A coward dies a thousand deaths, a soldier dies but once.2Pac – If I Die 2 Nite
2Pac is undeniably one of the greatest lyricists of our generation but one of the most controversial figures in the entire history of rap. From conscious rapper to IDGAF rapper, he has managed to provide an infectious flow that combines punch, impact and urgency whether the track deals with politics or just drinking and smoking. He also managed to have a hard life with situation after situation breaking his faith in the world, eventually turning him into the rapper that everybody loved to hate, the rapper with a lot of emotional baggage that just made him 100% insane. That rapper would die a horrible death in Las Vegas, NV in 1996 where he was shot by an unknown assailant in a drive-by shooting; it was a tragic but preventable death that sent waves through the rap industry and combined with the death of Biggie, sent a message that the bi-coastal wars needed to stop or else there’d be more bloodshed.
Before all that however, before he signed the deal with Death Row that would seal his fate, there was a trial in 1995 where a woman had accused 2Pac of rape and in a show of racial-bias, was sentenced guilty and forced to spend time in jail despite his innocence, it was then where he began to get paranoid and believe that Biggie was responsible for the shooting and it was while he was in jail that “Me Against the World” made an impact, debuting at #1 on the Billboard 100. This album would be the birth of the IDGAF 2Pac that everybody wants to emulate.
The album is a construct of 2Pac’s emotions at the time. Rage, depression, regret, compassion and empathy for those who he had wronged. Compared to his previous 2 albums at the time, it’s as if 2Pac had learned how to let out an unfiltered flow and showcase raw emotion over synthy/soulful production that was both hard-edged and emotional. The 15 tracks on the album when played as a whole play out like a confessional letter to God that 2Pac has been writing, dealing with things such as his resentment towards America for what they did to him, detailed stories about gang life that reflect reality in the hardest way and of course, letters dedicated to hip-hop and people.
If this album were a portrait of 2Pac it would be the most complete portrait ever seen. Without a filter to suppress his thoughts, he makes some of the best and most compelling tracks ever to grace wax. “If I Die 2 Night” is a reflection of the hardships in life that he had to face while “Dear Mama” is a testimony to the complex relationship he has with his mother, almost as if he was letting him know that even though they had their problems, they can ultimately resolve them due to the respect they have for each other. “So Many Tears” is 2Pac at his most soulful talking about the many people in his community who get locked up for getting gripped in the life and the lives that are lost due to said life. Safe to say, 2Pac had a lot to say on this album and he didn’t care what people thought of him at this point, it was him against the world and this was his defense on the stand in his trial by God.
There’s a reason why this album is his magnum opus, it’s not distinctly west coast or east coast, it’s 2Pac up close and center. Earlier and later 2Pac albums would never match up to the type of effort he placed into this album. The earlier albums were him trying to educate the youth while the later albums were him where he lost himself and couldn’t find his way; this includes the “The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory” which was mainly him being angry and dissing people left and right without any of the soul to justify it. This album had the perfect balance of educating the youth and 2Pac expressing himself on wax without all the anger, most imporantly, everything he said on the album was the truth; he had lost faith, he had no reason to maintain and most of all, he had every intention of letting himself be judged. Whether he was guilty or not, he didn’t care, he just said it like he said it.
There are a small number of questionable production choices on the album that hurt the album but if you’re focused on the lyrics and engaged in the aesthetic that 2Pac had designed for this album than it shouldn’t affect you that much, what you should know is that 2Pac pours his soul in this album and his soul is very relatable. You can see why rappers like Kendrick Lamar got his influence with him, he kept it real under the face of adversity, he told it as it is, he was basically the reality rapper who took reality rap further than N.W.A ever did and this album is a classic that has stood the test of time. There are even some modern rappers who get their influence from 2Pac and this album, hip-hop isn’t about the delivery or the style, it’s about keeping it real and that is what this album does best, it is 2Pac’s best album and there was nothing that 2Pac could ever do to top it. Take a listen, you’ll see what I mean.