44. 2Pac f/ Rappin' 4-Tay "Only God Can Judge Me" (1996)
Producer: Doug Rasheed and Harold Scrap Fretty Album: All Eyez On Me Label: Death Row/Interscope
Tupac's ability to give memorable performances with mediocre rappers is unsurpassed in all of hip-hop. Bay Area MC Rappin 4-Tay (SMH) comes through with some heartfelt—if rhythmically challenged—rhymes. “When you're locked down/That's when I'll be around.” Ugh.
Still, Pac gives one of his most powerful lyrical performances. He struggles with memories of multiple betrayals by friends, family and society, seeming to question everything—including his own sanity. “And in my mind/I'm a blind man doing time.”
The electronic voice on hook makes the “he who is without sin” argument, an extension of the looming synthesizer whine that seems to cosign Pac's desolation. The affect is chilling and hard to dispute. “I been trapped since birth... And they say the white man i should fear/But it's my own kind doing all the killing here.”
About midway, Pac knowingly rhymes over the beeping of a heart monitor until it flatlines. “I'd rather die like a man than live as a coward/Dear mama can you save me?” Pac keeps a brave face at the end of this record, but he's already losing his religion.