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Meaning of ‘Hit ‘Em Up – Single Version’ by ‘2Pac’ feat. Outlawz

Released: 1998

Features: Outlawz

“Hit ‘Em Up” by 2Pac featuring Outlawz is a fiery dis track aimed primarily at East Coast rappers, chiefly The Notorious B.I.G. (aka Biggie Smalls) and his Bad Boy Records crew. The song embodies the bitter East Coast vs. West Coast beef that defined a significant phase in the history of hip-hop during the mid-90s.

The opening lines of the song set the tone, with 2Pac making explicit personal attacks on Notorious B.I.G. and his crew. He accuses them of hypocrisy and betrayal, underscoring a shift in their allegiance. In the next few lines, he targets Puffy, the founder of Bad Boy Records, and calls out Junior M.A.F.I.A, Biggie’s associated group, as weak and fake.

2Pac further disrespects Biggie by claiming he slept with his wife, asserting dominance and betrayal. He also mocks Biggie’s status as a player, undermining his credibility. The references to “busting at them fools” and “bring it too” are alluding to the anticipated responses and potential confrontations stemming from this public diss.

The repetitive use of “Grab your Glocks when you see 2Pac” is a taunt to his enemies, challenging their courage. And the question “Who shot me?” is a reference to the 1994 shooting of 2Pac in New York, which he suspected Biggie and his crew to have orchestrated.

In the lines “Biggie, remember when I used to let you sleep on the couch…” 2Pac underscores the change in Biggie’s status and accuses him of copying his style, ungratefully forgetting his roots. It’s a palpable reference to the early days of hip-hop when camaraderie was expected and utilized for survival.

The Outlawz verses continue the onslaught, attacking Biggie and his crew with verses aimed directly at their credibility as artists and their street reputation. The references to “loc” (short for loco, meaning crazy) and “Thug Life” signify the grittier, real-world gangster lifestyle that they claim overpower the allegedly fake East Coast personas.

In the closing verses, 2Pac expands the scope of his rage to include other rappers like Mobb Deep and Chino XL. He maliciously mocks Prodigy’s sickle-cell anemia, demonstrating the lack of boundaries in this beef. He then signs off with a chilling threat to all his opponents, especially those aligned with Bad Boy Records.

The final lines encapsulate the central theme of this song: 2Pac’s unyielding allegiance to the West, his disdain for perceived fakes in the industry, and a defiant statement of the dominance of his crew, The Outlawz. “Hit ‘Em Up” is thus a capsule of the East vs. West Coast feud of the 90s, opening a graphic window into 2Pac’s anger and determination to claim supremacy in the hip-hop world.

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