November 29, 2008

2Pac - Strictly 4 My N.*.*.*.*.Z (February 16, 1993)



Tupac Shakur released Strictly 4 My N.*.*.*.*.Z., a sophomore album which became so popular on cable television that MTV actually ran out of asterisks, about two years after his debut, 2Pacalypse Now, proved that he was more than Digital Underground's roadie/dancer/flunkie. Many of his loyal stans consider this to be his most overtly political album, and I've actually seen some comparisons to Public Enemy, but in truth, all 2Pac was trying to do was to get his voice heard.

Abandoning the livelier (in comparison) production that was prevalent on his debut, 2Pac opted to address his usual themes (about thugs, life, and thug life) over much darker musical backdrops. As per usual, he manages to provide a social commentary of the way the world looked in 1993, and does so without it sounding forced, which is something that 2Pac was always good at doing. (Even though I'm more of a Notorious B.I.G. fan, I will admit that Biggie could never have gotten away with songs such as "Keep Ya Head Up" and "Brenda's Got A Baby" while still maintaining a semi-plausible gangsta lifestyle.)

Strictly 4 My N.*.*.*.*.Z. improved upon the sales of its predecessor, which had to make Pac's label Interscope Records very happy indeed. The album included two hugely successful singles, one of which still gets regular airplay around my way. After its release, the 2Pac story got a little bit weird: although the tale features your traditional "the rapper gets all of his friends a record deal" trappings (in this case, Pac created the crew Thug Life, who would be introduced to the masses via "Pour Out a Lil' Liquor" from the Above The Rim soundtrack, which was coincidentally released by Death Row Records, Pac's future home), it also includes allegations of sexual abuse and assault, shootings, execution-style murders of former friends, the start of a massive war between the East Coast and the West Coast (at least, a massive war in hip hop terms), jail time served, a deal with the devil, and, oddly, a relationship with Madonna.

But before all of that shit, there was this.

1. HOLLER IF YOU HEAR ME
A nice, high-energy way to start the album off, but Pac isn't actually saying anything on here, which is an issue that I've had with him his entire career. Of course, it could be argued that Biggie hardly ever said anything of substance as well, but I think you see my point.

2. PAC'S THEME (INTERLUDE)...

3. POINT THE FINGA
Nobody's ever going to consider this one of Pac's best tracks (unless they want to spite me in the comments section), but this isn't that bad. The hook is a little much, though.

4. SOMETHING 2 DIE 4 (INTERLUDE)
...

5. LAST WORDZ (FEAT ICE CUBE & ICE-T)
The sheer star power on this collaboration is enough to make you want to listen to this song, but the music itself will make you hit repeat. Pac comes off the weakest of the three rapper-slash-actors, but he still sounds good (just a bit inexperienced), and Ice-T is alright, but at this point in his career, Ice Cube was the fucking man on the West Coast.

6. SOULJAH'S REVENGE
A sequel to "Soulja's STory" (from 2Pacalypse Now) in name only, as 2Pac and his vocally distorted alter ego awkwardly trade bars about violence and censorship. The Bobby "Bobcat" Ervin beat is the best thing about this hot mess of a track.

7. PEEP GAME (FEAT DEADLY THREAT)
Once again, the beat is the best thing about this song, which is simply piss poor in quality. Deadly Threat also fails to impress with his two verses.

8. STRUGGLIN' (FEAT LIVE SQUAD)
Early in his career, Pac had an ability to adapt his verses to match the content, flow, and overall feel of his collaborators, so it's no surprise that he fits right in with the other two rappers in the Live Squad (the late Stretch and Majesty, and their deejay K-Low, who rounded out the crew) as if he was a lost member. (You'll see this happen again later in the write-up, when I get to "I Get Around".) Later in his career, though, he refused to change anything, probably because he was recording his tracks in a hurry in a futile effort to get out of his contract with Death Row Records: that's why all of his songs sound similar toward the end of his run. Oh, the song? Not so hot.

9. GUESS WHO'S BACK
The fact that old-school rapper Special Ed had something to do with the production on this song blows my mind, although the beat falters a bit by trying to be all things for all people. This song is actually really good, though, so I can dig it.

10. REPRESENTIN' '93
I can't get with this '08.

11. KEEP YA HEAD UP (FEAT THE BLACK ANGEL)
The Black Angel is a pretty funny pseudonym for R&B/gospel singer Dave Hollister, who also contributed to Pac's previous "serious" song, "Brenda's Got A Baby". On every 2Pac release during his lifetime (a very important distinction to make), there was always that one song that even the most casual of listeners are familiar with, thanks to overexposure in the media, and the song almost always addresses something serious (well, there was one exception, which I'll point out when I get to it) or important in Pac's life. Like most rappers, 2Pac was a study in contradiction, as he was able to write songs such as this while allegedly sexually assaulting women or generally acting like an asshole. Pac's passion sells this song, though, even if the beat does some silly things.

12. STRICTLY 4 MY N.*.*.*.*.Z.
When the drums kick in, an otherwise lackluster song is taken to a higher level of entertainment. Why, if the hook didn't suck so fucking much, I'd probably give this song much more praise. As it stands, it's not bad, but it sure as shit ain't great.

13. THE STREETZ R DEATHROW
The title is a bit eerie, considering the direction his life would soon take him in, but this still manages to sound pretty good. Even though Pac never truly lived this lifestyle, he's obviously a good listener, because otherwise, how else would he be able to relate these tales with even the slightest bit of sincerity?

14. I GET AROUN (FEAT DIGITAL UNDERGROUND)
If you hear this on the radio (where it still gets played quite a bit today), the song sounds just fine, but when you hear it within its intended context, within the structure of Strictly 4 My N.*.*.*.*.Z., it doesn't fit at all. However, the song itself is still pretty catchy, and it's nice to hear Pac still clowning around with the Underground, but I can't help but feel that Interscope forced a radio-friendly single onto the project.

15. PAPA'Z SONG (FEAT WYCKED)
Pac exorcises his daddy demons on wax, and when you hear his words, it comes as no surprise that he would go on to create "Dear Mama". His first bar is such a vivid description of loneliness that it's both touching and kind of amusing. Wycked, also known as 2Pac's stepbrother Mopreme, is pretty inconsequential to the whole package, though.

16. 5 DEADLY VENOMZ (FEAT TREACH, APACHE, & LIVE SQUAD)
This posse cut is awfully awkward, as if none of these artists were familiar with each other's work until the day the met in the studio. (Unlike what happens today, I choose to believe that 2Pac actually spent time with all of his collaborators in the recording studio, if not all at once.) Also, the title would have been put to better use for the Wu-Tang Clan, but that may just be me. This was a pretty disappointing way to end your album.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Strictly 4 My N.*.*.*.*.Z. feels like a natural extension of 2Pacalypse Now. 2Pac branches out a bit with the sound, with mixed results, and invites a lot more artists to collaborate with him (including his Digital Underground brethren, who don't have much of an influence on him this time around). For the most part, though, Pac doesn't say anything of substance; he just merely sounds good over the music, and for some, that may be enough of an incentive to buy this album. He was always sharp with the social commentary, though, and is able to convey his emotions in a much more visceral way than most other rappers, but the majority of this disc was about positioning himself as a thug, and we've already seen that movie.

BUY OR BURN? I would recommend a burn. (Comments can be left below.) There isn't enough artistic growth to warrant purchasing this disc when you already own 2Pacalypse Now.
BEST TRACKS: "The Streetz R Deathrow"; "I Get Around"; "Last Wordz"; "Guess Who's Back"

-Max

RELATED POSTS:
2Pac - 2Pacalypse Now

23 comments:

  1. Tupac and Treach were down for a long time before this album. In 91, Pac and Treach share a few words together on a Digital Underground track. Plus Pac mentions the whole Flava Unit, so add Apache to the mix automatically.

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  2. AmpGeez a.k.a. Waddup GzNovember 29, 2008

    10. REPRESENTIN' '93
    I can't get with this '08.
    =============================
    You're buggin. This joint still goes hard (nh).

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  3. My point that there is no inherent chemistry between any of the artists on the final track. It doesn't matter if they all worked together for several albums and I don't give a fuck what Pac says on this or any track: I said that it "sounded as if" none of these artists were familiar with each other's work. For instance, you're familiar with the work of Eazy-E, but that doesn't mean the two of you would be a natural fit on a song, and that's not just because he's dead.

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  4. This is a good album. Not great but good. Only songs I deleted were "Venomz" and the interludes.

    Nice to see Max give Pac a fair shake...though I still think he puts him up to more scrutiny than others. Biggie, N.W.A., Ghost and etc have their fair share of gangsta posturing. And Pac had a higher message-song ratio than many.

    Representing '93 is alright, but Jesus, can we please get a moratorium on saying "no homo"? (see AmpGeez' comment) If you say a track goes hard, how is that "homo"? Because hard means a penis getting erect? If your brain runs like that, you, my friend, have latent homosexual tendencies, and should probably explore them to feel better about yourself.

    I mean, at the very least, you could play "no homo" like "that's what she said," and say it after something clever, for hilarity. Everybody saying "no homo" after "goes hard" is beyond played out, and ironically incredibly gay. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

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  5. Max shove these bullshit reviews up your ass you fake ass bitch. Shitting on these song, you probably reccomend the bullshit like Loyal To The Game. This album was worth the money so fuck off and get raped in jail after dropping the soap on purpose. Then go turn staright and fuck a bitch that just fucked 50 diseased dudes. Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeooooooooooooooooottttttttttcccchhhhhhhh!!!

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  6. No artistic growth? Bullshit, once again you're buggin. I'm just glad people don't take your seriously, though the album came out 15 years ago so it's too late.

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  7. You need to stick to simple shit like Jay-Z and Lil' Wayne reviews.

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  8. THA CPT CYCONovember 29, 2008

    You must be hearing a different song because they sounded great together on 5 Deadly Venoms. Representin 93 was the shit fuck outta hear with that 08 dshit. And get the fuck out with that bullshit that Deadly Threat failed to impress.

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  9. 2Pac is THE GOAT while Max wants to ride the balls of the Camel so of course he wouldn't recommend a buy.

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  10. In that case, your comment is retaurded. ;)

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  11. Max,

    you know how you don't like to say where you're from, it would be hilarious if you were really a chick from Anaheim

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  12. that threat joint was one of my favourites, dug that negros styling from the "colour blind" cube track... this tape was actually my first tupac purchase so is pretty much ingrained how i felt about it then and now... it still plays all the way through
    ...things hav'nt changed: there's still a multitude of chicks that'll
    fuck you up in defence of pac...sheila is a beast

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  13. Aye yall quit hatin on the review. it was cool, just a little to long

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  14. smh at the Pac fans (and i'm one myself!)

    good review, i think you were fair with it, Redcoat had a good point with saying that he said more than most rappers.
    think artists from 30 years ago - who do we remember? the ones who showed us the world (with great music and talent of course).

    Marvin Gaye & Curtis Mayfield will live forever because their music showed us how the world was in the seventies!

    i'm sorry Biggie & Jay-Z fans, but 30 years from now, all the talk about Rolexes, Champagne & Sega Genesis just won't last.
    Pac's soul will.

    anyway, Pac put out a good album that starts great, loses some momentum in the middle, and gets back on the horse towards the end. but his best days were ahead of him...

    good read Max

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  15. AmpGeez a.k.a Amplified GrammarDecember 03, 2008

    Redcoat...

    1st off, I'm not your friend. 2nd, I never "said" no homo. For you to take the time out of your day to devote the thought & effort to responding to someone you don't know, to make a point to more people you don't know is sorta fem to me. But I'll engage you only because you felt a need to "call me out" over something which is truly trivial. It's a joke. For you to take what I said & use it to talk about "penises getting erect" (which conjours really gross imagery by the way) & such is more questionable than me saying (nh). It's not that serious fam. Maybe you have some deeper issues that you need to address.

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  16. the most felonious vocalist in the wide world of showbusinessDecember 09, 2008

    This is a blog written by some dude I don't know. It's purpose is to discuss the work of a bunch of dudes I don't know. Almost the entire internet serves as a tool for strangers to learn about or discuss other strangers. I never realized how fem that was! It's hard to believe (nh). <---stands for nuclear holocaust

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  17. too many 2pac dick riders...what you all needa accept is he was a decent but overrated rapper who is not the GOAT...plus max got some evidence to back his review up

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  18. 2Pac - Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. (1993)

    01. 2Pac - Holler If Ya Hear Me
    02. 2Pac - Pac's Theme (Interlude)
    03. 2Pac - Point The Finga
    04. 2Pac - Something 2 Die 4 (Interlude)
    05. 2Pac - Last Wordz
    06. 2Pac - Souljah's Revenge
    07. 2Pac - Peep Game
    08. 2Pac - Strugglin'
    09. 2Pac - Guess Who's Back
    10. 2Pac - Representin' 93
    11. 2Pac - Keep Ya Head Up
    12. 2Pac - Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.
    13. 2Pac - The Streetz R Deathrow
    14. 2Pac - I Get Around
    15. 2Pac - Papa'z Song
    16. 2Pac - 5 Deadly Venomz

    DownloadLink:
    http://rapidshare.com/files/184617037/2Pac__1993__Strictly_4_My_N.I.G.G.A.Z.rar

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  19. this review was good,i have this album to and i didnt like it very much, i say that 2pacalypse now and all eyex on me are worth the listen

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  20. AnonymousJune 10, 2009

    i agree with everyone, You're taste in rap is fuckin gay as fuck you prolly liek lil wayne or some shit.

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  21. Jeez u get quite a heckle Max... i would have gave u a little heckle only for the fact that you kinda do put Pac under a little scrutiny but i won't add anymore, you are a biggie fan and i love biggie & pac and can we leave at that people. 2pac & Biggie were actual real homiez so let's all be homiez! :)

    I put it this way with 2pacs discography.. all of his works while he was alive had substance.. everything posthomous (not counting Don Killuminati because he was supposed alive when he finished recording and the final publishing came moments before his death) but after that it's all average or below average work.. this album i can include in the last of his very best works.. most of the work on this record is OK but "Keep ya head up" i have to say is one of the best hip-hop records ever!! Me i don't care what anyone says, he touched the heart with that one as Michael did with "Heal the World."

    Lastly i don't get how anyone can't come out against some of the most degrading music in Beyonce and Lady Gaga but come out against "I Get Around." To me nowadays that song is like soft-porn (if you will) lol. I hear the word hoe in every hip-hop track nowadays even by Lil' Lame and Kangaye.. anyway i like this one but the 3 album after this a far better! peace..

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  22. AmpGeez/Amplified Grammar -

    Really? That's your response?

    1. You pretend I didn't say "friend" sarcastically. Um...okay. From now I'll on, I'll include brackets that say {SARCASM}, since you're having such a tough time with it.

    2. You incorrectly try to call me out on my use of "said." Yeah, it would have been slightly more accurate to say "typed." But it wasn't inaccurate at all to say "said." To "say" doesn't necessarily been by mouth. It just means to express with words. Try opening a dictionary sometime, instead of that can of hand lotion.

    3. It's 2010. You can't trot out that bullshit argument about "taking time out of your day to respond to strangers on the Internet." We all use the Internet and typing doesn't take long and you can't make fun of someone else for doing something that you are doing yourself. What are you, 11?

    4. It's "feminine" to "make a point to people you don't know"? Really? Are you sure about that? That's "feminine"? What do you call wearing dresses and makeup and being emotional? You don't understand gender, and are bad at words. You're probably one of those idiots that goes around calling everything they don't like "gay."

    5. Oh, so saying "goes hard (no homo)" is a joke? Oh. Alright. Such wit. And here I thought jokes had to be funny.

    6. In order for your "joke" to make sense in one's brain, "hard" has to refer to penises getting erect. Because you say "no homo" afterward. There's absolutely nothing else it could refer to. When I see the word 'hard', I think of difficulty, and then toughness. When you see the word 'hard', you think of penises getting erect, and "hilariously" say "no homo" afterward. And I'm the one with problems? Sorry, no. Go ask out Louie and embrace your true self. It's cool.

    7. Yeah, you can't just repeat what I say at the end of my post, at the end of your post, and expect me to be insulted. It's not insulting. It's flattering, because you're imitating me.

    In conclusion, you have serious reading comprehension problems, an underdeveloped brain and latent homosexual tendencies. Best of luck with that.

    Oh, and don't "call me out" on "writing an essay" or some related BS. Typing this didn't take much time, and essays are in fact much longer. Just thought I'd preemptively kill that thought in your head, since you're so idiotic and predictable.

    Better luck next time, friend. {<--SARCASM}

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  23. i dont get your comments about Pac "Wasn't about that life" sure he wasn't super thug. but he grew up in a rough neighborhood and later in life (death row era) was a straight up beast.. even if you want to just call it a "character" it obviously consumed him.. i mean he shot 2 cops.. What "gangster rapper" ever did that..

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