Producer: Big D, Hurt-M-Bad, Makaveli
Album: The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory
Label: Death Row/Interscope
Props to Lady of Rage, who gives good gunchat on this track and succeeds in convincing us that she knew her way around an AK. There are a few other interesting things going on here: Pac has now fully embraced the dark side (thanks Suge), and the maniacal persona who made his appearance on “Hit Em Up” is here to stay.
Still fresh from the drama of his time in prison and the madness that preceeded it, Pac enacts a Hennessy-fueled fantasy of death, murder, and gunfire. As Death Row Capo, he committed himself fully to the war for the soul of hip-hop, so this song's thematic parallels with The Notorious B.I.G.'s “Me and My Bitch” point to the possibility that Pac intended to show Big up as pussy-whipped and soft. That it revealed Pac's own insanity may be beside the point.
His voice is like a force of nature on this track. It's tempting to condone whatever wrong-headed hatred had to be conjured to make this man perform at such heights of passion.
By this point in his career, Pac had advanced as an mic performer in almost every conceivable way, plus this record boasted one of the catchiest hooks of his entire career. (Jay-Z recognized the fact, and used it to chart success, replacing images of gunplay with a ripe, just-snatched-up Beyonce Knowles.) This post-Pac moment can be looked at as a pretty succinct metaphor for the changes in hip-hop's strategy from the '90s to the '00s.
After Big and Pac's double murder, hip-hop collectively turned from the passionate and sometimes wild rebellion that fueled its pop rise to a more stylish calculation. Visual props in the video aside, I could never glean whether this was a final fuck you or an ode to the pioneering MC. Even after his death, Jay could never fully conceal his contempt for Pac the person. (See his scathing critique of Pac's last night in Vegas in "I Love the Dough"—“I'm in the 1500 seats/same night/same fight/But one of these cats wasn't playing right/ I'll let you tell it.”) Still, Jay understood the importance of 2Pac the artist.