by Bryan Costa
Tupac Shakur’s “Me Against the World” album stands as undeniably one of the most impactful and revolutionary hip-hop albums of all time. “Me Against the World” totals 15 songs, with a runtime of one hour and five minutes. Shakur’s third studio album, It was released in 1995 by Interscope Records. Shakur drew his lyrical inspiration for the album from his impending prison sentence, struggles growing up in a poverty stricken area surrounded by crime, and his frequent encounters with death. Shakur touches on many personal struggles, through the use of his polished lyricism over a multitude of well-produced, g-funk, hip-hop, and boom bap instrumentals, making this both a well-produced and very introspective album.
Tupac has the ability to reach the hearts of many with his music. “Me Against the World,” only his second best-selling studio album, still sold 2.4 million copies to date in the US, according to Nielsen Music. Shakur appeals to audiences going through deep struggles on this album due to its subject matter. “Dear Mama” is one of the album’s stand-out tracks leading to widespread popularity due to Shakur’s unique handling of sensitive topics. For example, he vividly reminisces on his childhood and shows his appreciation to his single mother who stayed committed to raising him despite her struggles with addiction, as well as poverty. The song could draw a tear from even the toughest of men, with its heartfelt lyrics and beautiful instrumental. “Even though you was a crack fiend mama, you always was a black queen mama, I finally understand it ain’t easy for a woman tryna raise a man. You always was committed, a poor single mother on welfare tell me how you did it. There’s no way I could pay you back, but the plan is to show you that I understand.” These hard-hitting lyrics demonstrate Shakur’s authenticity and his ability to tell stories, all while maintaining the fluidity of the song. It’s not often an artist can convey such a powerful message in just a few lines, but Shakur is truly a poet and it shows on this album.
The song “Outlaw” is another great example of Shakur’s cleverness. The song starts with a dialogue between Shakur and an 11-year old kid named Raul. Shakur asks Raul what he wants to be when he grows up and Raul responds by saying he wants to be an outlaw. At the end of the song Shakur pays his respects to Raul, followed by a gunshot sound effect. This intro gives an inside view at the mindset that he and many others are raised with. People in the struggle learn to make money through criminal activity because that is the only way they know how, but it inevitably gets them killed or in jail. Shakur starts the song by saying
“Cause all I see is, murder murder, my mind state
Preoccupied with homicide, tryin’ to survive through this crime rate
Dead bodies at block parties, those unlucky bastards
Gunfire now they require may be closed casket.”
Shakur touches on his exposure to death and highlights the truth of how being a thug comes with a lot of misfortune. The thought of being an outlaw is intriguing to many people, but it should not be glorified.
Here is what Joe Paola, a senior at NAHS, had to say about the album, “I thought the album seemed very authentic and well-made. It had a good mix of songs, some were high energy, some were low energy, but it kept me on my toes.” Shakur is very versatile on this album which explains its mass appeal. “Me Against the World” held the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for four consecutive weeks upon its release.
This album was so impactful to hip-hip because it showed that the thug life did not need to be glorified to create hits. “Me Against the World” opened new ideas to anyone who listened to it. Tupac can be belligerent thugged out, but he can also be very articulate. This allows him to reach so many people that feel like they need a voice. This album is one of the most impactful hip-hop albums of all-time because of its relatability, its sales, and the widespread positive effect on oppressed communities all over the US.