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2Pac – Me Against The World (1995)

November 16, 2016

usatunesoftheworld

Unbelievable USA logo by Sarca @ caughtmegaming

USA Artists (so far): Aimee Mann, Marty Robbins, D’Angelo, The Modern Lovers, Bruce Springsteen, Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott, Steely Dan, Grant Lee Buffalo, 2Pac

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[Album 488/1001]

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.

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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.

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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.220px-meagainsttheworldcover

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.

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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!

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From → 1990s

31 Comments
  1. The first time I had seen or heard the name 2 Pac was the 96 Grammys when he introduced Kiss than shortly after he died.

  2. Never understood the whole Tupac thing. My wife was a fan when we met (still is, I guess) and while I had heard of him, I just never really thought what he was doing was particularly great. Good at what he did, for sure, but I’m not convinced that he was as special as folks would suggest.

    … there I go courting controversy.

    • I think there’s some “what might have been” in his appeal as well.

      J, I gather you guys were bombarded with Libertines hype in the UK years ago – but I think it was that same sort of thing, if it weren’t for their self-destructive lifestyles leading to an abrupt career end, how much greater might they have been?

      Tupac was definitely more versatile & was a much more complex character than I expected here.

      • Spot on, Geoff. There’s definitely a sense that people believe he could have been the best, though I think that’s impossible to call. The fact he died heightened opinion (naturally)… “he coulda been the best” can be countered by “might not have been”.

        Libertines had huge hyperbole around them. Like you say, the may have been one of the best, but there’s also a good chance that they just came along at the right time.

        Kinda like Cobain, I guess. I loved Nirvana, but I get a bit annoyed when I read stuff about him being the best of his generation, etc. He wasn’t particularly great and we’ll never know what would have happened after In Utero. They had something for sure, but there were many better songwriters than Cobain.

        Same with Jeff Buckley. Incredible talent. Tragic loss. But we’ll never know if he was destined to be one of the greats.

        … there I go courting controversy again!

      • Typical J, courting controversy!

        Interesting in Cobain’s case too as from all I’ve read, he seems to have believed some of his peers were much more deserving of the recognition.

        Have you ever read any Chuck Klosterman? He has a fascinating essay on Billy Joel, where he argues Joel might be one of the rare artists that wouldn’t be more revered in death.

      • Yeah – I’ve read a fair bit on Cobain and he definitely expressed embarrassment at being revered as he was when the bands that inspired him were overlooked.

        Never read any Chuck Klosterman, but I’ll track down the essay about Joel, as that sounds intriguing!

  3. Excellent write-up, Geoff. I’ve always said I liked about half of 2Pac’s stuff – the half where he eloquently raps like a human being. The boasting and posturing gets real old real quick. I understand how you’re left wondering which person he was. Sadly, likely a bit of both, and he never had a chance to outgrow the garbage and really become.

    • I imagine you’re right Aaron – this was likely a pretty accurate portrayal of the man, both the good and unfortunately, also the rest

  4. Awww, thanks Geoff.

  5. He’s one of those artists who needed to die to become as big as he has. I’m not much of a fan apart from ‘California Love’.

    • I can’t remember who coined the phrase of ‘death is a great career move’ in the music business but it’s often tragically accurate.
      He seemed to keep releasing albums posthumously for several years too

  6. I don’t believe it is ever too late for anyone to change. I wonder what 2 Pac would be doing today. Probably starring in hilarious movies with Snoop Dogg.

    • Given the Kiss intro Deke referenced, he seemed like he could have had some good comedic timing!

      • I really enjoyed when he introduced them. “These my homeboys!” I have that on a DVD.

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