In an interview with MTV News in June 2000, Monica revealed that she was planning to start work on a follow-up to her 1998 album, The Boy Is Mine, throughout the summer season, with a first single to be released by October of the same year. Expressing her interest in reteaming with the core musicians she had worked with on her second album, including frequent collaborators Dallas Austin, Rodney Jerkins, David Foster, Daryl Simmons, and Jermaine Dupri, the singer expected the album to be released in the first quarter of 2001 following her involvement with Oscar Mayer's Jingle Jam Talent Search contest and the filming of her first major motion picture, the MTV Films production Love Song (2001). The following month, personal tribulations put a temporary halt on the album's production when her former boyfriend Jarvis "Knot" Weems committed suicide. In July 2000, Monica and Weems were together at the graveside of Weems's brother, who had died in an automobile accident at age 25 in 1998, when Weems, without warning, put a gun to his head and shot himself to death. Knot left behind a daughter from a previous relationship, who Monica took into care after going into hiatus. "Jarvis' death had everything to do with me not working," she said in 2001. "I was not able [...] I was working all these hours after it happened, [but] I realized in the midst of everything, I couldn't handle it. I'm not ashamed to say that I decided to step back and get the help I needed to really come from within."
In the first quarter of 2001, her single "Just Another Girl", taken from the soundtrack of the 2001 motion picture Down to Earth, was released. An uptempo R&B track dealing with relationship issues, Monica noted that the song didn't "pertain to the stage in my life I'm in, so I'm really waiting and looking for material that will take you to some of the depths in my soul. It was very difficult to juggle all of those things and then try to be a family for his kids at the same time. I'm hoping to be an inspiration to a lot of young women." Monica eventually decided to return to the recording studio to prepare the release of her third album in fall 2001. Over the course of the sessions Clive Davis, who had taken the singer with him from his former label, Arista Records, to his latest venture, J Records, emerged as Monica's new mentor, replacing producer Dallas Austin, while longtime contributor Jermaine Dupri served as the album's executive producer. Throughout the process, Monica primarily focused on working with her usual stable of producers, which also included Austin, production team Soulshock & Karlin, Bryan Michael Cox, and Rodney Jerkins and his Darkchild crew. Though she "had never thought about writing much" by then, her producers encouraged the singer to intensify her work on the album and to write and contribute own lyrics and ideas to the songs. "I didn't have one concept in mind: I just thought about the situations and that they might be worth sharing." In the end Monica came up with nine songs for her third album, which she declared as "quite serious" because of its more adult subject-matter and moreover called her "'coming of age' record" with the view to "establish the kind of fans who will be with me for the next ten years and more ..." Although the album was tentatively titled I'm Back and Monica at one time or another, the longplayer was eventually named after the album's lead single, "All Eyez on Me."
Though originally expected to be released worldwide, All Eyez on Me received a wide release on October 21, 2002 in Japan only. The set was initially scheduled for a US release in July 2002 and then pushed back to September before setting a November 12 release date. By the time it was being scheduled for domestic release however, All Eyez on Me had been heavily bootlegged in Japan and become widely available through Internet file-sharing services. In addition, the first single released from the project, "All Eyez on Me" had experienced moderate success on the charts, while follow-up "Too Hood," also got a lukewarm response. As a result, the album was pulled from stores days after the release and Monica's label J Records asked her to substantially reconstruct the record with a host of new producers, including musician Missy Elliott who would emerge as the new version's executive producer.
Upon its limited release, All Eyez on Me received generally mixed reviews from music critics. Michael Endelman wrote in his early review for The Boston Globe that "like recent releases from Christina Aguilera and Brandy, the new album from Monica finds the 21-year-old R&B singer trying to escape her teen-pop past. Thankfully, the result is more successful than Aguilera's recent foray into brazen sexuality and strained grunge rock. Her first album in four years, All Eyez on Me continues the pleasant, light-hearted soul that Monica is known for, while expanding into more mature subject matter."Blender magazine, on the other hand, rated the album two out of five stars only.
Though Rodney Jerkins-produced "Ain't Gonna Cry No More" was considered to be released as a single at times, All Eyez on Me yielded two singles only. Its lead single, "All Eyez on Me", entered the top 40 in Australia and New Zealand but barely made it to the top 70 of the US BillboardHot 100 chart and peaked at number 24 on the component Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart. The second single, "Too Hood", featuring Jermaine Dupri, received a limited vinyl release only since J Records denied to produce a music video for the song. It, however, was included on a limited edition bonus CD with re-worked After the Storm in 2003.