These days, the word “classic” is thrown around as loosely as a Nerf ball at a picnic. However, we at TRU consider classics to be something which stand the test of time and have a resounding influence on their respective fields. But how do albums considered classics sound to the ears of TRU’s young blood? Aaron J. McKrell was born in 1990 and we’ve convinced him to turn his scope on a classic from the rich history of hip-hop to view it through a contemporary lens in a weekly series we call…
There are some cases where the myth encompasses the man, and 2Pac is a prime example of this. The phrase “Thug Life” has infiltrated pop culture, but do people really know the man- and the music- behind the myth? Me Against the World is one of ‘Pac’s most poignant, personal and poetic works, and is said by many to be his greatest album. Upon one listen, it is easy to see why.
Throughout the album, 2Pac plays a role that is part-autobiographical and part-thug persona. There are really no songs on the album in which he plays one part of these roles exclusively. Rather, he weaves in and out of narratives about his legal troubles and street crime, the stress his fame had brought him and the hopelessness of ghetto life.
That the album is grim is a given; songs like “If I Die 2Nite” and “Death Around the Corner” betray death wishes and prophecies of self-demise, while the title track and “Lord Knowz” display gloomy feelings and heartbreaking loss. However, true ‘Pac fans will know the man behind the message always dared to hope at least a little bit. “Through every dark night, there’s a bright day after that,” he promises. Elsewhere, he shows love to his mother on “Dear Mama” and to ’80s hip-hop on “Old School.” That the former has been made an almost cliché for casual hip-hop fans does not take away from its brilliance. Who else could be so hardcore but also so convincingly sweet to their mother? The truth is, everyone has a mother. It is these kinds of universal truths that are the reason ‘Pac’s music continues to endure and be relatable, to the kid on the corner but also to the kid in the suburbs.
Yes, we all know 2Pac gets love for his messages, but what about his technical skills? While some may feel his delivery is off or his flow choppy, I find both to be well-suited for his lyrics. He comes across as a meaningful preacher or even leader of a movement. Never once did I find his technical skills to be lacking. His voice and presence pack so much emotion into his music that even a song like “Temptations”- which I felt didn’t fit in with the rest of the album- manages to be memorable. ‘Pac is one of the few rappers I’ve heard who can rap about sex and make it sound like poetry. Yes, 2Pac was a poet on this album. Not just a poet in the sense of “oh, his rhymes are deep,” but a poet because he actually incorporated poetic elements, such as alliteration, into his rhymes. Peep “If I Die 2Nite”:
“They say p*ssy and paper is poetry power and pistols/Plotting on murdering motherfuckers ‘fo they get you/Picturing pitiful punk n!ggas copping pleas/Puffing weed as I position myself to clock G’s.”
The music on the album fits the mood of each song, whether it is nostalgic, touching, gloomy or dooming. It serves as a purposeful backdrop and definitely suffices, but it never overshadows the real star of the show: the heart, mind and soul of Tupac Shakur.
When your kid is listening to music and wants to know who this “Two-pack” is on a new dubstep remix, don’t scold him. Just hand him a copy of Me Against the World. He’ll thank you later.
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