Beats that sound the same – West Coast decadence, the lot of them; features everywhere; oversung choruses everywhere (even if they don’t make sense; the one on “Can’t C Me” practically invalidates 2Pac’s anger on the same track); a rapper who would rather pretend to be real than say anything of value (Rolling Stone’s Laura Jamison’s review for the album points out that here, 2Pac, who “would play the thug one second and exude vulnerability the next” has been reduced into “a cardboard cutout of a ‘playa’”); misspelt song titles everywhere to reflect that fact that’ll make your English degree want to curl into fetal position; and if you have the version that comes with the original “California Love,” you get 2Pac’s longest lasting gift to the world – autotune more than a decade ahead of schedule. (The 6-minute remix that’s present on all versions isn’t fit to shine the original’s shoes.) Make no mistake: if you’re one of the people who go to clubs, think that modern hip-hop’s gone to shit, and proceed to run home to spin “real” hip-hop records like this one, you have no one to blame for the state of mainstream hip-hop except yourself. This is pop rap, people.132 fucking minutes of it.
As everyone else points out, the second disc isn’t worth talking about at all; 2Pac was contractually obliged to make three albums under Death Row Records for bailing him out of jail, and the second disc – counting as a second album – feels like he was trying to get out of it as fast as possible. The first disc has some great songs, “Ambitionz Az a Ridah” most notably, with a bouncy keyboard line to soundtrack your drive to the grocery store and back, a string hook instead of a sung one and really subtle female vocals underneath it all (nice of them to put the best song at the start) and “I Ain’t Mad at Cha,” where the introspective 2Pac comes out to play. Other noteworthy moments include 2Pac dropping the line “I’m moving you stupid bitches, vicious telekenesis” on the inexplicably overly long “No More Pain” (other songs suffer the same problem, ie. “What’z Ya Phone #”) and the beat switch after the first chorus of “How Do You Want It” that’s one-note and sounds goofy as all hell, but somehow works.
The ugly truths that no one wants to talk about: quantity is not a quality; the “less is more” equation also means “more is less”; there’s more to hip-hop than just rapping; 2Pac didn’t have a single good album in his discography and is thus, the single most overrated artist in the history of overrated artists.