Thursday, November 6, 2008

Pussy and paper is poetry, power and pistols.

Last year, a nebulous personality in a waistcoat approached various youthful musical enthusiasts with promises of a land of milk and honey. He wanted to create the New Jerusalem. Where? 1995. The youngsters fell, one by one, for his charms. But now, as the stigma of talking about it reduces with every brave soul who comes out and tells the truth, it is time to give up hope. Following the lead of Ailbhe and Bobby, here's my not-actually-a-piss-take (though it was ripe for one) review of Me Against The World. It's shit, but everyone's doing it.

Tupac Shakur understands how to use a gun. He earns quite a lot of money. He also enjoys women, but only on a casual basis. He is at pains to stress to us that his flow in particular is somehow better than everyone else's. Especially his enemies. If it seems logical to you that the listener would be able to pick that out without help, then it's also logical to assume that you probably don't listen to a lot of gangster rap.

Me Against The World is guaranteed to sell millions. It would sell millions even if it was terrible. This is in part because it's probably the most archetypal record of its type so far created. But it's mostly down to the 2Pac myth. Like the gangster version of a bullfighter, 2Pac has become a legend in his own time for living in constant danger, but always coming out on top. If the album proves anything, it's his ability to create in the face of difficulty. Because if prison and a failed assassination attempt isn't difficult, it's hard to know what is.

When other rappers come in with guest verses, the difference between 2Pac and other gangstas becomes a little clearer. Even if he rapped about those things that would annoy anyone who doesn't make their living "hustling", his actual flow is eminently better than most. There are two variables in the term gangster rapper. 2Pac is a rapper who raps about his world. He's not a gangster who advertises that fact through rap. That's key.

So many of the songs are full of regrets, like “Dear Mama” about his mother, or “Me Against The World” which is basically the antithesis of ”It Was A Good Day” by Ice Cube. The production isn’t exactly groundbreaking. Soul keyboard loops and quasi-G funk beats, as standard. It’s a mood thing though. Easily forgivable.

"Young Niggaz" is a highlight, dealing with kids "murdered for hanging at the wrong place at the wrong time". It's strange to hear a man so far down the road into "Thug Life" to be telling the next generation "you could be an accountant, not a drug dealer". It's not affected though. It's part of the whole tapestry of the LP, 2Pac's battle between celebrating being where he wanted to be, and finding out that it's not the way it should be.

Song titles like "If I Die Tonight" and "Me Against The World" reveal a tattooed man with a gun down his trousers, but one who is acutely aware of how transient the world he has created is. As this CD reaches shops, Tupac Shakur is in Clinton Correctional Facility for sexual abuse. He's not a savoury character. As the Intro reminds us, he was shot five times last November. That's something it's impossible not to think of as the disc spins. There are people who are directly harmed by his actions, and there are people who would like to directly harm him too. Tupac lives in a sort of limbo, and he raps from there. This means that there is something very open-ended about Me Against The World. This is not the end of the Tupac Shakur story.

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This actually barely makes any sense, now that I read back on it.

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