This was a strange week for my music listening project. Sure, I’ve listened to Tyler the Creator and Spoek Mathambo for a week straight earlier in the year but this is just different. Tupac is what many people consider to be the epitome of gangster rap, especially in his time period. So there I was, a white kid who grew up in a middle class lifestyle, ready to listen to Tupac and only Tupac for one week straight. I had zero preconceived notions and went into the week only knowing that I had heard a few Tupac songs before and they sounded pretty good. I liked how he sounded when he rapped and for the most part his songs had the old school rap feel to them that I liked. Starting my car and plugging in my iPod “Ambitionz Az A Ridah” pumped its way through the speakers…and I was hooked.
What is there to say about Tupac that most people, with way more expertise in rap music, haven’t said before. He is an icon and a legend in rap music, and I would argue all music for that matter. He inspired generations of rap stars, helped define a genre and bring it to the frontlines, and was one of the few rappers able to keep his persona under control so that he never seemed like a cartoon character. Struggle, success, life, death, and everything in between. Tupac raps about a ridiculous amount of things and none of them ever come off as him gloating or cool-posing in a ridiculous fashion, something that most rap stars today could definitely adopt. Obviously the topics in “All Eyez on Me” are a bit outdated as it was released in 1996 but for the most part they still stand the test of time. That’s a testament to Tupca’s lyrical ability as much as it is a testament to his skill as a rapper. Not only do his songs still hold strong as songs that can be listened to almost 20 years later, but they still feel relevant.
So, what could possibly make a white kid who rarely listens to rap all of a sudden pick Tupac as his weekly listening? Well when I watched the video of Tupac’s hologram rapping with Snoop Dogg at Cochella I got goose bumps, and I barely knew anything about Tupac. That’s what drew me to his music in the first place years ago. I didn’t know anything about Tupac back in middle school except that he was a famous rapper who had been shot. Yet when Tupac was mentioned in music blogs or talked about by friends it seemed like I should know about him and his music. It’s similar to when people discuss a movie or a book and you’re the only one in the room who has no idea what anyone is talking about. I was curious, I wanted to know what was so special about one rapper that a whole generation, that wasn’t even around during his time, considers him a “rap god”.
Honestly I don’t feel comfortable critiquing or even complimenting any of the tracks on “All Eyez on Me”. It’s Tupac’s most successful album and is widely regarded as a masterpiece in the rap industry. With 27 tracks it’s hard not to have a few filler songs but for the most part the entire two books can be listened to in their entirety without any skips. That’s insane to think about, while most musicians today can barely make a 10 track CD that people feel is worth buying in its entirety Tupac made 27 tracks that people flocked to. That probably says more about the times and the music industry rather than artists themselves but regardless, it’s impressive. Tupac created something really special with this album and just listening to it begins to feel like you’re traveling in time.
No one raps like this anymore and it’s a shame. Personally I enjoy old-school rap that has that tangible flow and always awesome beat to it. Yes, I’m one of those white kids that closet-listens to music like NWA and Tupac because there is really something to appreciate within it all. It’s like taking a history lesson, in order to appreciate what you have today you need to understand how its grown and evolved overtime. Honestly, in terms of rap, doing this with Tupac’s music as the standard will probably make you look at rap music more critically. If anything it will raise the bar for what you want out of rap and make current rappers seem like they’re not trying hard enough. How can I say that with certainty? Well mainly because a hologram of a rapper who died 16 years ago can still get a pop as big as any current rap star today. If you think a hologram of a rap star will still be revered like that 16 years later I’d love to take that bet.
Tupac has one of the most storied and well known lives in all of music. The majority of people know his name, if not his full story, and are able to at least say “he was a rapper who got shot”. Sixteen years later and he’s the topic of conversation yet again, that’s the definition of staying power.
Standout Track- “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted”- Still a song that just feels good to listen to and flows like very few songs of its caliber do. Snoop and Tupac go back and forth in what is a testament to rap at its best.
Listen to it if-You breath air? Seriously, just give the album a listen, it’s something that we should all give a chance because of what it is and what it represents.
Don’t listen to it if- You poke holes in your white linens…you probably won’t enjoy this.
Overall opinion- There is a reason Tupac’s hologram made such a big splash and why this album is considered to be a crowning achievement in rap music, because Tupac was that good and so is this album.