All Eyez On Me
Death Row / Interscope Records, 1996
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/12/1997
Note: The following review was originally written in December 1996 for publication on HitsWorld - long before the shooting death of Tupac Shakur's rival, The Notorious B.I.G. The review was scheduled to run on "The Daily Vault" before I learned of Biggie Smalls's death.
Rap music is rap music, no matter what coast it came off of. Killing "rival" rappers doesn't solve anything - it only depletes the genre of talented musicians, and I'm tired of shedding tears for these acts of stupidity.
Stop the violence - please.
Like many people, I became interested in the music of Tupac Shakur not long after his murder. However, I've been faced with one tremendous challenge: How does one put aside the violence of Shakur's life and death and give an unbiased review?
The answer was simple: listen to the music, and let it do the talking. Shakur's last release before his death, All Eyez On Me, is undoubtedly one of the best rap albums I've ever listened to - which makes the circumstances of his death all the more tragic.
From the opening melodies of "Ambitionz As A Ridah", with its haunting, sparse backbeat, Shakur almost immediately lets the listener know that this isn't going to be a half-hearted, half-baked, half-assed work. He is going to make the listener think - put them in his shoes, as it were. And for the better part of two hours, Shakur succeeds.
The production work is incredible on Eyez, and the samples, long regarded as one drawback to rap, are brilliantly used - and do I detect a little originality in the music? This is a welcome change.
As for the music, Shakur sets a standard of excellence that rarely is broken on this album. From commentaries regarding the first attempt on his life to braggadocio about the "Thug Life" that would eventually take his, Shakur was probably the best spokesperson of his genre. Cuts like "All Bout U," "No More Pain," "Only God Can Judge Me" and "Holla At Me" show off one of the best rap performances ever.
Probably the best performance on this set is "Wonda Why They Call U B____," which doesn't cut down women in Shakur's community, but rather tries to give them a more positive message and image about themselves. Although Shakur ends up disrespecting the person he's sending his message to in the song, there is a lesson in it that people of all races and backgrounds can learn from Shakur.
There are only two minor problems with Eyez. First, there are far too many guest rappers on the album - it seems like almost every track has someone backing Shakur. While artists like Snoop Doggy Dogg are very talented in their own right, if I wanted to hear them, I'd buy their album. Second, and to a lesser extent, there are a few clunkers on this album that either could have been left off or that needed maybe another coat of paint. Cuts like "Picture Me Rollin" don't hurt the power of the album, but they're quite easy to fast forward through.
With 2Pac still coming out with new product (under the name Makavelli) and word of one or two more albums in the can, Shakur's presence should be felt within the rap community for some time. All Eyez On Me is a powerful portrait of this young man's talents, and serves as a fitting remembrance to Shakur.