2Pac – Me Against The World (1995)
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If I’d only listened to the first track and a half, I’d have walked away from Me Against The World thinking, “glorifying of violence, misogyny, drugs…”
But then things took a surprising turn in the third verse of If I Die 2Nite:
“And I hope I’m forgiven for Thug Livin when I die, I wonder if heaven got a ghetto for Thug niggaz, A stress free life…Don’t shed a tear for me nigga I ain’t happy here, I hope they bury me and send me to my rest”
Despite appearing to have gotten what he wanted (fame, money, successful acting & music careers, etc.), 2Pac, aka Tupac Shakur, was deeply unhappy, living in a constant state of anxiety, self-medicating through substances, seeing his death as a possibly preferable alternative.
Which is part of what makes this among the most compelling albums from the 1001 list so far.
Was his “Thug” image a misdirect, masking a much more thoughtful, introspective artist?
As the album rolled along, it felt that way at times, as several moments of positivity caught me off guard.
For one, though he acknowledged it was too late for him to change, he implored young listeners to get their priorities straight, to strive to be an accountant, or even a lawyer.
Also, Dear Mama, an ode to his mother’s courage, is as honest & touching a tribute as there is.
Not to mention Old School, where he praises his influences, the artists that came before him, with the recurring hook, “What more could I say? I wouldn’t be here today if the old school didn’t pave the way.”
If I’d only listened to these tracks, I’d have walked away from Me Against The World thinking, “Wow, 2Pac really comes across as rational, gracious, and respectful.”
Which, considering the album was released while he was serving a prison sentence, places Tupac Shakur among the most compelling artists from the 1001 list so far.
But was all that positivity the real misdirect?
Given the mid-set optimism all but vanishes in the closing trio (Fuck the World/Death Around The Corner/Outlaw), it appears that way.
Knowing how the story would end for 2Pac a year later, closing the record with the sounds of a gunshot & a bullet casing hitting the ground was an eerily prophetic tracklisting decision.
If I’d only listened to these three closing tracks, I’d have walked away from Me Against The World thinking, “2Pac seemed to be well aware that his death was imminent.”
Though if I’d only focused on those premonitions, I’d be missing out on most of the conflicted, confessional journey that is 2Pac’s third studio album.
And such journeys don’t get much more compelling than this.
Verbalize the Positive
I appreciate 1537‘s consistently clever title wordplay. I aspire to one day write somewhat wittier titles than ‘Artist Name – Album Name (Year of Release)’ and I’ll look to his site for inspiration!