2Pac – Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z... (2LP)
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On 2Pac's debut album, 2Pacalypse Now, the rapper showed himself to be a supremely passionate man, brimming over with ideas and anger and ready to voice his political and social opinions, call things like he saw them. This same kind of energy and lyrical acumen is found on his sophomore release, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z., a record that, while it begins exploring the MC's more gangsta side ("Last Wordz," for example, which features verses from Ice Cube and Ice-T), still includes the provocative, reflective lines on which he first made his name as a solo artist, and which he continued even as he became more and more popular (and, for some, more and more frightening). "Keep Ya Head Up," one of his biggest hits, and his tribute to black women, especially single mothers, is deeply thoughtful and poignant ("And since we all came from a woman, got our name from a woman, and our game from a woman/I wonder why we take from our women, why we rape our women, do we hate our women?"), expressing opinions that aren't often equated with hardcore rappers, while tracks like "I Get Around" brags about his sexual conquests. But this was what 2Pac was, anyway, a juxtaposition between tough and sensitive, social consciousness and misogynistic boasting, and Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. shows this. The angry protest songs calling out police and politicians, reminiscent of Public Enemy -- and with Bomb Squad-esque beats to boot (albeit a lesser version of) -- the screw-the-world mentality, the soft introspection, the preaching-but-not-proselytizing, and the party anthems are all here, and though the production sometimes suffers, especially in the middle of the album, where it's utterly forgettable, the record shows a continually developing MC, with increasingly complex lyrical themes, well on his way to becoming nearly unstoppable.