2pac-2pacalypse-now

How '2Pacalypse Now' Marked The Birth Of A Rap Revolutionary

It was nothing like we'd seen before, and as we know now, have yet to see again.

Hip-hop has come a long way and evolved from its humble beginnings in South Bronx, NY into a billion-dollar business, but the culture's essence will be forever linked to civil rights and activism. And few artists have embodied revolutionary warfare quite like the late Tupac Amaru Shakur, whose 1991 debut album, 2Pacalypse Now, would jumpstart the career of one of the most influential artists of all-time.

Rap's initial recordings' sole purpose may have been rocking the party, but as the genre began to take shape and form its identity as the voice of young minorities across America, its tone became more rigid while its content was more attuned to the plight of the inner-city. The late '80s, which was marked by the crack epidemic and the effects of Reaganomics, spawned pioneering politically-minded acts like Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions, and Queen Latifah, all of whom would usher in a sense of black nationalism and Afrocentricity among artists and fans alike.

The east coast may have been fighting the power, but on the west coast, the tide was turning more towards tales of nihilism than liberation. While Ice Cube established himself as the most politically conscious rapper on the west side of things - with the classics AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted and Death Certificate - acts like N.W.A., Compton's Most Wanted, and others were dominating the charts with more violent and abrasive content, which was deemed misogynistic and criminal in nature. But Tupac's 2Pacalypse Now's arrival would help even the score and provide a middle ground for fans, who identified with the mentality and lifestyle of a thug but were cognizant of the discrimination and oppression plaguing urban America. The album's ultimate success would help Interscope Records legitimize itself as a major player in the rap game, and go down as a landmark debut album in the genre's history. However, prior to its release, 2Pacalypse Now, and 2Pac the artist were anything but a sure bet.

Migrating from Baltimore to the west coast in 1988, 2Pac and his family would settle in Marin City, an impoverished suburb where he would begin to seriously pursue a rap career. After a chance meeting with Marin City resident Leila Steinberg, who became the rapper's first manager, the two would shop for a deal, but no takers were willing to bite on an offer to sign on the raw talent. Eventually finding a believer in Atron Gregory, manager of popular rap group Digital Underground, 2Pac would pay dues as a roadie and backup-dancer before getting his big opportunity to shine on a Digital Underground track titled "Same Song." The song, recorded as a contribution to the soundtrack for the 1991 film, Nothing But Trouble, would be picked as the lead-off track on Digital Underground's This Is an EP Release, with Pac's performance helping him secure a solo record deal with Interscope Records.

Tom Whalley, president of Interscope at the time, remembers Pac wasting little time creating the album that would shape up to be his debut. "Right away you could tell that this guy was different from the rest of the world,” Tom Whalley said in a 1997 interview with Vanity Fair. “I couldn’t slow him down. I never worked with anyone who could write so many great songs so quickly.” Steinberg also remembers Pac's work ethic fondly.

Released on November 12, 1991, 2Pacalypse Now was devoid of any undeniable hit singles and performed modestly out of the gate. Eventually, it won critics and listeners over with its pointed commentary and Pac's tangible charisma and sincerity. "Young Black Male," the lead-off selection, is a breakdown of the plight of urban youth fighting for survival and sets the tone for the project, but the subsequent selection, "Trapped," is where the album begins to build its momentum. Produced by The Underground Railroad, "Trapped" finds 2Pac likening the inner-city to a prison which he, or other young black men, cannot escape. Rapping "You know they got me trapped in this prison of seclusion/Happiness, living on the streets is a delusion/Even a smooth criminal one day must get caught/Shot up or shot down with the bullet that he bought," Tupac assumes the role of a man who murders a cop in self-defense, but gets gunned down while on the run from law enforcement, ultimately deciding that death is better than serving a life sentence in prison.

The first single released from the album, "Trapped," would be Pac's introduction to the public in a solo capacity, but 2Pacalypse Now would gain national attention after being denounced by then U.S. Vice-President Dan Quayle in 1992. Quayle's remarks were in response to 18 year-old Texas resident Ronald Ray Howard's claim that 2Pac's song "Soulja's Story," the album's third track, inspired him to murder Bill Davidson, a 43-year-old police officer, after being pulled over while driving a stolen car. "Once again we're faced with an irresponsible corporate act," Quayle said in a statement following the incident. "There is absolutely no reason for a record like this to be published by a responsible corporation," Quayle continued, before concluding "Today I am suggesting that the Time Warner subsidiary Interscope Records withdraw this record. It has no place in our society."

"Soulja's Story," which depicted a prison break and the murder of law enforcement, would be the first of his songs to catch the attention of political pundits, and create a war of words between 2Pac and Quayle, who the rapper would call out on "Pac's Theme" and "Peep Game," from his sophomore album, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. The backlash may have put Pac on the defensive, but he goes on the offensive on the reggae-tinged cut "Violence," an offering that sees him retaliating against corrupt cops committing police brutality before participating in a shootout to the death. Equality by any means and retaliation against law enforcement are two of the dominant themes on 2Pacalypse Now, but 2Pac lightens the mood with The Underground Railroad-produced number "Words of Wisdom," on which he kicks knowledge directed towards the youth of America, its corrupt ways, and their role in helping to turn the tables. Powered by a sample of "Chameleon" by Herbie Hancock, this jittery soundscape is a welcome departure from the other sonic contributions on the album and showcases Pac's underrated dexterity as a lyricist.

Connecting with deceased Live Squad member Stretch - who would have a falling out with 2Pac in the aftermath of the infamous 1994 shooting incident at Quad Studios - on "Crooked Ass Nigga," 2Pac and his friend-turned-foe would display an effortless chemistry with one another, resulting in one of the sleeper cuts on 2Pacalypse Now. However, one of the more endearing compositions on 2Pac's debut is "When My Homie Calls," an ode to loyalty and brotherhood among his close friends still coping with life in the gutter. Lyrics like "If you need my assistance, there'll be no resistance/I'll be there in an instant/Who am I to judge another brother, only on his cover/I'd be no different than the other" embody the bond between young men in the inner-city and makes this Big D The Impossible-produced standout a gem within 2Pac's cache of classic records.

2Pacalypse Now includes more than a few timeless tracks, but the most memorable of them all, without question, is "Brenda's Got A Baby." Produced by Deion "Big D" and The Underground Railroad, the song, which features guest vocals from r&b vocalist Dave Hollister, introduces us to a 12-year-old girl named Brenda who's been impregnated by a family member and attempts to dispose of her newborn baby after giving birth. The story ends with her falling into a life of prostitution and becoming a victim of murder, with the whereabouts of her baby unknown. The song, which would be accompanied by a music video depicting the fictional tragedy, would become the first of 2Pac's cautionary tales to truly resonate within the black community and prompt discussion in rap surrounding underage pregnancy, a topic which hadn't been broached at length until that point.

"Yes, when this song came out, no male rappers at all anywhere were talking about problems that females were having, number one," Pac once said when questioned about what prompted him to record the song. "Number two, it talked about child molestation. It talked about families taking advantages of families. It talked about the effects of poverty. It talked about how one person’s problems can affect a whole community of people. It talked about how the innocent are the ones that get hurt. It talked about drugs, the abuse of drugs, broken families how she couldn’t leave the baby, you know, the bond that a mother has with her baby. And how women need to be able to make a choice.” While it has been claimed that "Brenda's Got A Baby" is the product of a true story based on a 1991 incident in Brownsville, Brooklyn, regardless of the rhyme and reason, the song is a quintessential rap classic and among the greatest records in the genre's history.

2Pacalypse Now closes out on a strong note with "Part Time Mutha," a song examining the effects of drug addiction, child negligence, and sexual assault from the vantage point of a hardened young man, an abused teenage girl, and a single father. Produced by Big D The Impossible and featuring an interpolation of Stevie Wonder's "Part Time Lover, "Part Time Mutha" serves as a heartfelt account of broken homes and an effective finale to 2Pacalypse Now.

Following the release of his debut album, which eventually certified gold by the RIAA and became the lowest-selling release of 2Pac's career, the rapper would become a breakout star. Leading roles in films like Juice and Poetic Justice broadened his appeal. After reaching platinum success with Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z., 2Pac's career would be halted by a prison sentence following a rape conviction. He would later become an even bigger star while in prison, with his third album, Me Against The World, debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 on April 1, 1995. His release from prison later that year would set in motion his alliance with Death Row Records, unleashing the 1996 double-album All Eyez On Me, which catapulted him to the top of the rap game.

Unfortunately, on September 13, 1996, seven days after being shot in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Tupac Amaru Shakur passed away, leaving an unfinished chapter in the book of hip-hop. However, it was also the day that 2Pac ascended to icon status, his legacy destined to be celebrated in a rare air along with the likes of Lennon, Marley, Gaye, and Cobain until the end of time. Twenty-five years after its release, 2Pacalypse Now remains unsung in comparison to more celebrated 2Pac albums like All Eyez On Me, Me Against The World, and 7 Day Theory; all of which are hailed as some of the greatest rap albums of all time. Even a few releases out of the rap deity's posthumous collection are more frequently cited and receive more acclaim as a whole. Despite not being the greatest artistic achievement of his career, 2Pacalypse Now was the birth of a rap revolutionary that was nothing like we'd seen before, and as we know now, have yet to see again.

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25 Hip-Hop Albums By Bomb Womxn Of 2018

The female voice in hip-hop has always been present whether we've noticed it or not. The late Sylvia Robinson birthed the hip-hop music industry with the formation of Sugar Hill Records (and fostering "Rapper's Delight"), Roxanne Shante's 55 lyrical responses to fellow rappers were the first diss tracks and Missy Elliott's bold and striking music and visuals inspired men and women in the game to step outside of their comfort zones.

These pillars and many more have allowed the next generation of emcees to be unapologetically brash, truthful and confident in their music. Cardi B's Invasion of Privacy and Nicki Minaj's Queen might've been the most mainstream albums by womxn in rap this year, but there was a long list of creatives who brought the noise like Rico Nasty, Tierra Whack, Noname and Bbymutha. Blame laziness or the heavy onslaught of music hitting streaming sites this year, but many of the artists on this list have hibernated under the radar for far too long.

VIBE decided to switch things up but also highlighting rap albums by womxn who came strong in their respectively debut albums, mixtapes, EPs. We also had to give props to those who dropped standout singles, leaving us wanting more.

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VIBE / Nick Rice

10 Most Important Hip-Hop Artists Of 2018

We’ve reached another end to an eventful year in hip-hop. From rap beefs to new music releases and milestones, 2018 has been forged in the history books as a year to remember. But more important than the events that happened over the span of 12 months are the people who made them happen.

While fans received a large dose of music from our favorite artists and celebrated some of the most iconic album anniversaries, there are a few names that stood out as the culture pushers, sh*t starters, and all-around most significant artists of the year.

For your enjoyment, VIBE compiled a list of the top 10 most important hip-hop artists of 2018 based on a series of qualifications: 1) public actions - good, bad, and ugly; 2) music releases; 3) philanthropic/humanitarian work; and 4) trending moments.

Be clear: This list isn’t about the most influential, the most talented, who had the best music or tours. While we are commemorating artists for the work they’ve contributed to this year’s music cycle, we’re looking beyond that and evaluating how these particular artists have shaped conversations and pushed hip-hop culture forward.

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Stacy-Ann Ellis

NEXT: Intent On Impact, Kiana Lede Is Ready To Leave Her Mark

After learning The Alphabet Song as a little girl, Kiana Lede would always “get in trouble” for singing during class. “My mom was like, ‘why can't you focus?’” she laughs while reminiscing on her career’s formative years. “I was like, ‘I don’t know! Songs are just playing in my head all the time!’”

Whilst sitting in a shoebox-sized room at Midtown Manhattan’s Moxy Hotel on a humid September day, the now- 21-year-old Arizona-bred R&B songbird, actress and pianist speculates that she “may have had ADD.” However, she settles down after taking off her white cowboy boots and flops down on the ivory-clothed bed, demonstrating that her fiery Aries energy can be contained. Cool as a cucumber, Lede shuffles between chewing on banana candies and blowing smoke rings after taking drags from a pen, all while musing about her journey to becoming a Republic Records signee.

“I just grew up singing and doing musical theater, and reading a lot of books, and playing piano way too much in my room by myself,” she says, pushing her big, curly brown hair out of her face. Her expressive green eyes widen as she grins. “It was my thing. Nobody in my family does music, just me.”

After winning Kidz Bop’s 2011 KIDZ Star USA talent contest at 14 (which her mother secretly entered her into), Lede was signed to RCA Records. She was released from her contract and dropped from the label three years later. However, thanks to guidance and friendship from the Grammy-winning production duo Rice N’ Peas, (who’ve worked with G-Eazy, Trevor Jackson, and Bazzi), she released covers of songs such as Drake’s “Hotline Bling” while working to get her groove back. The latter rendition resulted in Republic Record’s Chairman and CEO Monte Lipman flying her out and signing her to his label.

“I got a second chance, which a lot of people don't get,” she reveals. “So I'm really happy that that all happened. I wouldn't be here right now in this room if that didn't happen.”

Thanks to the new opportunity she was given, Lede’s sound has evolved into something she’s proud of—equal parts soul, R&B and bohemian. As evidenced by the aforementioned ensemble, glimmers of each aesthetic can be found when observing her personal style as well. She released her seven-song EP Selfless in July, which features the bedroom-ready “Show Love” and “Fairplay,” which manages to fit in the mainstream R&B vein while also showcasing her goosebump-inducing vocals. The remix of the latter features MC A$AP Ferg. What pleases her most is that it not only garnered a favorable response from fans, but that those listeners found it so relatable.

“As an artist, it's really nerve-wracking for someone who writes about such personal things all the time,” she says. “Just the fact that it is my story… It's good to know that other people know that there's somebody on their side, and they're not the only ones going through it. A lot of people obviously feel this way, and have been through this same thing that I've been through. So I think that's cool.”

Although she moved to various places as a Navy serviceman’s daughter, Lede claims Phoenix as home. This means she hails from the same stomping grounds as rockers Alice Cooper, Stevie Nicks and the late Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. However, growing up in a mixed race household gave way to tons of sonic exploration outside of the rock-heavy scene.

“My dad's black, and both of my parents are from the East Coast,” she says of her musical and ethnic upbringing (she’s black, Latina and Native American). “[My parents] listened to a lot of R&B. My mom listened to a lot of SWV, TLC, Boyz II Men. I didn't realize I knew the songs until I got older. I played a charity show with T-Boz, and I was like 'why do I know these songs?'” Lede also says her father was a fan of neo-soul and gangsta rap, but she personally believes the early-2000s was the best time for music.

“[That era] influences a lot of my music subconsciously, and also, singer-songwriter stuff,” she continues. “I listen to a lot of early-2000s music because I played piano most of my life. I listened to Sara Bareilles, John Mayer.”

An open book, Lede details some of her struggles with anxiety and depression with the utmost candor. After being dropped from RCA, her trust in people diminished, and she experienced long bouts of depression after being sexually assaulted by someone in the industry. The track that she feels most deeply about is “One Of Them Days,” which tackles these issues head-on.

“When I'm anxious and depressed, it's really hard to be happy,” Lede says. “Most of the time, I can do it, but there are just some days where I literally can't separate the anxiety, and I can't tell anybody why, because I don't really know why myself… I was feeling very odd that day, didn't even know if I could write a song. Hue [Strother], the guy who I wrote the song with, he was like 'I totally get you. Lots of people go through this.’’’

As we’ve observed in headlines recently, mental health and being honest about life’s trickier situations can help someone going through the same thing, and Lede hopes her music provides encouragement to those who are struggling. As for how she’s learning to push through her mental health roadblocks, she meditates, runs, and is an advocate for therapy, especially in Trump’s America, where harrowing news reports dominate the cycle.

Another hallmark of Kiana Lede’s personality is her bleeding heart for others. She cites women of color, sexual assault victims and the homeless youth specifically as individuals she feels most responsible to help, since she is personally connected to all three. While she’s aiming to create a project that helps homeless youth specifically, she’s working hard this holiday season to ensure that they have a place to stay “at least for the night” after horrific wildfires displaced many individuals in California.

“My passion is really people. Music is just a way that I can get to helping people,” she says with a grin. “Helping people emotionally and physically are both very important. I never want to stop helping people. I feel if other people can respect me, and I can respect myself, then I'll be happy. Happiness is all that we strive for.”

Recently, Lede played her first headlining solo show, a one-night event at The Mint in Los Angeles. While she was thrilled to see that the show sold-out, she was even happier to see the faces of her audience members, who she said ‘looked like [her].’ “Mixed girls, brown girls, black girls, gay boys,” she explains over-the-phone. Even though she wasn’t in person to discuss her latest huge accomplishment, you could hear the pride and joy through her voice.

As for the future of her career, she’s looking forward to more acting roles. You may recognize her from the first season of MTV’s Scream, and after her recent Netflix series All About The Washingtons with legendary MC Rev Run was cancelled, she has been “reading for auditions” and is “negotiating” for a role in a film set to shoot in NYC. While her time with the Run-DMC frontman was brief, she says he taught her about the importance of “not compromising your art for money.”

What Kiana Lede is most excited about, of course, is making music. She hopes to work on a new EP and then release an album after that. The ultimate goal is to fully realize the dreams in her personal and professional life, and she assures she’s just getting started.

“I want to be able to look back on my career and think 'man, I really poured my heart into this music, and made music that mattered, and made music that made people feel a certain way, whether it's bad, good, sad, anxious, whatever it may be.’”

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