Review: Tupac Shakur “Strictly For My Niggaz”

Tupac Shakur
“Strictly For My Niggaz”
(Death Row Records)

Tupac Shakur’s legacy as hip hops most prolific songsmith is bitter remembrance of his violent death. His relatively short recording career spawned a wealth of tracks that seem large in comparison. Now that he is no longer with us, his music is the truest window into the troubled and talented mind that is Tupac Shakur. Pac’s continuing dialogue with death throughout his career is apparent on every album. The greater question is whether or not this MC transcends the stereotypes he both perpetuated in life yet fought against in song? The prophetic nature of Pac’s music leaves us wondering what came first the truth or the prophecy?

Prophecy has tendency to gain validity with the benefit of hindsight. Nowhere in Hip-Hop’s history is that ray shined more brightly than on the life of the late Tupac Shakur. While it could be argued that Pac’s later albums are tighter in terms of beats and production. 1993’s “STRICTLY FOR MY NIGGAZ”, retains Pac’s same verbal intensity while at the same accentuating his eerie foresight of his own death. This pervading theme of struggle is expressed often in violent terms. Nearly ten years after it’s release the production can seem dated, something that could be said for much of early Nineties Hip-Hop. And frankly is the only separation in terms of overall quality between this and say 36 Chambers or Illmatic.

Possessing the self-awareness that many of this new generation of rappers seem to lack however, Pac did and will continue though his music to express a dichotomy of pain, anger and love that is richly complex. Ultimately any problems with production are overridden by Pac’s sheer presence on the mic. Evidence of this is in the diversity of songs such as Peep Game, deriding censorship or kicking with the OG’s Ice-T and Ice Cube on Last Words. Party cut and hit single I get Around are tempered with the sheer poetic honesty of tracks like The Streets R Deathrow, Papaz Song and of course Keep Your Head Up. Pac’s ability to reach men and women, white and black, and speaking with often brutal honesty is the ultimate appeal

I recently read an article in an accredited music magazine, which in reviewing the 1995 release All Eyez on Me, commented, that in light of Tupac’s death the music was “upon listening a little depressing”. I say such is life, and such is emotion and that truth of emotion is often the purest truth. Outside of the Hip Hop Community Pac’s legacy is still debated, still viewed by many as trouble maker who got what was coming to him. To take this view is to ignore the complexity and honesty of both Tupac’s life and his art. So the answer is yes, Tupac has and will continue to transcend because his music and his person touch us as individuals. In the light of Hip Hops current state it is more important than ever to listen to him.

Tom Moomjy