I thought I’d bring a little truth to the young troops
I brought proof that the niggas need guns too
It’s not to be a racist, but let’s face this:
Wouldn’t you if we could trade places?
I got lynched by some crooked cops, and to this day
Them same motherfuckers on the beat gettin’ major paid
But when I get my check they takin’ tax out
So, we payin’ for these pigs to knock the blacks out
(“Point The Finga”)
With today being West Coast Wednesday yet again, I have another hot throwback for y’all. Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z…, the platinum-selling sophomore studio album from late, great hip hop legend Tupac Shakur (professionally known as 2Pac), celebrated its 24th anniversary last week. This joint arrived less than two years after Pac came out blasting on the scene with his rugged, gold-selling debut solo album, 2Pacalypse Now; the promising effort established Shakur as a steadily rising star to keep an eye on and Strictly… would only take things to the next level.
Boasting dusty, sample-heavy boom bap production from the likes of Digital Underground (the Oakland, CA-based group that 2Pac started his career with as a sideman; DU also produced the bulk of 2Pacalypse Now), Hollis, Queens, NYC affiliates the Live Squad, prolific Oakland producer and former 415 member DJ Daryl, West Coast hip hop veteran and former Uncle Jamm’s Army member Bobby “Bobcat” Ervin and even young Golden Era rap sensation Special Ed (of “I Got It Made” and “The Mission” fame; Ed unfortunately doesn’t spit a verse on the album, but he and DJ Akshun are credited as producers on “Guess Who’s Back”), this is a solid release reflecting Pac’s then-constantly developing lyrical gift and passion early in his career, effectively balancing street-smart social and political subject matter with more lighthearted moments; this balance is best exemplified by the album’s two major singles, “I Get Around” (a fun party jam celebrating sexual conquests that features Digital Underground members Shock G and Money B) and “Keep Ya Head Up” (a serious song paying tribute to the struggles of black women, particularly those who are single mothers; the track notably employs a beautiful sample of Zapp’s “Be Alright” and contains additional R&B vocals from a young Dave Hollister, who had previously assisted Pac on the latter’s 1991 debut single “Brenda’s Got A Baby”).
2Pac boldly takes a stand against both crooked cops and censorship on “Souljah’s Revenge” and “Point The Finga” and there are also a couple particularly powerful moments in the album’s second half; “The Streets R Deathrow” (which uniquely describes the harsh environment surrounding him while also eerily foreshadowing his brief stint on Death Row Records prior to his untimely death in 1996) and “Papa’z Song” (which features Pac’s stepbrother Mopreme Shakur (known on here as Wycked) and speaks on the difficulty and frustration of growing up without a solid father figure.
Additionally, Shakur joins forces with West Coast gangsta rap pioneers Ice Cube AND Ice-T on “Last Wordz”, shouts out a solid who’s-who of hip hop greats (including a significant number of East Coast artists; this was a time of considerably less tension than what would erupt into the infamous East Coast/West Coast controversy that would culminate in the deaths of Pac and friend-turned-rival The Notorious B.I.G. within six months of each other in 1996 and 1997, respectively) on “Representin’ 93” and finishes the album with the hardcore posse cut “5 Deadly Venomz” (featuring a random lineup of guests that includes friend and Naughty By Nature frontman Treach, late former Flavor Unit member Apache (of “Gangsta Bitch” fame) and Live Squad members Stretch and Majesty.
It would be another couple years before 2Pac’s music would truly reach its prime, becoming more mature and consistent in quality (he truly died at the height of his short career), but Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z… offers an even more promising display of the man’s talent than his debut and a potent dose of what has made him come to be remembered as one of hip hop’s all-time greatest talents as well as a pop culture icon.
R.I.P. Tupac Amaru Shakur (1971-1996) and Happy West Coast Wednesday y’all….