XXL celebrates 50 years of hip-hop with this moment:
Feb. 16, 1993: After the success of his 1991 debut album, 2Pacalypse Now, Tupac Shakur released his second project, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z., on this day in 1993. On the album, the late hip-hop icon delivered militant views and Black empowerment rhymes, but also drew backlash for his controversial lyrics.
Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. features a bevy of rappers, including Ice Cube, Ice-T and Treach of Naughty By Nature. Additionally, producers The Live Squad, DJ Bobcat, the late Jam Master Jay and more provide the bustling sounds on the LP. But two platinum-selling songs are the centerpieces on the album: the party track “I Get Around” and the uplifting song “Keep Your Head Up.” Both songs show the dichotomy of a young rap star trying to settle into his newfound fame following his powerhouse performance in the 1992 film Juice.
“I Get Around,” which was produced by the late Digital Underground producer Shock G (under the alias D-Flow Production Squad), wasn’t initially well-received. Tupac‘s bawdy verses about female groupies, plus his use of the word “ho” in reference to women, didn’t sit well with radio programmers.
The late radio icon Frankie Crocker, who was vice president of The Inner City Broadcasting Corporation at the time, a conglomerate of Black radio stations in New York, banned the song from its radio playlists in protest of the song’s misogynistic lyrics. Some West Coast radio stations followed suit as well. Nevertheless, “I Get Around” has become a fan-favorite among Tupac devotees.
While “I Get Around” may be viewed as hateful to women, “Keep Your Head Up” was the opposite, as it features Tupac preaching respect for Black women over the Five Stairsteps-sampled refrain, “Ooh child, things are gonna get easier/Ooh child things will get brighter.” The song’s compelling message connected with rap fans, and its popularity helped it reach No. 2 on the Billboard Hot Rap Songs chart during the week of Jan. 15, 1994.