Saturday, July 20, 1996

2pac “California Love” hit #1

California Love

2pac with Dr. Dre & Roger Troutman

Writer(s): Tupac Shakur, Andre Young, Roger Troutman, Larry Troutman, Mikel Hooks, Norman Durham, Ronald Hudson, Woody Cunningham, Joe Cocker, Chris Stainton, James Anderson (uncredited) (see lyrics here)

Released: December 3, 1995

First Charted: February 9, 1996

Peak: 12 US, 2 CB, 31 GR, 35 RR, 6 RB, 6 UK, 51 CN, 4 AU, 25 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 4.4 US, 0.6 UK

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 284.66 video, 586.14 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Tupac Shakur was born in 1971 in New York City but lived in Baltimore and eventually the San Francisco Bay Area. Both his parents were political activists and members of the Black Panther Party. His “revolutionary pedigree was one of his big selling points” SG when he launched his solo career in 1991 with the album 2Pacalypse Now. In 1993, he scored a pair of top-20 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 with “I Get Around” and “Keep Ya Head Up.” He was also becoming a movie star and finding himself in legal trouble. In 1993, he was arrested after a gunfight with two off-duty cops in Atlanta. He shot and wounded both of them, but claimed self-defense and the charges were dropped.

While on trial for sexual assault, he was shot five times. He was convinced it was set up by former friend and rapper Biggie Smalls and the subsequent rivalry between them “mushroomed into the East Coast/West Coast feud, which became the dominant narrative in rap music in the late ’90s.” SG While in prison for the assault charge, his third album Me Against the World debuted at #1, making him the first incarcerated artist to top the Billboard album chart. SG He would also land his first top-10 hit with “Dear Mama.”

Suge Knight, the “the notorious co-founder of Death Row Records,” SG arranged for 2Pac’s bond and appeal in exchange for him signing with Death Row, a move which furthered the East Coast/West Coast rivalry. 2pac’s label debut was the double album All Eyez on Me in 1996. It debuted at #1 and has since been certified diamond for ten million in sales.

The double A-side single “How Do U Want It” and “California Love” topped the Billboard Hot 100. The latter “might be the anthem that filled up the air in the summer of 1996.” SG It “might not be the best 2Pac song, and it may not be Pac’s definitive song” SG but “so much about ‘California Love’ is just perfect. There’s the Dr. Dre production with the royal horn-fanfares and the stabbing pianos. There’s computer-funk wizard Roger Troutman slathering his voicebox bleat all over everything…There’s Pac himself, bringing unreal levels of charisma to his verse.” SG

Dre built the “celebration fo the California hip-hop lifestyle” SF on a sample from Joe Cocker’s 1972 song “Woman to Woman” and incorporates Troutman’s 1981 song “So Ruff, So Tuff.” Dre and 2Pac “rap about the vibrant activity and creativity they constantly encounter, but also warn about the gang violence, crime and social ills.” SF

Less than two months later, 2Pac was murdered after a Mike Tyson boxing match in Las Vegas. “After he died, he became a symbol for a lot of things — Black pride, defiance, outlaw romance, unresolved internal conflicts, senseless slaughter.” SG The case remains unsolved.


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First posted 8/7/2023.

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