2Pac, Strictly For My N.I.G.G.A.Z. (February 16, 1993)
2Pac’s second album, Strictly For My N.I.G.G.A.Z. wasn’t much of a leap forward, but it included two top-15 pop hits, “I Get Around” and “Keep Ya Head Up.” These are justifiably two of his best-loved songs, with the former representing 2Pac in a randy and playful mood and the latter as a melancholy yet hopeful father. The rest of the album is problematic. 2Pac still took aim at the cops, asking on “Souljah’s Revenge,” “Who’s the biggest gang in the city?” On “Point the Finga,” he references the controversy surrounding 2Pacalypse Now, claiming that he “brought a little truth to the young troops” by suggesting they get guns and fight back against racism and police brutality. But generally uneven songwriting and sonic clutter held 2Pac, not his message. The East Coast style of sharply swinging beats, hard drums, and vocal snippets still held sway on the West Coast in early 1993, if only because artists hadn’t responded yet to Dr. Dre’s G-funk blueprint The Chronic, which was released in November 1992. But the noisy Strictly For My N.I.G.G.A.Z. already seemed dated when its first single, “Holler If You Hear Me,” lit up BET’s Rap City show. More importantly, 2Pac seemed a poor fit for the Public Enemy model of news commentary and racial protest. Ice Cube and his production crew the Boogiemen (who produced “Last Wordz”) successfully adapted that style to West Coast mores by emphasizing the Funkadelic over the noise. At best Cube was an observer and satirist, someone who could retell the neighborhood stories and sometimes poke fun at his friends and family struggling to survive in Compton’s streets. 2Pac’s greatest subject, as he would soon prove, was himself. Interscope.