The year was 1995. Tupac Shakur was sitting in his jail cell after being found guilty of charges of “first-degree sexual abuse.“
Although he admitted that he did not do the crime itself, he did apologize for not stopping a terrible situation from happening.
Hip Hop was on pins and needles at that time, and quite possibly the most aggressive it has ever been. Months earlier, Tupac was shot at Quad Studios in New York City. He was also facing charges for allegedly sexually assaulting a woman at a Manhattan hotel back in 1993.
The shooting sparked a war between Tupac and Bad Boy Records, which included his former “homie” The Notorious B.I.G. after feeling “crossed” after the incident. This sparked a huge East Coast vs West Coast war.
On February 14, 1995. he began serving a sentence of 1.5 to 4.5 years in prison due to the sexual assault case.
It was eight months later, in October 1995, that Tupac signed a deal with Death Row Records. The deal was for three albums for a total of $3.5 million. It also allowed Pac to escape Riker’s Island and post $1.4 million bail to continue his life and career.
Ready to release all of the anger and aggression that has been building for months as he gained information on the people he claimed set him up on the sexual assault case — as well as the shooting at Quad Studios — 2Pac traveled from New York to Los Angeles, then entered a car for two hours after being released from jail to go straight to the studio.
Daz Dillinger from Tha Dogg Pound was working on a beat at the time. A beat sampled from one of the most unlikely sources.
Back in 1985, Pee-Wee Herman’s big adventure was released. During the movie, there’s a scene where the nerdy, and socially awkward character entered a biker bar where he nearly gets killed by a ton of bikers. After being granted one last request, Herman jumps on the table, and dances to The Champs 1958 hit “Tequila,” in one of the most memorable scenes from the film.
Who would have thought that scene, including one of the most awkward characters in the world, would influence one of the most gangsta songs of this generation?
Tupac enters Cam-Am studios in Los Angeles for the first time since being let out of prison. 45 minutes later the first verse is finished. The Pee-Wee Herman inspired track sets the tone for the entire two-disc project as the first song you hear on the album. It is named “Ambitionz Az A Ridah.”
Pac was tirelessly working on this album for months. Recording and completing at least two to three songs a day.
Just before the calendar hit 1996, Suge Knight was ready to start rolling out the hype behind his release.
Dr. Dre reportedly wasn’t too excited about 2Pac’s signing to Death Row, and with his frustrations with the way the label was running, he was ready to leave and start up Aftermath Records.
One of the first records that were being planned to be released on this new label was “California Love.” It was recorded during a barbecue back in 1995, as he planned for the next chapter in his career.
As the story goes, Tupac came over and dropped the verse in 20 minutes. Suge then reportedly knew it was going to be big and made Dre give it up as Pac’s first single off his album.
The remix, track 12 on the first disc, includes a sample of Kleeer’s 1984 hit “Intimate Connection,” but it was the original track, the one that was meant for Dr. Dre’s sequel to The Chronic that became one of the biggest songs in hip hop history.
Finally, on February 13, 1996, four months after being released from prison, and just over a year after being shot in New York City, Tupac released the first mainstream double-disc album called All Eyez On Me.
The album fulfilled the first two of three albums meant to be released on Death Row Records, and is regarded today to be one of the greatest projects of all time.
It is one of the rare albums to go diamond as it has sold over 10 million copies to date, after selling 5 million in his first week. The project is also the last album before Pac was tragically shot, and eventually killed on September 13, 1996.
All Eyez On Me produced multiple successful singles such as “2 Of Americaz Most Wanted,” “All About You,” and “I Ain’t Mad At Cha,’ which first aired one day before his tragic shooting.
“How Do You Want It” was released in June of 1996 with a B-side that took lots of attention off the album itself, and shed more light on the beef against Puff Daddy and Notorious B.I.G. That track is called “Hit ’Em Up.”
Its place in history will always be clouded slightly by the huge turmoil of the east coast vs west coast beef that took away two of the best hip hop artists of all-time much too soon.