“Only God Can Judge Me” by 2Pac (ft. Rappin’ 4-Tay)
The phrase “only God can judge me” is kind of ubiquitous in contemporary American society. But people who use it nowadays may not know that it was actually Tupac Shakur (1971-1996) who coined the phrase on his track of the same name.
Indeed a refusal to live according to the expectations of others was part of Tupac’s celebrity persona. And this song highlights some of the reasons he had adopted such a mentality. For instance, he acknowledges America as a place where “each and every Black male is trapped”, as in having limited opportunities for freedom, peace and upward-social mobility. And being a Black male himself, like his peers he is ‘stressed’ out as a result. And this is also largely due to living in an environment where he can easily be the victim of a homicide.
Indeed Shakur spends a considerable amount of time having “homicidal fantasies”, as in imagining his own death. This fantasy is based on his ‘body being full of bullet holes’. This particular part of the song, though presented as being fictional in nature, is said to actually allude to an assassination attempt that was made on Tupac’s life in 1994. And apparently the idea that all of the these realities are supposed to point to is others not having the right to judge the controversial personality of the artist due to the various threats and pressures that he has to deal with.
Rappin’ 4-Tay steps in
Meanwhile Rappin’ 4-Tay also deals with the issue of gun-based violence. But his stance is more along the lines of presenting the streets as a place where homicides are the norm. He espouses the idea of if you don’t get your enemy first, then he will get you. And accordingly a few bars are dedicated to detailing him ‘creeping’ on, as in hunting down, an opp. And the way such seemingly fits into the overall theme of the track is by acknowledging that the law of the streets do not apply in the court of law. Thus even though the legal system may condemn him for his actions, they have no right to actually judge him.
Indeed 4-Tay perceives the aforementioned scenario of ambushing his enemy as self-defense. But he also knows that an actual courtroom will not entertain such an explanation.
4-Tay also states a sense of brotherhood with Tupac, even stating that he had Pac’s back when he “was locked down”. In fact according to an interview he gave, the origin of this song can ultimately be traced back to him showing Tupac love while he was incarcerated in 1994. So we can conclude that 4-Tay wants the world to know that he does in fact have Tupac’s back.
And conclusively, the idea this song is based on is simple. The rappers understand that their actions will not be looked upon favorably by some. But they are not prone to change their ways as a result. Instead they are going to keep doing what they do, operating based on the understanding that at the end of the day, it is only the judgment of God that truly matters.
What 2Pac Said About “Ghetto Gospel”
Interestingly enough, “Ghetto Gospel” was originally intended to be a Christmas song. That may be where Tupac got the whole “gospel” motif from in the first place, since like Christmas it is also associated with the figure of Jesus Christ. But more specifically, the concept of a ghetto gospel is intended to allude to the quintessential 2Pac ideology of keeping it real. According to Pac, an individual is always expected to stand up for what he believes in. But in this particular case, such an idea is mixed with his aspiration to be a pious individual, as in someone God is cool with. The rapper recognizes the latter goal as being a process where he will inevitably make mistakes and realize his own shortcomings, especially considering his determination to also remain ghetto, i.e. true to his personal roots.
Yet he will not let up the pursuit of godliness under the belief that the Most High is actively working with him to bring this ambition to pass.
So what Pac perceives as the “ghetto” element of this gospel is his intent to practice his own brand of individualism and continue to do the things he personally feels are right while simultaneously searching for a higher-moral path. So it is basically the gospel as we traditionally know it mixed with the “Thug Life” dogma which Tupac is famous for.
In an old interview with MTV, below are the words Pac used in describing “Ghetto Gospel”:
Birth of “Only God Can Judge Me”
According to Rappin’ 4-Tay, the story behind the recording of this song is that he did indeed send Tupac Shakur some gifts while the latter was incarcerated in New York, since the two of them were lifelong friends. Then after Pac was released, one day they unexpectedly ran into each other in Los Angeles. This led to them spending the whole “day and night” chillin’, much to the dismay of Tupac’s label boss under Death Row Records, Suge Knight. The insinuation is that Tupac was supposed to be in the studio as opposed to out partying. So “to calm Suge Knight down” (Mr. Knight is not known as being the most-civil individual), he and Tupac whipped up “Only God Can Judge Me”.
Release Date of “Only God Can Judge Me”
“Only God Can Judge Me” came out as part of Pac’s album “All Eyez on Me”. This was a collaborative issuance between Death Row Records and Interscope Records. It was released on 13 February 1996. FYI, “All Eyez on Me” also produced Pac’s famous “Ghetto Gospel“.
Tupac and Rappin’ 4-Tay wrote this song with additional input from its producers, D. Rasheed and H.S. Freddie.
Prior to “Only God Can Judge Me” had 2Pac and 4-Tay ever worked together?
No. Despite being buddies, this is the only track Tupac and Rappin’ 4-Tay dropped together while Shakur was still alive. However, Pac was featured, posthumously, on 4-Tay’s song “Playaz Dedication” in 1997.