2Pac vs. The World
2Pac “Me Against The World” – DJ Puicy Juice Takes a Look Back To 20 Years Ago – The release of “Me Against The World” marked a seminal point in music, a focal point where rap, society, government, celebrity and reality all collided. 2Pac Shakur was the polarizing figure the media and law were obsessed with, the arrests and charges were numerous and covered everything from sexual assault to gun charges. All this hype created a frenzy, but it was nothing compared to the frenzy that boiled within the man born Lesane Parish Crooks. The inspiration for the album was a culmination of life experiences worthy of a great novella with the tragic Shakespearean like figure at the center. Growing up in a family that played a large role in the New York Black Panther Party, a young 2Pac was witness to multiple members of his family being jailed on convictions for murder, conspiracy to murder, armed robbery, aiding and abetting. What impact did this have on a maturing 2Pac, it gave him a wary view of law enforcement and the judicial system. Events later in his life would only solidify this view.
At the age of 12, 2Pac was enrolled in Harlem’s 127th Street Repertory Ensemble and thus began the career for 2Pac the performer and personality. Acting in plays, studying poetry and jazz, even learning some ballet allowed Shakur an amazing juxtaposition from the events he experienced in his personal. After moving to Baltimore and attending the Baltimore School for the Arts, 2Pac began rapping at school with friend and beatbox Dana “Mouse” Smith. The years 2Pac spent as a teen on the east coast left a profound mark on him, he realized that he had the ability to connect with all types of people and relate till many situations. A move to the Oakland area when he was 17 found 2Pac forming a rap group “Strictly Dope”. 2Pac was signed to a contract after performing a concert with the group and soon became a roadie for the group Digital Underground.
2Pac made his official debut on the track “Same Song”, which appeared on the soundtrack to the movie “Nothing But Trouble”. After providing more verses for Digital Underground’s “Son of the P” album, Shakur released his debut album “2Pacalypse Now” in 1991. The album was met with moderate success but also criticism from law enforcement, claiming that “2Pacalypse Now” incited police brutality. This would be a common theme throughout the rest of 2Pac‘s career. 2Pac released his second album in 1993, “Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.”, which continued to showcase 2Pac‘s social and political views. The first two commercial hits of Shakur’s career came from this album with “Keep Ya Head Up” and “I Get Around”. 2Pac went on to release an album “Thug Life Volume 1” after forming a group called Thug Life with step brother Mopreme Shakur, Big Syke, Macadoshis, and Rated R.
With his musical career soaring, 2Pac began experiencing or involving himself in events that really would shape the mindset with which Shakur had when he recorded “Me Against The World”. First in 1992 at an outdoor festival, a 10 year old boy was shot and killed by a gun that was owned by Shakur. 2pac ended paying $250,000 – $300,000 in a civil suit to settle the case. 2Pac was charged with felonious assault for attacking Chauncy Wynn of the rap group M.A.D. with a baseball bat at a concert at Michigan State University in April of 1993 (Which he was convicted and sentenced to 30 days), then charged with shooting two off duty police officers in Atlanta in October of 1993 (Charges were later dropped after one of the off duty officers was found to be lying), and finally sexual assault in November 1993 after a women accused 2Pac and his entourage of raping her in a hotel room (Which he was convicted and sentenced to one and a half to four and a half years in prison) . As one might assume, the reputation and impression of 2Pac outside the rap community was contemptuous at best. Now it wasn’t just law enforcement and censorship groups, you had domestic violence and woman’s rights advocates publicly shaming Shakur. 1994 saw more legal issues for 2Pac, while filming “Menace II Society” he was charged with assaulting director Allen Hughes and given 15 days in jail. Troubles for Shakur culminated on the night of November 30 1994 when 2Pac was shot 5 times in the lobby of Quad Recording Studios in an apparent robbery. After spending the night in the hospital, 2Pac checked himself out of the hospital and while in a wheelchair, attended his sentencing hearing in his sexual assault case. While having the abilily to post bail upon appealing his sexual assault conviction, the $1.5 million price tag was not something Shakur could meet. Worst of all for 2Pac, at this point in his life was that he was broke.
Even From Behind Bars 2Pac Conquerors the World
“Me Against The World” is released while 2Pac is serving time in prison and debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200. He becomes the first artist in music history to have a number 1 album while incarcerated. The album is the first in music history to debut at the number 1 spots on both the Billboard 200 and Billboard Top R&B/Hip Hop charts. “Me Against The World” goes double platinum by the end of the year. It receives the “Best Rap Album” award at the Soul Train Awards.
The album sounds no different today than it did 20 years ago, and yet with time comes the ability to look back with perspective and have much more respect for a piece of work than one might have years earlier. Hearing 2Pac‘s desperation and pain in many of these songs is why this album has such a connection with people. Every song feels like Shakur always said what he felt and felt what he said but never did he say something that he did not take time and effort into forming. While at the time, titles like “Death Around The Corner”, “If I Die 2nite” , and “Fuck The World” might imply a thug gangsta attitude, we now see that what 2Pac said was more prose and poetry than street slang. He was raw and in your face but few rappers were as introspective as he was, Shakur displayed a perfect ability to project all the troubles he was embroiled in to the 14 songs that made up “Me Against The World”.
Every song on the album is amazing, no need to go song by song. Having a finite amount of 2Pac verses makes every 2Pac track valuable, but his work on “Me Against The World” is among his best. My favorite tracks on the album are “Death Around The Corner” , “If I Die 2nite”, and “Old School”. “Death Around The Corner” has 2Pac really starting to look at his life spiraling out of control and that the end could be near. “I see death around the- corner, anyday/Trying to keep it together, no one lives forever anyway/Strugglin and strivin, my destiny’s to die/Keep my finger on the trigger, no mercy in my eyes/In a ball of confusion, I think about my daddy/Madder than a motherfucker, they never shoulda had me”. A laid back West Coast feel to the production by Johnny J captures 2Pac’s angst in the song well. “If I Die 2nite” is the Easy Moe Bee produced classic where 2Pac spits “Bitches is bad-mouth, ’cause brawlin’ motherfuckers is bold/But y’all some hoes, the game should be sewed/I’m sick of psychotic society somebody save me/Addicted to drama so even mama couldn’t raise me”. Shakur reminds everybody that he’s not afraid to die if it means standing up for what he believes. “Old School” is just a fun track and it’s nice to hear 2Pac rhyme about all those old school heads that helped shape his career and love of music. “I remember Mr. Magic, FLASH, Grandmaster Caz/LL raisin hell but, that didn’t last/Eric B. & Rakim was, the shit to me/I flip to see a Doug E. Fresh show, with Ricky D/and Red Alert was puttin in work, with Chuck Chill/Had my homies on the hill gettin ill, when shit was real/Went out to steal, remember Raw, with Daddy Kane/when De La Soul was puttin Potholes in the game/I can’t explain how it was, Whodini”. Looking back at that verse, one could rewrite it today and add him in too. Twenty years on, this album still holds up today as one of the most influential and groundbreaking albums in not just rap but music history.
DJ Puicy Juice 3/14/2015