25 years ago, Tupac’s groundbreaking album Me Against The World was released and personally, it is my favorite Tupac, or 2pac, album. In part, because it contains my favorite Tupac song, “Dear Mama,” surrounded and protected by other deeply sincere tracks, but the album in its totality is a deeply sincere body of work. “Dear Mama,” a song about his mother, Afeni Shakur, and a song that everyone should give to their mother, sums up this heartfelt letter to the world. And it is an open letter. The album offers a thoughtful, introspective, yet open and honest view of the world from a mature 23-year-old, but also a 23-year-old who has two best-selling albums and is on the verge of having his biggest-selling album the next year. Me Against The World is both post 2Pacalypse Now and Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z – which was an apocalyptic and strict introduction to the explosion that is Tupac Shakur – and a prelude to All Eyez On Me.
Tupac’s 1995 hit obviously fits into the arena of favorite albums, as it isn’t exactly the album that All Eyez On Me is, but it is yet another title that pops out at first glance and one you would own and accept as Tupac’s third album. At first glance, it is obviously more mature than his previous records, even if those popular first two albums provided a glimpse into the rapper’s rare talent and the force that he would bring into the music industry. “Dear Mama,” the lead single, is an extension and a step ahead of songs like “Brenda’s Got a Baby” and “Keep Ya Head Up.” What Me Against The World obviously accomplishes and actually is is a wider glimpse not restricted to hit songs, and its obviousness as well as its curiosity drives you to continue listening and to listen carefully to Tupac Shakur after multiple successes in music and in movies. So, it isn’t his biggest record, but it is a favorite and his best record.
The 15-track album begins with an intro, which discusses the shooting Tupac suffered at Quad Studios. The shooting wasn’t the only problem the famous rapper dealt with, but it was his biggest according to Tupac and the album. Tupac was incarcerated on a rape charge when Me Against The World was released and was to spend 18 months to 4 years before posting a bond of $1.4 million paid for by soon-to-be manager at Death Row Records, Suge Knight, after serving several months of the sentence. This was a rape charge in which Tupac later discussed and denied, and of course, being shot, his greatest fear, could have derailed his career and life worse than an accusation of rape, so it seems natural that the Quad shooting was on the top of his brain on the album and stole the focus of Tupac in 1995. Tupac, the artist, was still focused on art and his music while incarcerated, drawing inspiration from Niccolo Machiavelli and Sun Tzu. Me Against The World was at the time best reflective of Shakur and his life and career.
The first full track is appropriately titled “If I Die 2Nite.” It is not only appropriately titled because the song fits Tupac’s subject matter, but stylistically it is Tupac. The spelling of the song with the number 2 instead of the word “two” and “night” as “nite” represents Tupac’s uniqueness and adds to the belief that many of Tupac’s songs started out as poems and later transformed into tracks so that he could place his harsher and realer lyrics on top of his superior studio-sound beats. The song is stylish, poetic, and lyrical. Also, the song is about death, but even the subject of death is touched on in classy fashion and good taste. Tupac is saying “If” he dies tonight, meaning he is still hopeful for a world he lives in and also a world in which he wants to live in. Tupac raps, “I’m sick of psychotic society, somebody save me/Addicted to drama, so even mama couldn’t raise me/” Tupac continues, “Even the preacher and all my teachers couldn’t reach me/I run in the streets and puffin’ weed wit my peeps/I’m ducking the cops, I hit the weed as I’m clutching my Glock/N****s is hot when I hit the block, what if I die tonight?” Tupac asks the ultimate question “What if I die tonight” and it is a good question if Tupac’s own mother or preachers and teachers can’t help him in the world. In a hopeless world, Tupac probably would much rather die. Tupac clears up things musically, though, and reassures that his motive in life is to make music and money while others are jealous and rather be in jail. He raps, “Jealous n****s and broke b*****s equal packed jails/Hit the block and fill your pockets making crack sales/Picture perfection pursuing paper with a passion…” Tupac orders, “bury me a G if I die tonight.”
A title track, “Me Against the World” is thankfully present and the song features a songstress and Dramacydal, or the Outlawz, so it isn’t song of long rap bars, but a ballad. “Me Against the World” is the ballad of Tupac. The song is edgy and autobiographical. “Me Against the World” as a track accomplishes what the full album sets out to do, which is to describe Tupac’s stance on a world that is against him. It is classic “thug poetry” as Tupac calls it, and Tupac’s fresh lyricism and unique take on the world offers a powerful lead into other featured songs, such as “So Many Tears” and “Temptations.” “So Many Tears” like “Me Against the World” states plainly that the rapper has cried so many tears over society and gives an inside look into Tupac’s feelings, which are usually deep, but also sensitive and poetic. On “So Many Tears,” a thug cries and reveals some of his innermost thoughts. Tupac reveals that he needs friends in “So Many Tears,” and I imagine that would include female acquaintances which overtakes “Temptations.” “Temptations” though, isn’t in favor of all the female attention – rather, Tupac thinks of women as distractions and can’t settle down with one on his quest to continuing his storied career. Tupac’s ambitions for the album musically are clear with “Temptations,” as a lead single and an uptempo transition into tracks that take the focus off of him and more into the tempestuous world he is merely involved in with others.
There are several songs which contain the same subject matter, such as “Young N****z” and “Heavy In The Game.” They not only contain similar subject matter, but the songs are purposefully and brilliantly placed one after another. The subject matter being a focus on the youth and the streets and how the youth in the streets compares or effects Tupac as a young man also, but also as a famous rapper and activist who offers help in the ever-changing world. “Can U Get Away” and “Old School” represents his creativity in helping the world change. “Lord Knows” and “It Ain’t Easy” attempt to explain the changing world. Then, there’s the provocative and bold titles, “F*** the World” and “Death Around The Corner.” Each of these tracks go back to the subject of death and hold their own while carrying the tune. As a collective, the songs shine a light on Tupac’s talent as well as his true and long list of views. Death, God, the streets, and young people is what Tupac is going to be talking about for the next 45 minutes or so, and you’re either with him or against him, and most after listening to the sounds of Tupac Shakur are with him. Tupac is an outlaw on the final track, “Outlaw,” whether self-described or employed by the world.
A summary of aforementioned tracks do not best explain Tupac Shakur and his delicate album, and would seem to be turning a back on Tupac and his most delicate rhymes, but a summary is best as a compliment to the genesis of Tupac’s album. The genesis is clear: Me Against The World is an open letter to the world, and the things and people in it that are personal to him. Tupac is known for his open letters, but there’s not generalizations on Me Against The World about citizens, the streets, and fathers and mothers. Rather, it’s a larger platform for Tupac to open up and a deeper plea for the world to listen, or at least acknowledge him as a significant part of it. When at first, Tupac is paranoid over death, conspiracies, his emotions, temptations, and thoughts on the world, the album settles into a solution to these problems. Tupac is the young man, heavy in the game or streets who knows it isn’t easy and wants to get away with something or someone, but he also has faith that only the Lord knows, so he’s going to f’ the world if death is once again around the corner. Me Against The World suits Tupac and us, best summarizes him and the world more than his other records, and prepares him for a world that is sometimes with him, but mostly against him as he pushes the envelope and goes against it. He’s against the world and the world is against him. All his rage and fire is expressed on Me Against The World. Tupac is as if a fire is burned on a piece of paper or like a lit candle with the paper being Tupac’s work and the candle being Tupac.
Tupac is in his comfort zone on Me Against The World. Tupac steals our hearts on Me Against The World. Me Against The World is, as contemporaries call it, a cohesive body of work and the best example of one. The album is remarkably different from his others, unique in a different right. Tupac doesn’t need the industry to accept him as either a hitmaker or movie star, but he wants to be known as a world-changer, a wordsmith, and a sincere artist. On Me Against The World, Tupac is in control of the industry and in ways responsible for the part that he alone has created and brought a ray of light to. The mastery of Me Against The World is that the artist and the art combine to create a simplistic, but meaningful body of work for the ages. The album is an easy listen, melodic, tells a story, and offers a light in darker times. Tupac’s words and music on Me Against The World are necessary and relevant 25 years later. Tupac, on Me Against The World, is accepting, far more understanding than the rebellious disdain he expressed on his earlier records. As far as its commercial success, the album is rare and goes against the grain, a true classic in the history of hip-hop. Tupac Shakur exists in his own world and stands in it, and is changing the world in a way that he often talks about, or preferably and most comfortably, writes and raps about.