Rapping from beyond the grave

Spencer Wilkins, Staff Writer

On February 13, 1996, the most influential rap album of all time hit the shelves. It was one of only seven hip-hop records to be RIAA certified diamond (selling 10,000,000 copies), and is still widely considered the crown jewel of the rap genre. Twenty years ago, Tupac Shakur released his fourth studio album—All Eyez on Me.

Four months before the album’s release, Tupac was released from Clinton Correctional Facilities on a staggering $1.4 million bail by Death Row Records co-founder Suge Knight. Knight agreed to pay for Tupac’s bail in exchange for him to record three albums under his label. Now free, Tupac headed straight for the studio, relentlessly crafting song after song, ultimately recording over two hours of songs onto one double disc album.

Through the 132-minute duration of this album, Tupac reveals his perceptions of America through his own life experiences. On the track “Ambitionz Az A Ridah,” he unapologetically showcases his newfound wealth while simultaneously speaking on his gritty upbringing. The 27 distinct songs all showcase Tupac’s ability to captivate listeners. In “Tradin’ War Stories,” he recounts tales from his fatherless upbringing with lyrics like, “Machiavelli was my tutor, Donald Goines my father fgure/ Mama sent me to go play with the drug dealers”. Even on the more club oriented tracks, like “Amerikaz Most Wanted featuring Snoop Dogg,” he takes on more serious issues, challenging his critics who believed his lyrics depicting gang life send out a negative message

Perhaps no theme stuck out more than the theme of death. All Eyez On Me has numerous tracks where Tupac tackles this idea, even imagining his funeral on the song “Life Goes On,” saying, “Bury me smilin’, with G’s in my pocket/ Have a party at my funeral, let every rapper rock it.” These depictions are hauntingly beautiful especially considering his unsolved murder, which happened the same year his album was released.

Even death cannot stop Tupac’s infuence—today there is no artist that has not been touched by his work. Rapper Eminem said, “Tupac was the frst one to really help me learn how to make songs that felt like something,” while another rapper, Kendrick Lamar, praised the messages delivered in Tupac’s music, saying, “The answers Pac are giving are [the] answers for today.” So this February, celebrate the life of an artist who changed the landscape of music, and enjoy All Eyez on Me.