(A quick programming note: today's post is really fucking long (a double album tends to do that to my reviews), so there won't be any new write-ups for four days instead of the usual two, in order to give readers an opportunity to
leave comments catch up.)
There isn't really much that hasn't already been said about the late Tupac Shakur's magnum opus, the double-disc effort All Eyez On Me. Hell, this very blog has already written about this project, in case you two have already forgotten about Patrick's Reader Review. And yet I've discovered that the album, the first double-disc rap album recorded by a single artist as all-original material, is unavoidable, not only because of the overall impact it has had on our chosen genre as a whole, but also because I'm physically unable to actually write about his Makaveli-credited follow-up until I get this shit out of the way. So there you go.
To catch folks up on the story thus far: 2Pac had been sentenced to a four-and-a-half year prison sentence for sexually abusing a woman in his hotel room. (Whether that charge was falsified or not isn't up for discussion here.) After serving eleven months of his sentence (which he spent catching up on his reading, marrying his longtime girlfriend, and writing a screenplay that is still being shopped around in Hollywood to this day), he was sprung from the pokey into Marion "Suge" Knight's custody (no doubt his profits from all of the royalties garnered from The Chronic and Doggystyle played a rather large role), and he agreed to his newly-found freedom in exchange for signing a deal with Death Row Records, which would later turn into his final recording home. Thankfully, the paperwork required to shift the man's allegiance to one of the most widely heralded gangsta rap record labels of all time was minimal, as Pac was already signed to Interscope Records: all they needed to do was switch out executive bathroom keys.
Sensing what would be far too heavily read into later as his imminent demise, 2Pac immediately got to work recording several albums' worth of material, launching into his mission immediately upon entering the studio. Although he was high on life (and weed), his work ethic was incomparable, and he knocked out what would later become All Eyez On Me, his Death Row debut, in a manner of weeks. He did so by making sure every one of his songs revolved around at least one of the following four bullet points:
(a) Prison hasn't changed me, motherfuckers. Thug life!
(b) I love pussy. No, seriously. Love it.
(c) The combination of Alizé and Cristal makes for a very potent aphrodisiac.
(d) (Politician and civil rights activist) C. Delores Tucker is a bitch, mainly because she is an outspoken advocate against the inherent misogyny and violence in gangsta rap, but also because I hate her.
The first single from All Eyez On Me, "California Love", a duet with label co-founder Dr. Dre (who had one foot out the door already, as he didn't care for the direction Death Row was heading in and believed the signing of Pac was one of many signs of the upcoming apocalypse) featuring Roger Troutman on the hook, was unleashed to radio shortly after Pac's release in 1995, with the full album coming out just in time for the lovebirds on Valentine's Day the following year. Unsurprisingly, it was a monster hit, selling billions of copies with the span of a few months, cementing Tupac Shakur's place in hip hop's history and also making Suge Knight look like a brilliant businessman who, nevertheless, hired, essentially, a registered sex offender to work for his company. Then again, Mike Tyson continues to get work in films (even the execrable The Hangover Part 2 - seriously, that movie is fucking bullshit), so this isn't unheard of in the entertainment industry.
I will admit that All Eyez On Me was the first 2Pac album I ever bought, and I picked it up for exactly all of the wrong reasons. I had been a Death Row Records stan since day one, following the continuing exploits of Dr. Dre, Snoop Doggy Dogg, and Tha Dogg Pound, even going so far as to grab the soundtracks for Above The Rim, Murder Was The Case, and Deep Cover (which wasn't a Death Row release, but it did feature the debut appearance of Snoop, so it was a must-have in my book), so I was going into All Eyez On Me fairly blind, just because of the fucking logo on the back cover. I had heard "California Love" a shitload of times, but being that I didn't live in California, I wasn't really cognizant of just how much I liked the song (until I actually picked up the album - more on that later), so I was mainly looking out for All Eyez On Me because it came from the same label as some of my favorite artists (not unlike what I
did still do with the Wu-Tang Clan).
2Pac was never my favorite rapper, and after I finally listened to this double-disc monolith, that opinion didn't change very much, but I could appreciate how his fans felt that he was one of the most passionate acts in the game. (I would understand where they were coming from much later, when I grabbed Me Against The World, which is still the man's finest work, for my money.) So even though I bought it for some of the dumbest reasons ever (man, I miss having disposable income like that), All Eyez On Me quickly became a personal soundtrack of sorts for the remainder of 1996, mainly because everybody I knew owned a copy and would not stop playing the fucking thing.
Some things you just have to let go of.
1. AMBITIONZ AZ A RIDAH
I suppose his short prison stint left 2Pac feeling that every moment was precious: that's the only reason I can come up with for All Eyez On Me being the first non-soundtrack project on Death Row Records to not include an introductory track of any sort. Hell, Pac doesn't even bother to pay any respect to proper song structure: although “Ambitionz Az A Ridah” (which is all about what our host hopes to accomplish as a ridah) follows a traditional verse-chorus-verse-chorus-verse blueprint, his opening salvo is Cappadonna “Winter Warz”-esque, by which I mean it is crazy long. This was the first time I've listened to the track in full since having it blasted into by subconscious while riding around with friends back in 1996. It was never a favorite of mine, as it sounds too soulless to impress me all that much, but I completely understand why everyone else in the world loves this shit: Dat N---a Daz lends Pac an ominous instrumental that is simple enough to replicate but menacing enough to announce the arrival of Death Row's savior (becoming especially dark when he briefly references the shooting that took place right before he was sentenced). So even though I'm not the biggest fan, the track still serves its purpose effectively. Appropriately enough, this was also the first song Pac recorded when he finally made it into a booth.
2. ALL BOUT U (FEAT. DRU DOWN, NATE DOGG, SNOOP DOGGY DOGG, & THA OUTLAWZ)
This bizarre construct appears on the surface to be a song about a man who will do or say whatever it takes to get a girl to fuck him, but that conceit doesn't mesh with the late Nate Dogg's hook, which is all about how each artist on this song keeps running across the same loose women as though this was some sort of weird and mysterious Twilight Zone-esque phenomenon and not the result of these guys simply sticking with the rivers and lakes that they're used to. So it's kind of like two songs in one, except that neither track is complete and nobody involved could be bothered with giving two fucks. Snoop's appearance at the very end was kind of pointless, as he doesn't actually rap (and his monologue is delivered in a manner intended to show depth where depth doesn't exist), but West Coast stalwart Dru Down fares even worse, only lending some ad-libs during the intro. Still, he sounded better than the two guys representing Pac's weed carriers Tha Outlawz, who provide awful performances; they're so forgettable that the only guy I can actually remember hearing from was Hussein Fatal, and that's just because I hate his dumbass rap name. I remember Death Row releasing a video to this song (with a slightly altered title) with Snoop replaced by soundalike Top Dogg as a promotional tool for Pac's Greatest Hits compilation, since, at that point, Calvin was no longer considered a friend of the family, having defected to No Limit records shortly after 2Pac's passing. I believe there was also a conspiracy theory regarding the video, as Pac appears alongside a vehicle that wasn't made available or even produced until after he was killed. Oh, random pop culture trivia! How you torture me with your useless tidbits!
3. SKANDALOUZ (FEAT. NATE DOGG)
Pac must have utilized a two-for-one coupon for Nate Dogg's guest vocals: since he knew he was only really getting paid for one song, Nate gave his all to “All About U” and only had a half-assed effort in the chamber for this attempt. “Skandalouz” uses a bland Daz Dillinger instrumental to ostensibly have our host describe situations that are to be considered, well, scandalous, but there is nothing salacious to be found on here: the brief tales 2Pac weaves suffer from a lack of focus, cohesion (as most rappers tend to do, our host loses the plot about halfway through and reverts back to his Thug Life-restricted view of the world), and interest, as this song was just really fucking boring. Still, it should be noted that 2Pac sounds really fucking angry for a gut who was just sprung from the pokey.
4. GOT MY MIND MADE UP (FEAT. THA DOGG POUND, REDMAN, & METHOD MAN)
No surprises here: once I opened up the liner notes to All Eyez On Me and discovered that both Redman and Method Man made guest appearances on “Got My Mind Made Up”, this song became my first step on 2Pac's Death Row vision quest. Daz's simple beat allows all five artists to sound comfortable, delivering the first real highlight of the project, although that distinction may be just because the guest list is so different than any other track on either disc. The story goes that “Got My Mind Made Up” was originally a collaboration between Tha Dogg Pound and the tag team of Red and Meth (along with The Lady of Rage and Inspectah Deck, both of whom were erased from the final cut, although you can hear some of Deck's ad-libs at the very end of the song), but the true shock is that 2Pac, who heard the track and asked Suge to put it on his own album (as a possible attempt to diffuse the growing tension between the East and the West coasts, although it didn't really work), doesn't sound that out of place: even though they didn't share a booth, Pac seemed to be both humbled and honored to work alongside his “collaborators”, and his performance is more lyrical and concise as a result. Deck's original verse can be found online on a mixtape track called “Common Denominator”; no word on what happened to Rage's contribution. The only thing that turns me off about this song is Meth's unusually mean-spirited threat to “stick[ing] up Jews with German lugers” (the key words “Jews” and “lugers” are censored, but you still know what he's actually saying) while comparing himself to Hitler; it makes complete sense why Suge would panic and edit out the incriminating words. Still enjoyed this track today, though.
5. HOW DO U WANT IT (FEAT. K-CI & JOJO)
This third (or fourth, depending on how you count the remix to “California Love”) single from All Eyez On Me tries to be a filthier version of Me Against The World's “Temptations”, except with no actual temptations and one hundred percent more K-Ci and JoJo, but in the midst of 2Pac's ridiculous sex raps, he (a) calls out (the late) C. Delores Tucker (I'm sure this didn't make her feel uncomfortable at all), (b) reveals that he thinks having a girl ride his dick somehow qualifies him to be a “freak”, and (c ) unintentionally makes the radio edit sound more plausible than the dirty version: instead of the family-friendly “time to give it to daddy, sugar” come-on, the album cut has features Pac demanding, “time to give it to daddy, n---a”, which Freud would have a fucking field day with. Since I just spent an entire paragraph making fun of it, it's safe to assume that I don't like “How Do U Want It”, although, as a straight male, I appreciate the adults-only version of the video, which pre-dates Nelly's “E.I. (Tip Drill remix)” clip by several years.
6. 2 OF AMERIKAZ MOST WANTED (FEAT. SNOOP DOGGY DOGG & DAZ DILLINGER)
The moment 2Pac signed his contract with Suge Knight's devil, the world waited impatiently for two eventual collaborations: one with Dr. Dre, and the other with Snoop Doggy Dogg. This would be, obviously, the Snoop one. At the time of this track's recording, these two were among the most popular rappers in the industry, and thankfully, this song doesn't disappoint, although it is weird to hear Snoop dropping Pac's name as though they had been working together ever since they were baller-ass embryos. (Given Snoop's work on his No Limit Records debut, shouting out his coworkers seems to be a consistent trait of his.) Daz's instrumental isn't anything special, but it still works, which is all anyone can ask for. Even though the video left me feeling indifferent (its courtroom setting and poor caricatures of The Notorious B.I.G. and Puff Daddy, referring to them as “Pig” and “Buff”, always seemed to be a little much), the track itself still sounded pretty good today, even with Daz's nonsensical chorus that advertises a party that neither Pac nor Snoop ever seem to arrive at.
7. NO MORE PAIN
This overlong DeVante Swing concoction is the audio equivalent of a rapper's dead eyes: the cold, robotic beat suggests Kraftwerk walking through Compton on some giant piano keys, Tom Hanks in Big-style. Only a barely-there melody differentiates “No More Pain” from the sound of industrial-grade machinery. And yet, I still like this song today. The title still helps me pretend that this song is a direct sequel to what is probably my most favorite 2Pac track ever, “Pain” (a bonus track from the cassette-tape version of the Above The Rim soundtrack), which it absolutely isn't: the fact that Pac redoes the first two lines from Method Man's “Bring The Pain” as a hook is a plus for me, being a Wu stan and all (our host seemed to go out of his way to explain that he wasn't against the entire East Coast, choosing to profess his love for the Wu-Tang Clan on a regular basis), and, most importantly, the Pac featured on here sounds candid, lucid, and engaging. The rap radio station around my way even played this shit on their airwaves, so clearly I'm not the only person who likes it.
8. HEARTZ OF MEN
DJ Quik, who receives his only real production credit on All Eyez On Me (under his real name David Blake) even though he worked a lot more on this project than his label at the time, Profile Records, would want people to believe, lends our host the most complete instrumental on Book One thus far, and although he is hindered by the Richard Pryor sound bites laid in where the hook would normally appear, 2Pac steps the fuck up. Technically, he isn't saying anything new on here: in fact, all of his songs on here have been exactly the same lyrically (possibly because he was rushing through recording his tracks and repeating general themes and rewording some bars, all so that he could fulfill his contract and get the fuck off of Death Row, if a story from Nate Dogg is to be believed), but when he's paired up with the right collaborator, his words have more authority, so “Heartz Of Men” is a winner, even if it does evaporate from your mind almost instantaneously.
9. LIFE GOES ON
In the past, I always skipped “Life Goes On” because I was upset that 2Pac refused to write a song inspired by the television series of the same name: I think there is a lot of potential to be found in writing a song from Corky's point of view, especially when he wants to learn how to drive to be just like his sister, Becka. Okay, that's only a half-truth: I just didn't like the goddamn song. I liked Pac's overall message (you can pay your respects, whether they're for a fallen comrade of a friend locked up in the bing, but you still have to actually live your life), but I thought that Johnny “J”'s musical backing didn't fit his needs, and the ridiculous singing throughout (provided by Stacey Smallie) sounded hilariously corny. Guess what? I still feel the same way today, except I now even discount 2Pac's lyrics, as they are much more unfocused than I remembered: is it really that hard for someone to stay on to...oooh, a shiny object! Pretty!
10. ONLY GOD CAN JUDGE ME (FEAT. RAPPIN' 4-TAY)
“Life Goes On” already hinted at this particular direction, but “Only God Can Judge Me” finds Tupac Shakur fully immersed in his Me Against The World-era pathos, as he starts taking his writing game seriously for the first time on this double-disc effort. Unfortunately, no matter what Pac actually says on here, Doug Rasheed's beat can and will distract the audience from the message, thanks to his insistence on sing the drum break from Audio Two's “Top Billin'”. By the time guest star Rappin' 4-Tay (with the highest-profile cameo of his entire musical career) takes to the mic, the listener has already moved on. What more can I say? That this song isn't very good, that's what.
11. TRADIN' WAR STORIES (FEAT. C-BO, DRAMACYDAL, & STORM)
The way 2Pac constructed these collaborations with his weed carriers is well-documented: while he wanted to give everyone a chance to shine, his work ethic and his general impatience forced him to impose a time limit to the writing process, and if you didn't have a verse ready by the time he started to record the track, then you just flat-out didn't make the cut. “Tradin' War Stories” is one of those rare occasions where pretty much everyone in the goddamn room came up with something to say: Pac provides the opening verse and a nonsensical, Kool Keith-esque chorus consisting of four unrelated statements (“We tradin' war stories / Outlawz on the rise / Jealous n----z I despise / Look in my eyes”), but otherwise leaves this Mike Mosley and Rick Rock production to his posse to play around with. The end result isn't all that great (as every artist on here pales in comparison to the fierce passion in our host's voice), but it could have been much worse.
12. CALIFORNIA LOVE (REMIX) (FEAT. DR. DRE & ROGER TROUTMAN)
I was incredibly pissed off when I discovered that the original, Joe Cocker-sampling version of “California Love” wasn't included on All Eyez On Me. In my younger days, this move made no fucking sense: how in the hell did Death Row manage to release the single and video without clearing the sample properly? While that isn't really what happened (I'm just speculating here), the fact remains that this remix to “California Love” is inferior to its predecessor, although its video is much more straightforward and comforting (in a West Coast party vibe-kind of way) than the Hype Williams-directed Mad Max nightmare we're all familiar with. Dr. Dre supplies the beat, a far more laid-back version of his original, a track that was supposed to be his alone before Suge Knight intervened (notice how Dre's verse, recorded before Pac was released from prison, fails to mention the presence of his co-star even once), while the late Roger Troutman works the talkbox in one of his most popular guest roles. (A lot of people who worked on All Eyez On Me have passed away. Should all of the other guest stars be scared yet?) Pac sounds artificially excited to be here, but his love for his adopted home state of California cannot be denied: it's just too bad that this remix sounds like a sunset as opposed to the original's soundtrack to an all-night bender. (I believe Dre's original solo version of “California Love” was erased by Suge, but if I'm wrong and someone has even a rough, unmastered copy, I would love to hear it.)
13. I AIN'T MAD AT CHA (FEAT. DANNY BOY)
The video for this song, featuring a gunned-down 2Pac chilling in heaven while performing for the viewer, was infamously delivered to MTV and BET shortly after the man's actual passing, so there is always going to be a fear of mortality attached to this song, even though this shit has absolutely nothing to do with death. Danny Boy, the go-to male vocalist on Death Row's payroll who wasn't yet as bitter as Nate Dogg, turns in what is probably the only performance of his that anybody will ever remember, and Pac provides three verses that are undermined by Daz's attempt at an uplifting production, a fact made all the more obvious when you listen to BLACKstreet's “Don't Leave Me”, which
rips off the beat wholesale uses the same sample. (Curiously enough, the third verse in the video version is completely different than what fans received on All Eyez On Me, in that he does actually touch on the concept of life after death, thereby fueling even more conspiracy theories.)
14. WHAT'Z YA PHONE # (FEAT. DANNY BOY)
The first disc of All Eyez On Me ends with a ridiculous come-on to the female audience over a funky guitar (sampled from The Time's “777-9311”), which has the adverse effect of nullifying everything that happened during the previous thirteen tracks (well, maybe not so much “How Do U Want It”). I understand the rationale: 2Pac spent time in prison, so he would be obsessed with sex, specifically with women, but this detour into 2Pac's id is unnecessary and, as I've already said, ridiculous. The majority of this track is occupied by a phone conversation between our host and an anonymous horny female who Pac doesn't appear to remember but agrees to a booty call with anyway, without ever confirming her address, mind you (maybe our host gained psychic GPS powers during his prison stay). Patrick's previous Reader Review of All Eyez On Me also mentioned that Pac uses the goofy phrase, “Does a bear shit in the woods and wipe his ass with a rabbit?” twice: I'm happy to report that it doesn't sound natural either time. Our host sounds like he's mystified by the script he's reading from, which, admittedly, makes his performance that much funnier.
1. CAN'T C ME (FEAT. GEORGE CLINTON)
Dr. Dre's other contribution to All Eyez On Me was originally a collaboration between himself and Ice Cube for their album Helter Skelter, which was never completed, or a beat for Tha Dogg Pound that Daz and Kurupt didn't want to use. Regardless of which story you believe, the fact of the matter is that Suge Knight fucking erased all of the vocals (save for the chorus) once Pac showed interest in using it, thereby sacrificing something potentially great just to make his new employee briefly happy, not unlike a newly-divorced dad trying to bond with his child. Curiously enough, though, I can't really imagine Cube or Kurupt over this instrumental: 2Pac actually sounds like a good fit. George Clinton's vocals, held over from the original mix, introduce the track, while our host spits venom that doesn't make “Can't C Me” his finest hour or anything, but it is a goddamn entertaining track, a decent substitution for the loss of the original “California Love”. Pac's shout-out to Dre sounds odd, considering that he only utilized three of the good Doctor's prescriptions during his lifetime (the original version of “Toss It Up” doesn't count), but I still enjoyed this shit today. Pac's excitement behind the mic is infectious. Runs a bit too long, though.
2. SHORTY WANNA BE A THUG
Whoever approved of the sequencing on All Eyez On Me should be taken out behind the middle school and shot, of at the very least humiliated in public, possibly by throwing a pie in his or her face, as they did a really fucking shitty job of it. One of the few attempts at social commentary by 2Pac is placed immediately following “Can't C Me”, an expression of total dominance over the West Coast rap scene, and whatever power it may have carried is instantly diluted by this track. Which is too bad: aside from the dumbass title and horrible chorus, this Johnny “J”-produced song, which uses the same Hank Crawford “Wildflower” sample that both Kanye West and Eminem have used, wasn't all that bad. Kind of hypocritical for someone who glamorizes a “Thug Life” to comment about children wanting to follow in his footsteps, though.
3. HOLLA AT ME (FEAT. JEWELL)
Thanks to the instrumental, a song title that reminds me of our host's earlier work “Holla If You Hear Me”, and Pac himself rhyming in a lower register than on the rest of this project, “Holla At Me” is an enjoyable throwback song that doesn't reference the past in the least bit. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if someone eventually came out and explained that this song was a leftover from the Me Against The World sessions (maybe minus Jewell's contribution), as it shares a sensibility with what I still believe to be 2Pac's finest hour. Our host sounds deadly serious when (briefly) describing how money is the root of all evil, but even though the rest of the track isn't nearly as strict, this shit actually sounded better to me today than it did back in 1996. Nice!
4. WONDA WHY THEY CALL U BYTCH (FEAT.
FAITH EVANS JEWELL)
This song was the recipient of a heavy amount of controversy prior to the project's release, thanks to it originally featuring Faith Evans, the spouse of 2Pac's sworn enemy The Notorious B.I.G. (Thanks to this track, rumors persist that Pac also banged Biggie's wife, rumors which she hasn't really denied, which means they totally did it. Allegedly.) While Faith's vocals were replaced by those of Jewell (rumors also persist that Faith's performance can still be heard on the album version, but the vocals on here don't really sound like her work to me), problems continued to surround the song, as Pac's attack on gold-digging women who eschew life's responsibilities in favor of selfish actions is actually dedicated and directed to C. Delores Tucker. While this track was an interesting idea (and has been done both before and since), the story behind the song remains much more interesting than thef final product.
5. WHEN WE RIDE (FEAT. THA OUTLAWZ)
“When We Ride” is almost the exact same song as “Tradin' War Stories”, as 2Pac once again cedes the microphone to his Outlawz weed carriers after spitting a handful of bars (and the hook). The two biggest differences between the tracks are the late Johnny “J”'s instrumental on here, which fucking knocks, almost literally (I remember riding around with my friends while they blasted this shit: it's amazing how easily this beat can change the tone of any journey, no matter how menial), and Pac's chorus, which, while still nonsensical as shit, breaks your fucking neck when he proclaims, “When we ride!”, as the beat taps on your eardrums (and your subconscious) twice in succession. I'd rather live in this alternate universe than the one that generated “Tradin' War Stories”. Interestingly enough, our host also makes a fleeting reference to his Makaveli persona, his second of All Eyez On Me, so it shouldn't have come as a surprise to anybody when he kinda-sorta changed his name later on.
6. THUG PASSION (FEAT. DRAMACYDAL, JEWELL, & STORM)
Far too many of the songs on All Eyez On Me surpass the five-minute mark. Anyway, 2Pac dedicates an entire song to one of the declarative statements made earlier in this write-up: man, he really loved fucking while drunk on Alizé, didn't he? Strangely, though, Pac doesn't even really appear on this song-length infomercial until close to the halfway mark, instead allowing his weed carriers to run rampant with a decided lack of real subject matter. Quite possibly one of the biggest wastes of time in 2Pac's discography (not counting all of those bootleg Makaveli mixtapes, anyway). Sigh.
7. PICTURE ME ROLLIN' (FEAT. C.P.O., BIG SYKE, & DANNY BOY)
I used to gravitate to Johnny “J”'s faux-bluesy production on this track, but even though I still liked it today, it doesn't hit as hard as I had once believed. The guest list on here appears to have been selected by lottery: how else can you explain the appearances of Big Syke (who, now that I've lost my rose-colored glasses, contributes a terrible verse about absolutely nothing, even managing to incorporate the phrase “back-bangin'” and sounding ridiculous while doing so), Death Row Records stalwart C.P.O. (who isn't that bad, although I like his contribution (alongside Boss Hogg) to the Above The Rim soundtrack, “Jus So Ya No”, more), and plucky young leprechaun Danny Boy? At least Pac lends the track more than a single verse, and his outro reminded me more than a little bit of Biggie's dedication on his “Juicy”.
8. CHECK OUT TIME (FEAT. KURUPT, BIG SYKE, & NATASHA WALKER)
2Pac, Kurupt, and Big Syke all attempt to quickly check out of a hotel they had each rented for an evening of back-bangin' (I'm just assuming). Credit where credit is due: all three rappers (especially our host) stick to the script, somehow turning “Check Out Time” into one of the most focused efforts on All Eyez On Me. Too bad it's so fucking slight. I did think it was funny that Dat N---a Daz (who didn't even produce this track) is referenced multiple times but never actually says a single word: I like to think that he's still trapped in his hotel room to this very day.
9. RATHA BE YA N---A (FEAT. RICHIE RICH)
Although this sex rap, in which our host advises any potential partners that he isn't interested any sort of relationship aside from the one between a penis and one or several vaginas, is both bland and juvenile (at one point, Pac sounds as giddy as a preteen when he mentions that he's “got” some girl naked), it should be noted that guest star Richie Rich, who says pretty much the exact same shit, sounds smooth as hell whenever he pops up on here. Whatever the fuck happened to that guy? Regardless, I found this track to be ineffective at best, even though the act of hearing 2Pac vacillate between shouting out Thug Life and trying to run game on anonymous groupies is kind of fascinating, in a sociological manner, anyway.
10. ALL EYEZ ON ME (FEAT. BIG SYKE)
This title track is best known as the song that uses the same sample as Nas's “Street Dreams” (from It Was Written), even though this effort came first. Although he sounds decent over the beat, none of his verses have anything to do with the supposed theme of the song, of which there really isn't one, so I'm convinced that Pac simply selected two verses at random out of his notebook, relevancy be damned. At least he fares better than guest star Syke, who sounds fucking bewildered. Oh well.
11. RUN THA STREETZ (FEAT. MICHEL'LE, NAPOLEON, & STORM)
I wanted to complete the All Eyez On Me write-up without resorting to my one-word song dismissal, but this track was really fucking dismal, so it cannot be helped.
12. AIN'T HARD 2 FIND (FEAT. C-BO, D-SHOT, B-LEGIT, E-40, & RICHIE RICH)
This song is the result of 2Pac calling on a bunch of favors from his West Coast peers who weren't already signed to Death Row Records. Everyone rides the Mike Mosley/Rick Rock beat in their own way, which doesn't exactly help the track gel, but at least everyone gets a short showcase. 2Pac sounds genuinely pleased to be working alongside his friends again, and as none of these guys are considered to be his weed carriers, the quality control on here is much better measured than on all of those Outlawz posse cuts. So yeah, this wasn't great, but it technically wasn't bad, either.
13. HEAVEN AIN'T HARD 2 FIND (FEAT. DANNY BOY)
I always found the idea that this song appears immediately after what sounds like should be its prequel to be fucking hilarious, but in reality, that title is proof positive that 2Pac wasn't putting that much effort into All Eyez On Me, choosing quantity over quality in a clear attempt to get the fuck off of the label before Suge murdered him or something. This isn't the worst way to end an album or anything, but “Heaven Ain't Hard 2 Find” is far from inspiring or even convincing, given everything else that I just forced myself to sit through.
FINAL THOUGHTS: It's unfair to rate 2Pac's All Eyez On Me as an album, because this is far from a cohesive project. Hip hop's first mainstream double-disc effort from a single artist suffers from the same traits most similar projects have encountered: there is a lot of bullshit on here. If you were to separate the good tracks on All Eyez On Me from the crap, there would be a decent EP in here somewhere. 2Pac may have rushed out product in an attempt to jump ship from Death Row Records sooner rather than later, which helps explain the schizophrenic nature (and the recycled and retooled lyrics), but even though this should never rank as Pac's finest hour (and anybody who feels otherwise is looking at the man's overall body of work and not just at this lone album), he still manages to turn in a handful of inspired performances that warrant continued interest in his field. While I'm thankful that 2Pac didn't feel the need to include skits on here, I feel as though they could have helped break up the monotony, as most of these tracks feature interchangeable verses that refuse to gel with the musical backing (which, for the most part, is okay). Without the sense of purpose he felt while recording Me Against The World, 2Pac is, simply put, kind of one-dimensional, with his softer side only making itself known sporadically on All Eyez On Me.
BUY OR BURN? There is too much filler on All Eyez On Me for anybody to recommend a purchase in the current economic climate. 2Pac stans already own several copies of this shit anyway, but everyone else should try out the songs listed below before they commit.
BEST TRACKS: “Holla At Me”; “Got My Mind Made Up”; “Heartz Of Men”; “No More Pain”; “When We Ride”
B-SIDE TO TRACK DOWN: “HIT 'EM UP” (FEAT. THA OUTLAWZ)
Although the infamous “Hit 'Em Up” isn't an official part of the All Eyez On Me tracklisting, its existence cannot be denied, Released as a B-side to “How Do U Want It” (and undoubtedly giving that single the extra push it needed to become one of the highest-selling of 2Pac's career), this controversial effort features our host airing out all of his dirty laundry, naming names and threatening bodily harm to absolutely anybody who is unfortunate enough to get in the way of his pen and his pad. Shit, he starts the song off taunting Biggie about having fucked Faith Evans: there's nowhere left to go but down at that point. Pac and his trusted weed carriers treat the Johnny "J" beat (and its Junior M.A.F.I.A. “Get Money”-aping hook) as true fighting music: aside from the usual suspects (Biggie, Puff Daddy, Lil' Kim), targets also include Chino XL and Prodigy of Mobb Deep, whose health is a topic of discussion (the artist formerly known as Cellblock P suffers from sickle-cell anemia). This track was obviously recorded when Pac was drunk and high (on life, I suppose) and simply didn't give a fuck what anybody said about it. He was even ballsy enough to shoot a fucking video, which aired on BET on a regular basis, Biggie and Puffy impersonators in tow. Folks looking for a levelheaded 2Pac will need to look in an entirely different galaxy: everyone else who enjoys rap beef will find Pac's punchlines abhorrent, spiteful, and hilarious, although this isn't much of a dis track, since Pac defers to his weed carriers far too often for this shit to be taken seriously. (He even took this one-sided battle a bit further with his never-officially-released “Hit 'Em Up 2”, which is readily available on the Interweb.) It's unfortunate that this beef ended the way it did. Is “Hit 'Em Up” actually a good example of songwriting? Fuck no it isn't. But it is entertaining in a spectator sport-sort of way, even with the addition of hindsight.