One of the most critically acclaimed and highest-selling hip-hop megastars of all time, Tupac Shakur had the world in his hand when he was barely an adult. Four critically acclaimed full-lengths, including 1995’s legendary All Eyez On Me, cemented Shakur as one of hip-hop’s first massive stars. Renowned for his attention to the plight of the inner cities and police brutality at a time where not many were tackling subjects like that, Shakur proved himself a young prodigy early on.
Released when he was twenty years old and written between the ages of 19 and 20, Tupac Shakur proved he was wise beyond his years with his debut album, 2Pacalypse Now.
At its core, 2Pacalypse Now is a social commentary and narration of many prominent issues he and his peers faced at the time – or experienced just from seeing them in others. At a time where gangsta rap was easily the most prevalent and commercially successful form of the genre, 2Pac’s affinity to discuss social issues of the day was a marked departure from what most were doing. From the heartbreakingly real tale of a pre-teen giving birth to a child in “Brenda’s Got A Baby” to the police brutality experienced by Shakur on “Trapped”, Shakur never minced words when it came to the real-life experiences he saw.
Tackling head-on the problems facing many at the time, Shakur’s charisma showed out full-force here. While the beats and production were admittedly pretty sparse, it’s almost a plus considering how well-written the lyrical content is. There’s even songs about friendship, like “If My Homie Calls”, which bring to mind alternative rap artists like A Tribe Called Quest in their positivity.
While not a perfect album (his classic would come later in his career with the wisdom of maturity and experience), 2Pacalypse Now is an essential part of hip-hop’s growth and artistic creativity. Especially when you consider how young Shakur was when writing these lyrics, it’s an impressive achievement that signaled the star he would soon become.