2pacalypse Now on Vinyl
For the first time ever, Tupac’s debut, 2pacalypse Now, is available on vinyl. Though the album was released 25 years ago, much of its lyrical content is as relevant today as it was in 1991. 2pacalypse Now, being Tupac’s first album, isn’t as refined as the albums that followed, but it does show hints of the concepts that would come to define his artistic scope. It also features his steady and unmistakable flow.
The album begins with “Young Black Male” and “Trapped.” Both of which act as a sort of thesis statement for the album–stating 2pacalypse Now will focus on the double marginalization of being black and poor in America. With a killer hook, “Trapped,” while not saying that things will be okay, is uplifting (They can’t keep the black man down). In the wake of all the violent acts against people of color (finally) in the news and the palpable fear in the aftermath of this election, it seems that this song is sadly as relevant as ever.
Aside from the visceral reaction to racism and institutionalized prejudice, 2pacalypse Now is an excellent example of Tupac’s genius. Not only does the rapper, from start to finish on this album, wrap his lyrics around compelling and taut meters (truly, no other words could fit in or be substituted in his lines) but he also jumps between personae with ease. Tupac’s debut is filled with narratives of different lives in poverty stricken areas. Maybe Tupac lived some of these experiences but he certainly didn’t live all of them. That said, it requires a good ear and awareness of everything around one to imagine and move through another’s experience with the amount of veracity Tupac’s lyrics have.
But all of the songs don’t revolve around persona driven tracks. “Words of Wisdom” is as close to a lyric essay as 1991 could provide. Rhetorically poised, lyrically dense, and built from a hooked filled instrumental track, “Words of Wisdom” is the kind of song that exists simultaneously as a testament to the problems of its world and forecast of its future, i.e. today. The song is as much a burning indictment as it is a cogent and logical argument.
It’s no secret that I like words and the power they have when arranged pointedly. And as much as Tupac has arranged his words to create a patchwork of narratives and lyric arguments, there’s something about 2pacalypse Now that transcends its individual words. As an album, 2pacalypse Now contains the purely atmospheric power of sound to help carry and underscore its messages. The album is more than collection of poetry and more than a musical composition.
It’s a shame that we as Americans are still dealing with the problems that plagued our country 25+ years ago. That said, if anything can be drawn from 2pacalypse Now, it’s that there will always be hope. We are here for each other more than ever. And damn, we have and will have some fantastic music to listen to while we persevere.