage. Thankfully, the rapper's first album since his public demonization goes a long way toward humanizing him. While its title ("Me Against the World") may threaten more rounds of finger-pointing and macho posturing, the results offer a nuanced cautionary tale, full of vulnerability and even culpability. In "So Many Tears" and "It Ain't Easy," Tupac (aka 2Pac) explores, rather than exploits, his own nihilism, while in "Temptations" he maps out the war within himself (between doing the right thing and getting the quick fix). His most understanding passage comes in "Dear Mama" where he reconciles with his mother a former Black Panther and, later, a crack addict. Tupac's candor in describing his eventual appreciation of his mother shows true maturity. Revisit 2Pac's Me Against The World, cont'd below...

Tupac's words may stand out but his delivery and the music he matches them to hold only generic appeal. He favors a minimal style of hip-hop, with just the merest samples to decorate his bedrock of bass. This may have its draws, but originality isn't one of them a point that would matter less if Tupac's delivery had the musicality of hip-hop's greatest orators like the righteous Chuck D or the graceful Snoop Dog. In its stead, Tupac offers an Everyman quality, which at the very least ups his role as a besieged symbol. After all, "Me Against The World" hasn't held the No. 1 spot on Billboard's pop charts for the last three weeks for nothing. Tupac's public traumas resonate not only with alienated African-Americans but with teens of every race. If Tupac's articulation of his problems hasn't resulted in music as overwhelming as his notoriety, it has created a useful piece of sociology. His album offers a probing look inside a life normally seen skin-deep. - New York Daily News (April 11, 1995). Fans may not declare that 2Pac was the greatest RAPPER, but that vulnerability, trauma and everyman quality helped make 2Pac one of the most impactful artists of our generation. If you haven't already, dig in the archives HERE to read the album's original press kit. R.I.P., Tupac Shakur.