July 31, 2008

2Pac - 2Pacalypse Now (November 12, 1991)



Hey, guess what? Hip Hop Isn't Dead hasn't written about Tupac Amaru Shakur yet! I know, right? Admittedly, it is relatively impossible to have a blog that discusses hip hop in all of its various states (underground, mainstream, club-ready, bullshit, and what have you) without mentioning one of the genre's most influential figures. So, here goes nothing.

I'm willing to bet that the majority of my two readers already know a shitload about Tupac's past (and whether or not Tupac Shakur was actually his real name...), so I'll only hit the important points. He's generally considered to be a representative of the West Coast, and has made many songs describing his love of California, but he was actually born in New York. (Is this shocking? It sure as shit shouldn't be.) He grew up in a family of political activists (read: Black Panthers), and that lifestyle was the genesis of a lot of Pac's early rhymes. Well, that, and the stories that he would hear from his peers about life in the streets and in general. He was a very observant kid, after all.

You would have to be observant in order to be accepted to the Baltimore School Of The Arts (located right down the street from the towers where D'Angelo Barksdale would later lose his spot due to his temper), where he studied acting, jazz, dance, and the rest. That's right, kids, he studied acting. 2Pac was a fucking actor. Professionally trained, too. And you know what? All of your other favorite rappers? They're all fucking actors. At least Pac wasn't afraid to admit it. And for that I give him credit.

He soon took to music and performed for a bit solo and with some of his buddies, until 1990, when he was signed on as a backup dancer for Digital Underground. He would make his recording debut on their track "Same Song", and after a few more guest appearances, scored a record deal with Interscope Records. His debut, 2Pacalypse Now, shortly followed. And, soon after, controversy reared its ugly head, since some fucking idiot that killed a state trooper claimed that he was inspired by 2Pac's rhymes (kind of like how those fuck-ups that created the Columbine massacre were supposedly listening to Marilyn Manson).

2Pacalypse Now went on to sell a ton of copies, which it was destined to do, thanks to then-Vice President Dan Quayle's denouncing of the album: if I were at Interscope's marketing department at the time, I would have put Quayle's quote right on the fucking front cover: I guarantee it would have sold an additional million-plus units based on that alone. Anyway, 2Pacalypse Now is generally considered to be Pac's most serious album, since he sheds the majority of the good-time vibes from his boys, Digital Underground, in favor of more politically charged rhymes about societal ills, which were some of the most concise lyrics in his entire career.

A lot of your favorite rappers claim that this is one of their favorite albums. I don't believe them one bit, but I'm willing to give this one a shot.

1. YOUNG BLACK MALE
Takes so long to get started that you will have lost all interest by the time Pac stumbles across the mic and spits his lone verse. His attempt at speed-rapping also doesn't fire on all cylinders, but Pac was never really known for that style anyway. Hey, at least it's not a rap album intro?

2. TRAPPED
Um...Bishop from Juice mentions that "only a lunatic would wanna see a skull get crushed", but, if you scroll down a bit, you'll notice that he later refers to himself as "Tha' Lunatic" (misplaced punctuation and all). Even though Pac spits some suspiciously real shit on here, that one line caused me not to take the rest of the song seriously.

3. SOULJA'S STORY
Don't believe everything you hear: 2Pac didn't really live the life that he depicts on this track. The rhymes are good, though: like it or not, Pac could tell a good story when he wanted to, and the last line in the first verse (which features Pac's vocals distorted) is heartbreaking.

4. I DON'T GIVE A FUCK
I find it hilarious that the introduction to this track features a bunch of guys calling Pac to express their concerns (primarily dealing with the cops), as if he were running a radio call-in show, or as if Pac were some kind of ghetto superhero that could solve everybody's problems. The execution of this song is ultimately poor: Pac would master this type of confrontational rap later in his career. Nice try, though.

5. VIOLENT
This reggae-tinted track shows that 2Pac's delivery was fully realized from the start: he never really deviated from this style throughout his entire career. He even sounds this way on all of those terrible posthumous releases (although, funnily enough, he sounds completely different today when he grabs the mic at random club shows in Barbados, possibly because he's trying not to draw attention to the fact that he's supposed to be dead). The lyrics here are elementary at best, but in this case, that actually is a positive: the simple wordplay actually helps 2Pac tell his story with the utmost clarity.

6. WORDS OF WISDOM
Preachy as fuck. Not that Pac doesn't have a point, but.....

7. SOMETHING WICKED
Takes so long to get started that you will have lost all interest by the time Pac stumbles across the mic and spits his lone verse. His attempt at speed-rapping also doesn't fire on all cylinders, but Pac was never really known for that style anyway. Hey, at least it's short?

8. CROOKED ASS N---A (FEAT STRETCH)
Meh.

9. IF MY HOMIE CALLS
Raise your hands if you can recall Above the Law's "Menace To Society". Okay, if you can remember that song, then you already know how the drums on "If My Homie Calls" sound like. Glad to see that Pac still fondly remembers his days with Digital Underground (I'm sure the fact that all of those guys were surrounding him in the studio during the recording of 2Pacalypse Now had no effect on that attitude at all). This song will probably sound much more positive than you may be accustomed to in your Pac, especially for those younger fans who only remember him as an angry man who seemed to hate every single name brand rapper in the industry.

10. BRENDA'S GOT A BABY (FEAT DAVE & RONIECE)
I'm sure that anybody that has even considered giving a passing glance to 2Pac has at least heard of this song. Pac's social commentary proves something that I've always figured about the man: that motherfucker was much smarter than his discography would suggest: it's just that he knew what would sell, and aimed for a specific audience (presumably one that wouldn't notice that, toward the end, all of his songs had the exact same lyrical content. Thug Life, motherfuckers!). Truth be told, I thought the song could have simply ended after Pac's last few bars, and it would have been more effective. Not to say the singing is bad (the "Dave" in the credits is actually Dave Hollister, an R&B artist that some of you two may have an awareness of), but in this case, less would have been so much more.

11. THA' LUNATIC (FEAT STRETCH)
I kind of liked this one. 2Pac actually sounded really confident with his boasts on here, which helps a lot, especially when you're a rapper, and essentially boast for a living.

12. REBEL OF THE UNDERGROUND
The beat sounds corny, but when you consider the title, and when you discover that Digital Underground was actually all over this particular song in the background (let alone the rest of the album), you'll understand that the intent of this track was to remind listeners of Pac's affiliation with the creators of "The Humpty Dance". In that sense, the song is successful. But the song itself isn't that memorable when you choose not to overthink it.

13. PART TIME MUTHA (FEAT POPPI)
Oh my fucking Lord. A producer with one of the most simple, yet effective music industry aliases ever (he goes by "Jeremy". What, did it take you zero seconds to come up with that?) samples the shit out of Stevie Wonder's "Part Time Lover", which I suppose you could have guessed just by reading the title. Holy shit, is this a misfire. It doesn't even matter that the rhymes are trying to relate something important to you, because the instrumental is so distracting that you are literally unable to pay attention to any other aspect of this song.

FINAL THOUGHTS: 2Pacalypse Now doesn't really sound like the 2Pac that you're used to, the 2Pac that probably still gets some burn on your local radio station's old-school mixes. No, this 2Pac doesn't say a fucking thing about Thug Life, instead choosing to adopt the role of an outsider/narrator, the guy that notices everything going on but is seemingly powerless to stop any of it, so he decides to tell somebody (the listener) in the hope that it will help, somehow. A lot of the production doesn't click, and on a few tracks, it sounds like Pac was trying too hard to sound, well, hard. But 2Pacalypse Now represents some of the best lyrics he would ever write (although it is not his best album, not by a long shot).

BUY OR BURN? I may be a huge Biggie supporter in the East Coast/West Coast feud, but I'm a hip hop head first, and I have to say, this album is not bad. If you find yourself with a few extra bucks after filling up your gas tank and picking up my dry cleaning, drop your money on this CD. You could do a lot worse. As a plus, some of the songs are actually really good.

BEST TRACKS: "Violent"; "Brenda's Got A Baby"; "Tha' Lunatic"; "Soulja's Story"

-Max

15 comments:

  1. Underrated album.

    Pac's first three solo albums (2Pacalypse Now, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. & Me Against the World) were his best. F*ck the rest.

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  2. usually Debut albums are the artist's best, sometimes managing to overshadow a rapper's whole career (Doggystyle? Illmatic?). that is not the case with 2Pac. this album proved Pac was just getting his engines running... it showed the signs for the storm that was on the way...

    some of the raps and a lot of the production sound dated today, while his later raps would sound dope forever.

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  3. um, your descriptions for track 1 and track 7 read exactly the same, just in case you didn't realize. I have to admit that I'm sleeping on Pac big time (I've listened to MATW maybe twice), mainly because diehard Pac fans may be the most annoying fans of them all, but I should get hip to his stuff this month.

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  4. my favorite Pac album has to be Me against the world, he had perfected his presence by then and he found the perfect balance between social commentary and gangster posturing

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  5. Berto - that was the point. I agree with your assessment of most Pac fans, though. Thanks for reading!

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  6. Its too bad you didn't dig Trapped, which me being an annoying hard core Tupac Fan, is my favorite track by him. You also wrote in a couple of soings about Digital Underground being all over such and such track.. I thought they had done the whole album? wasn't it produced by the Underground Raildroad? (probably just another one of Shock G's paranoid conceptions). I can hear Pee Wee on an uncredited verse, Big Money Odis and Shock do alot of bakcground vocales, etc etc.

    And as an annoying fan of Tupac, I need to quote Shock when he said that Tupac was NEVER a "background dancer", he was just pulling his weight within the crew helping out as a roadie and such, and would jump in the stage eventually to dance around, remember that used to be cool.

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  7. haaha. i like when you write the same thing twice.

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  8. i wasn't old enough to know alot about 2pac but i grew up listening to him it was fun and i love his songd my favorite is "dear mama"

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  9. well max, i think your assessment of the album is inaccurate. i personally think that 2pac isn't the best emcee, but he definitely brought more to the art than b.i.g. so much more substance . . .

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  10. I used to be a hardcore Biggie shipper in the Tupac vs. Biggie debate. But I've been going through Pac's discography, and I gotta say, it's arguable either way. You can't deny the variety of music 2pac brought to the table.

    For every "Thug life" song, there was something sincere like "Dear Mama." Okay, maybe for every five "Thug Life" songs, but whatever. Biggie had the edge on Pac lyrically, sure, but Pac was the master of messages in songs. He was almost like Ghostface the way his voice would drip with emotion, and how he could make a song about anything - contradicting myself multiple times on an album.

    So, you can argue it either way, but Pac and Big are both top ten MC's, dumb fans be damned.

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  12. 2Pac - 2Pacalypse Now (1991)

    01. 2Pac - Young Black Male
    02. 2Pac - Trapped
    03. 2Pac - Soulja's Story
    04. 2Pac - I Don't Give A Fuck
    05. 2Pac - Violent
    06. 2Pac - Words Of Wisdom
    07. 2Pac - Something Wicked
    08. 2Pac - Crooked Ass Nigga
    09. 2Pac - If My Homie Calls
    10. 2Pac - Brenda's Got A Baby
    11. 2Pac - Tha' Lunatic
    12. 2Pac - Rebel Of The Underground
    13. 2Pac - Part Time Mutha

    http://images.amazon.com/images/P/B000005Z0E.01._SS500_SCLZZZZZZZ_.jpg

    File: 2Pac_[1991]_2Pacalypse_Now.rar
    DownloadLink: http://rapidshare.com/files/184596625/2Pac__1991__2Pacalypse_Now.rar
    File-Size: 49.55 MB
    Uploaded: 1/17/2009, 8:04:39

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  13. AnonymousJune 10, 2009

    I'm on pac's side, I love all his albums

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  14. 2pacs never really been my cup of tea. Although I dig some of the tracks on here, brendas got a baby to me is a classic even though the story sounds like something youd see in a lifetime made for tv movie.

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  15. My favorite 2pac albums and prolly his most critically acclaimed albums "Me Against the World" "All Eyes on Me" "Don Killuminati" but to a suprise i saw neither on Rolling Stones "500 Greatest albums of all-time!" There are a lot of die-hard 2pac fans out there and there's a lot to boast but i won't dwell on too much, clearly one of the greatest hip-hop artists ever but one of the most realest people ever!! period. But nevertheless this album is an important one for hip-hop.

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