Me Against the World
March 14, 1995
Out Da Gutta Records/ Interscope Records/ UMG
1. Intro (performed by Dan O’Leary, Debbie Hambrick, Jay Jensen, Jill Rose & Sarah Diamond) // 2. If I Die Tonite // 3. Me Against the World (feat. Dramacydal & Puff Johnson) // 4. So Many Tears (feat. Digital Underground, Stretch & Thug Life) // 5. Temptations // 6. Young Niggaz (feat. Killa, Funky Drummer & Moe Z.M.D.) // 7. Heavy In the Game (feat. Richie Rich, Ebony Foster & Lady Levi) // 8. Lord Knows (feat. G-Money, Kenyatta Forman, Killa, Kim Armstrong & Natasha Walker) // 9. Dear Mama (feat. Reggie Green & Sweet Franklin) // 10. It Ain’t Easy // 11. Can U Get Away // 12. Old School // 13. Fuck the World // 14. Death Around the Corner// 15. Outlaw (feat. Dramacydal & Rah Rah)
2pac is the JFK of rap: very charismatic, inspirational and influential, surrounded by drama during his lifetime and conspiracy theories in death, fairly popular when he was alive but never moreso than after he got shot and killed in the public eye and, if we’re being completely honest with ourselves, overrated as hell in what he actually achieved in the realm of the living while nobody can say with any accuracy just what the guy could and would’ve done if his ending was less premature.
It’s not as though the man didn’t leave a slew of commercially and artistically succesful releases in his wake. In fact every album he released up until this one has already gotten a recommendation for a purchase on this website. But he never dropped anything as significant as Ready to Die, Illmatic, Reasonable Doubt or The Chronic and the almost god-like reverence many people had for him, the phrase “best rapper dead or alive” was dropped casually in one sentence with the name 2pac on a regular basis, in the late ’90s and the naughties was ridiculous. A lot of people held the opinion that not only are Brenda’s Got a Baby, Keep Your Head Up and Dear Mama deep and meaningful songs (which admittedly they are), but that also they aren’t at all at a contradiction with his more violent, misogynistic, homophobic and otherwise less socially responsible moments, most infamously Hit ‘Em Up. In other words 2pac could get away with pretty much anything on his albums and still be considered a martyr and a saint, so long as he included at least one thoughtful or pseudo thoughtful track on there. The truth is probably that while 2pac, a classically trained actor mind you, was one of the few people in gangsta rap who could deliver both conscious material and hyper violence with equal fervour and credibilty, there was never as much of a unified vision to it as his fanboys would like you to believe. He was just really good at setting moods, no matter what that mood was. And it should be noted that 2pac may have lived a lot of shit he rapped about, he had been in prison and he may not have seriously known or believed it when he layed down some of those vocals but he would eventually meet a violent death in the streets, but there was a lot of fiction in his raps too: He never seriously was a drug dealer for instance and it was sort of mathematically impossibly for him to beef with everyone he mentioned on 7 Day Theory, so Pac may not have been the realest motherfucker to have ever existed, he was however life sized.
While the man was never what you could consider tame during his Interscope period, which this album was the last of, at least he appeared to be somewhat in control of what it was he did even when he was pissed off, which wasn’t all of the time yet, he knew to point his rage at the very least at outrageous stuff. Papa’z Song, Young Black Male, Part Time Mutha and I Don’t Give a Fuck off his first two albums and Fuck the World off this one are pissed off songs too, but they’re nowhere near as furious and lacking in aim as Hit ‘Em Up or almost everything on his Makaveli album, both of which had unrelenting diggs at every other rapper who had ever looked at 2pac funny and were both released during the brief but incredibly intense Death Row Records second and final phase of 2pac’s career.
We’ll get to that when we will, but many of the processes that would lead to that shit happening were already taking place and shape when Me Against the World became a thing. The man was on the receiving end of multiple lawsuits, most prominently shooting but not killing two off duty policemen and a sexual assault case involving a groupie and his entourage, the former he won, the latter he lost landing him in prison at the time Me Against the World was released, leaving him unable to promote his own album or appear in the video’s. Not that it did that much damage, 2pac became the first rapper hitting number one on the album charts while incarcerated. Before that sentencing however 2pac was shot and robbed outside of a New York recording studio while on his way to recording with rapper Little Shawn, an incident he survived but just barely. He believed he was set up by his friends The Notorious B.I.G. and Puff Daddy who were in that studio recording.
The 2pac that came out of that prison and signed to Death Row on Suge Knight, and Jimmy Iovine which everyone appears to have forgotten, paid his bail was a man who had been on the brink of death and believed it was because of former associates and had framed him and had spent about a year in prison, possibly innocent, because someone else did. No matter whether there was any truth in his claims, if he truly believed them himself, which apparently he did, he was in a serious state of paranoia. You can say without overstatement that this album was his very last one before he lost a good part of his mental sanity, although he was already in the process of doing that.
Me Against the World contains the best songs of his career, even if some of them are a bit over-embellished. If I Die Tonite is our host walking the fine line between healthily cautious and strainedly paranoid over Easy Mo Bee’s banging instrumental and in between Dr. Dre and DJ Quik samples, creating a truly bicoastal banger. Death Around the Corner achieves something similar.
So Many Tears has the man’s haunting baritone sound completely desperate over Shock G’s bleak-as-fuck instrumental which samples Stevie Wonder’s That Girl. Never mind that the lyrics are a bit inconsequential and all over the place, in fact that is completely appropriate considering the fact that this 2pac sounds like mentally he is snapping in two right in front of you.
Temptations has Mo Bee’s second of two instrumentals of the night and details 2pac’s problematic relation with sexuality and specifically the fairer sex. The mood switches several times from gentle to hopeless to mildly violent and it is all the more interesting for it. It isn’t so much a traditional love song as it is a sort of crude and emotional, conversationally styled essay with a boom bap beat and an R&B refrain.
Young Niggaz is an honest and remarkably balanced look back on Pac’s younger years, giving equal time to the positive and the negative over a smooth and successfully nostalgic Moe Z.M.D. instrumental. The only minor downside to this song is that the hook, performed by a small army of studio singers, sounds too much like Anthony Hamilton backed by Al B. Sure! for comfort, but overall it isn’t bad.
Lord Knows examines each and every aspect of our host’s mortality over an imitation of a 1992 Dr. Dre instrumental. The total package would’ve been better off without all those R&B singers on the hook but remains passable. The title track which appears earlier in the track list does a much better job at combining similar musical elements.
The best known song off this album is probably Dear Mama, which is entirely justified. The instrumental is sufficiently lush and sentimental to host a tribute to ones mother such as the one Pac delivers, and the man manages to keep things from becoming too saccharine by detailing that mama was no saint by not only detailing the good she did but also her drug abuse. Here even the R&B vocals make sense.
Old School tells the listener about how he fell in love with hip-hop in the first place with infectious enthusiasm, it is the only thing on here that could be called positively celebratory.
That was about it for the positive, Me Against the World also contains some really shit songs, possibly the worst songs of his career bar some of the Death Row filler.
Heavy in the Game features some lady talking unintelligbly in a Jamaican accent while another studio singer breaks out another canned hook and a generic beat hovers in the background. This is unfortunate because 2pac sounds fine and featured guest Richie Rich, who is the hightst profile guest, does too.
It Ain’t Easy has the sort of incomplete instrumental that consists of nothing but a high-pitched, hovering synth line that sounds like your tea water is done boiling, while Pac repeats some of the sentiments that can be heard elsewhere on this album, except better.
Can You Get Away can’t decide whether it wants to be a love song or wants to brag about 2pac’s home wrecking abilities and chooses to be impotent in stead.
Outlaw is the very first instance of 2pac’s new weed carriers (then Dramacydal, shortly therafter tha Outlawz) fucking shit up for their boss (they were on the title track too but sounded fairly passable there) a recurring thing on All Eyez One Me and Killuminati: the 7 Day Theory.
So in conclusion: Me Against the World is mostly passable, sometimes brilliant and sometimes absolute shit. In short: it’s a metaphor for life. Its inconsistencies don’t allow it to be his best album though as many another blogger claims. That distinction would go to his debut 2pacalypse Now I’d reckon. But if you’re looking for the highest heights of 2pac’s career and don’t mind getting some piss poor songs along with them in the same package you should definitely listen to Me Against the World. And unlike on All Eyez On Me at least the good definitely outweighs the bad here.
If I Die Tonite
Me Against the World
So Many Tears
Death Around the Corner
Pick this one up.