Recorded following his near-fatal shooting in New York, and released while he was in prison, Me Against the World is the point where 2Pac really became a legendary figure. Having stared death in the face and survived, he was a changed man on record, displaying a new confessional bent and a consistent emotional depth. By and large, this isn't the sort of material that made him a gangsta icon; this is 2Pac the soul-baring artist, the foundation of the immense respect he commanded in the hip-hop community. It's his most thematically consistent, least-self-contradicting work, full of genuine reflection about how he's gotten where he is -- and dread of the consequences. Even the more combative tracks ('Me Against the World,' 'Fuck the World') acknowledge the high-risk life he's living, and pause to wonder how things ever went this far. He battles occasional self-loathing, is haunted by the friends he's already lost to violence, and can't escape the desperate paranoia that his own death isn't far in the future. These tracks -- most notably 'So Many Tears,' 'Lord Knows,' and 'Death Around the Corner' -- are all the more powerful in hindsight with the chilling knowledge that he was right. Even romance takes on a new meaning as an escape from the hellish pressure of everyday life ('Temptations,' 'Can U Get Away'), and when that's not available, getting high or drunk is almost a necessity. He longs for the innocence of childhood ('Young Niggaz,' 'Old School'), and remembers how quickly it disappeared, yet he still pays loving, clear-eyed tribute to his drug-addicted mother on the touching 'Dear Mama.' Overall, Me Against the World paints a bleak, nihilistic picture, but there's such an honest, self-revealing quality to it that it can't help conveying a certain hope simply through its humanity. It's the best place to go to understand why 2Pac is so revered; it may not be his definitive album, but it just might be his best.
2. If I Die 2night
3. Me Against The World
4. So Many Tears
6. Young Niggaz
7. Heavy In The Game
8. Lord Knows
9. Dear Mama
10. It Aint Easy
11. Can U Get Away
12. Old School
13. Fuck The World
14. Death Around The Corner
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