My absolute favorite CD of all time is the fourth studio album by the deceased rapper Tupac Shakur.” All Eyez on Me” was a titanic achievement. It has twenty-seven tracks on two CDs. The CD set includes forty unreleased or unused tracks, featuring thirteen other artists and, arguably, one of the most diverse lyrical libraries in rap history!
In the first week of release, on Death Row/Interscope Records, in 1996, the CD sold 566,000 copies. “All Eyez on Me” eventually went Platinum, nine times over, in the United States; 500,000 units in Australia, one million units in Canada and went Silver in the United Kingdom. The album made history as the first double-full-length hip-hop solo studio album released for mass consumption in the world. Few artists, in rap or types of music, have come close to the sales of “All Eyez on Me.”
Five singles came from “All Eyez on Me,” the most in any Tupac album. Two singles ranked on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1998 and the CD was number one. “All Eyez on Me” won the 1997 Soul Train R&B/Soul or Rap Album of the Year. Tupac won the Award for Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Artist at the 24th Annual American Music Awards that same year.
“All Eyez on Me” featured some of the best known rappers of the time, including Snoop Dogg, Method Man, Redman, Dr. Dre, Kurupt, Michel'le, and the now deceased Nate Dogg. Behind the scenes, Suge Knight, George Clinton and Johnny “J” contributed their engineering experience and talents to the sound and structure of the album. The team behind “All Eyez on Me” almost assured its over-the-top success.
Earlier CS by Tupac’s showed his social conscious. “All Eyez on Me” was an unrestrained parade of aggression and thuggish abandon. During the making of the album, Nate Dogg was quoted as saying “[Working with 'Pac was] like working with your little brother. He was a little wild muthafucka, full of life.” That spirit resounded through the album, and listeners both empathized with and reveled in his spirit.
As a native Californian, “California Love” was an instant favorite of mine. Every drop-top vehicle, radio station, and “boom box” blasted “California Love featuring Dr. Dre” so frequently that it became the unofficial anthem of the state of California. The energy and excitement that California Love unleashed on dance floors was enough to start riots! In addition to California Love, tracks such as “Ambitionz Az a Ridah,” “All About U” and “When We Ride” became anthems, lyricizing a lifestyle that was unique to the west coast of the USA.
Conversely, “Life Goes On” was a solemn and serious track that gave voice to the grief that many victims of gang and drug warfare suffered through during the time. Battle-hardened thugs were brought to tears, and grieved through the song as if it were their own. Rapper, Dru Down, was in the studio when Tupac began work on the lyrics for Life Goes On. “When a nigga wanna really be serious, 'Pac just dumped out all the weed on the mixing board-about four ounces of smoke-and was writing. And niggas had to be quiet. It was on the real low, quiet tip. That was a serious time.”
There were certain tracks that were prophetic, and foreshadowed the early death of the artist. In 'Ain't Hard 2 Find', he predicted his own death. In the track he says; "I heard a rumor I died, murdered in cold blood dramatized/ Pictures of me in my final stages, you know mama cried/ But that was all fiction, some coward got the story twisted." His early death was also a common theme in some of his later albums. This lyric prophesies the terminal effects of life in the fast lane.
Even though the album was a celebration of the West Coast lifestyle, “All Eyez on Me” was not without socially conscious admonitions. In “Only God Can Judge Me” Tupac, observe the hypocrisy amongst Blacks in blaming other races for the violence that held Black communities captive. He said “And they say it's the white man I should fear/ But, it's my own kind doing all the killing here.” Later, in the album, Tupac rightly calls out the groupies looking for love in the club. In "Wonda Why They Call U Bitch", he counsel’s one of them with “I love you like a sista, but you need to switch/ and that's why they called you bitch, I betcha!”
“All Eyez on Me” is still one of the rare CDs that you can put into a CD player, press play, and love every track. Men and women from Compton to Canada were moved in one way or another y Tupac’s ability to tell stories, elicit emotion, and embody an entire zeitgeist through one album. It is my favourite CD of all time, and in today’s pool of cartoonish and lyrically impoverished rappers, that won’t change for the near future!