Giving thanks for a few of our favorite albums
By Antonio Valenzuela
In 1995, 2pac released Me Against the World. When the album dropped, it paralleled my life and articulated the conditions of reality many of us experienced. The album has a defiant tone and the music is laced with vintage samples and classic material. Down to earth lyrics identifying social dysfunction vividly and courageously meshed well with surprisingly calm production.
I was only twelve years old when Me Against the World hit, but life around me was full of gang life, death and a family fully immersed into drugs and the prison system. Me Against the World offered an unmatched solace, itself balancing extreme emotion. Songs like the title track, along with "So Many Tears" and "It Ain't Easy," provided an introspective look into deep fears, self-reflection and social analysis. While tracks like "Fuck the World," "If I Die Tonight," and "Death Around the Corner" were rife with the kind of anger and rebelliousness that fed the internal fires of a slighted population.
The crowning achievements of the album are "Old School" and "Dear Mama." The first is a track dedicated to the music 2pac grew up on, the foundation for hip-hop, as the hook indicates ("What more can I say?/I wouldn't be here today/if the old school didn't pave the way"). Pac shouts out everyone who had an influenced him, from Heavy D, LL Cool J and Melle Mel to Cypress Hill, Red Alert and Rakim. The track has a classic boom-bap beat with an infectious lead and sample that perfectly depicts old school hip hop.
The latter cut, "Dear Mama," relays the tumultuous and strained relationship between Pac and his mom. It is probably one of the most emotional hip-hop tracks ever created. As a child who also grew up with a drug addicted parent, it touches the depths of emotional anger and love in a juxpostion that has rarely been replicated in any genre.
The association of love through layers of pain is a theme that 2pac captures masterfully as he conveys the ills of poverty with lines like, "Just working with the scraps you we're given/Mama made miracles every Thanksgiving." Later, 2pac's poetic and assured cadence brings a feeling of hope to an often hopeless situation with lyrics like, "I wish I could take the pain away/If you can make it through the night there is a brighter day."
2pac is a transcending character that delivered a generation's emotion with an unyielding creative rage that still remains unmatched. This album helped me and countless other people make it through that tough night, knowing we were not alone.