Though his legend stands as a powerful pillar within hip-hop lore, it's sometimes easy to take 2Pac Shakur and his music for granted. Having blessed us with five albums before his untimely passing at the age of twenty-five, Pac's vast collection of songs paint a nuanced and multifaceted portrait of one of hip-hop's enduring figures. A poet, a thug, a love, an OG, and an accomplished chronicler of his environment, selecting one particular chapter of Pac's extensive story is no easy task. Yet there's something alluring about the haunting reflections of "Troublesome 96," a song originally premiered on his posthumous Greatest Hits album in 1996.
The Johnny J produced instrumental strikes a sinister tone from the jump, in keeping with Pac's larger than life spirit of rebellion. Though never quite an antagonist within the public eye, Pac found himself facing foes at damn near every corner. During a concert, Pac premiered the song as "new shit," introducing the track with a heated PSA at Nas and Mobb Deep. "There's this n***a named Nas, and he kicking it with some n***as named Mobb Deep," begins Pac. "And they kick it with some n***as named Bad Boy, but I say fuck em' all! So I'm about to take this n***a beat, and whoop his ass with his own motherfuckin' beat!"
For added context, check out the live version, which reveals the passion with which Pac performed. It's truly a shame that he's no longer among us, though the legacy he left behind has developed a life of its own. The final verse, which finds Pac imagining his enemies and their families, sparking struggles with his own morality, is a reminder of the passion which he penned his complex reflections. Rest in peace to Makaveli, one of the greatest to ever do it.
The whole damn song.