I Ain’t Mad At Cha – Tupac Shakur
Heard you might be comin’ home, just got bail
Wanna go to the mosque, don’t wanna chase tail
I seems I lost my little homie he’s a changed man
Hit the pen and now no sinnin’ is the game plan
Tupac raps about how times have changed since he was a child, how friends have left him, how people have turned on him since his success, how things can’t ever be the same. In the first verse an old school friend who became a muslim doesn’t want to join him in his new life making rhymes & money: but they go back a long way together, and 2pac is not angry. Second verse is about an old girlfriend, third verse concerns his success. It’s a lovely lazy funky reminiscence, thoughtful and lyrical, wise and compassionate, one of the best tracks from his best LP All Eyes On Me. The sly slinky bass line and piano figure is a direct lift from 1983’s A Dream by Michigan Motown act DeBarge, not sampled but re-played faster and funkier. But it makes the track one of 2pac’s finest moments, dance-floor filler, late-nite groove, take your partner and slowdance. Not many rap tunes you can do that with.
It was recorded the day that Tupac was released from prison – Oct 12 1995, along with another track Ambitionz az A Ridah – both produced by Daz Dillinger. The soul singer Danny Boy sings the chorus hook. The track was released 2 days after Tupac was shot dead on Sept 13th 1996 in Las Vegas, probably by the Crips gang whom he had attacked hours earlier. I don’t suppose we’ll ever know what happened and much print and film has been spent on the attempt, with no clear conclusions. I personally find the East Coast/West Coast beef unlikely to be the cause of death.
Tupac was an educated man whose parents were both Black Panthers. He was raised in East Harlem and among his close friends from school were Jada Pinkett. But it was on the West Coast that he made his mark as a rapper, first with San Fransisco’s Digital Underground, then as himself. He was a charismatic actor too, clearly in demand and successful but appeared to enjoy flirting with the thug life which eventually killed him as a young man at the age of 25.
We were getting used to living in Brighton when this LP came out. All Eyez On Me was a blast of G-funk hip hop from the Dre stabled Death Row Records. It has 14 producers, including Suge Knight, boss of the label, Dr Dre, and Tupac himself. Apart from this one track it is an unapologetic glamourisation of gang-banging and thug life, not at all like his previous 2 LPs both of which feature more conscious raps. We moved to Brighton because it reminded us vaguely of Venice Beach in Los Angeles, one of the few ‘neighbor”-hoods where we’d considered buying a house, but eventually didn’t. You could hear gunshots there on some evenings as Anita Lewton could testify. You could buy weed from shady types on Pacific Ave. The whole LP reminded me of Los Angeles, Snoop Dog, California Love, all that bollocks, there I was on Brighton Beach reading the Argus with headphones on listening to gun this nigga and hoe that. The grooves are sensationally good, but the content is frankly embarrassing – apart from this one tune. And this one tune is a tune. Things were changing…
Then he got shot. The video was filmed with a new re-recorded version of the track played live, it features Tupac in heaven alongside other dead musicians Jimi Hendrix, Nat King Cole, Bob Marley, Louis Armstrong, Miles Davis, Marvin Gaye, Sammy Davis Jr. Danny Boy is also present as an angel.
I guess change is good for any of us…