Ranked: Tupac’s Top 14 Songs

By Sanjeev Mann (@Ask_Sanjeevs )

Known to many as one of the best and most influential rappers of all time, the legendary Tupac Shakur supplied the world with hits year after year until his controversial death in 1996. The King of Rap has sold over 75 million records in his short career which spanned over 100 plus songs, and still remains one of the highest selling rappers of all time.

After the release of his biopic ‘All Eyez On Me’ last week, now is the ideal time to go through all of his tracks to find his 14 strongest songs and pick which one is not only the most important but the best.

  1. Smile
    Producer: Scarface, Mike Dean, Tone Capone
    Album: The Untouchable

The lead single for Scarface‘s fourth album Untouchable, Smile released 3 months after Tupac’s death. It was one of the last songs he recorded, and what a way to sign off. An introspective gem that let the world know more about the late legend, it was the perfect way to end the era of Pac and say goodbye to the world.

  1. Me Against The World

Producer: Soulshock & Karlin
Album: Me Against the World

This track shows the rappers true feeling after a tough life and bad experiences from court cases, shootings, and 18 months in prison while trying to pursue a career.  When all this happens to someone, it’s no surprise you’d get the feeling that the world is against you: it’s definitely a track that will resonate with many and act as a quintessential fight song.

 

  1. 2 Of Americaz Most Wanted

Producer: Daz Dillinger
Album: All Eyez On Me

One of Pac‘s riskiest songs was this collaboration with the one and only Snoop Dog, recorded while Snoop was facing a murder charge. It also showed the dominance of Death Row Records during the golden age of Hip Hop even at a time when the likes of Nas and the Notorious B.I.G. were on the scene. It was a collab for the ages from two of the genres biggest stars.

  1. They Don’t Give A Fuck About Us

Producer: Johnny “J”
Album: Better Dayz

Coming from arguably his most influential and cohesive album, Better Dayz, this defines how he and many others felt when it came to the treatment of black people by police at the time. It also was another jab from Tupac towards the countries elites. The title says it all, and these beliefs were echoed by Michael Jackson a few years prior in his song They Don’t Care About Us.

  1. How Do You Want it

Producer: Johnny “J”
Album: All Eyez On Me

Released in 1996 and featuring R&B duo K-C and JoJo, How Do You Want was a club banger, but with a message, including a dig at one of Gangsta Rap’s biggest critics, politician, and civil rights activist C. Delores Tucker. She, at the time, heavily criticised the genre and especially Pac for misogynistic and sexually explicit rap lyrics that degraded women but the case was dismissed. Tupac rapped; “C. Delores Tucker you’s a motherfucker / Instead of trying to help a nigga you destroy a brother” and this certainly sent the message.

  1. Only God Can Judge Me

Producer: Doug Rasheed and Harold Scrap Fretty
Album: All Eyez On Me

I couldn’t trust my own homies, just a bunch of dirty rats” sums it up. Pac couldn’t even trust his closest ‘homies’ at the time especially after the East/West rap divide. Tupac thought Biggie set him up to get shot when he was robbed in 1994, which in turn, began the warfare between the two coasts. Also this refers to Pac being judged his whole life. He also refers to being “trapped from birth” which is a common theme throughout his lyrics.

  1. Changes

Producer: 2Pac
Album: Greatest Hits

Easily one of his most recognisable songs and biggest posthumous releases, Changes made waves in commercial success, as well as socially. He talks about everyday struggle, and the reality of low income for many families in the US, especially the black community. He wanted to represent the poorer and less fortunate sections of society and he certainly did that with this hit. “Thing’s will never be the same” suggests that, even now, this change has been limited.

  1. Hail Mary

Producer: Hurt-M-Badd, Tommy Daugherty, Lance Pierre and Justin Isham
Album: The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory

Providing quote after quote of great lyricism, this track really hits home the rappers death. The track comes from his first posthumous album, and under a new stage name. Makaveli. Probably one of Pac’s most commercially successful singles, the song shows Makaveli leaving the violence behind him and praying to god with the introduction of Biblical messages, and references. “And God said he should send his one begotten son To lead the wild into the ways of the man“(a quote from John 3:1), ” Follow me! Eat my flesh, flesh of my flesh!” – get what I mean? It incredibly took only an hour to produce.

  1. Ambitionz Az A Ridah

Producer: Daz Dillinger
Album: All Eyez On Me

The first track on the legendary ‘All Eyez on Me’ album, ‘Ambitionz Az A Ridah’ was according to many the first song he recorded after his time in prison. It shows off some improved lyricism as well as a new record label. Pac had signed for the biggest hip hop label in the world, Suge Knight’s Death Row Records .”This life as a rap star is nothin’ without guard” shows the danger he faced even with women and money by his side, he was never safe. He also rhymes about his own problems such as suicidal thoughts but then talks about death to his enemies. The track also has references  to reincarnation, after making the move to Death Row, as well as leaving prison. He was a new man that had to get things off his chest.

  1. Me And My Girlfriend

Producer: Big D, Hurt-M-Bad, Makaveli
Album: The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory

This is when things get serious: it’s the top 5! Another track from his post prison album, ‘Me And My Girlfriend’ typified his change in style. From sending social messages, to now rapping about guns (yeah when he says girlfriend he’s talking about his gun). He had now fully embraced ‘gangsta rap’. It was a track with dark meanings of murder and shootings which shows the ‘reincarated’ Pac at Death Row. The metaphors are clever, including “Hands on the steering wheel, blush while she bail out bustin’” referring to Pac shooting out of the car window. Known for featuring one of his best hooks, the tracks chorus was used by various artists including Jay Z’s 2003 version ‘Bonnie and Clyde 03’.

  1. California Love

Producer: Dr. Dre
Album: All Eyez On Me

Arguably Pac’s biggest track, California Love defined the G-funk era. Dre was now the best producer around which made the collaboration between the two stars colossus and, from it, an anthem was born. But the relationship didn’t last long, when the pair fell out because Dre refused to testify at Snoop Dog’s murder trial.  It was released in 1995 as Tupac’s comeback single after prison, and is probably his most known and commercially successful single. The man himself said “I don’t want it to be about violence. I want it to be about money.” The song itself also pays homage to L.A. and especially black neighborhoods such as Watts and arguably the home of Hip Hop, Compton. “In the city, the city of Compton” mirror’s the status of Compton as one of founding homes of the genre. The beat from Dre was energetic, and Pac’s rhyming and rapping was on point. This really was an artist at their best.

 

  1. I Aint Mad At Cha

Producer: Daz Dillinger
Album: All Eyez On Me

This was Pac again showing his more peaceful and perhaps more ‘real’ self. It is an emotional track telling the story of a fragile and changing relationship (maybe an old friend of Pac) rather than your typical ‘gansta’ tune. It’s sensitivity marks comparison with the likes of ‘Brenda’s got a baby’ yet the opposite of the rebellious and outspoken Makaveli. He talks about how people always change, especially those spoken about in the song: “Change, shit, I guess change is good for any of us”. With the title of the song Pac announces he ‘aint mad’ at his friend for changing. Biggie Smalls also used this line as a diss on pack on ‘Long Kiss Goodnight’: “Slugs missed ya, I ain’t mad at cha”. All this is why Pac is often accused as playing ‘the good guy’ in an era of violence that he was undeniably a part of, but regardless, his gift of telling a meaningful story is  heartfelt.

  1. Hit Em Up

Producer: Johnny “J”
Album: B-Side

This was the moment it officially hit the fan between the east, and west coast. The war began with a bang and one of the biggest diss tracks of them all. Pac fired heavy shots and his ex-best friend, the one and only Notorious B.I.G.. The feud between the former ‘homies’ had begun. Pac was mad and felt betrayed by a friend. Most of you hip hop fans will know Pac accused him and Puffy (Puff daddy) of setting him up to be shot at a studio in 1994. It was started off with a royal “fuck yo’” to Biggie and all his family. He now felt he trusted a single person, not even his own crew the ‘Outlawz’. Tupac announced his allegiance to the West coast, and talks about death row killing the East’s most prominent label bad boy entertainment he rapped “West Side, Bad Boy killers“. He not only dissed Biggie, and Puff but his whole entourage too. This was the track that opened the gates to hundreds of disses between the two coasts and in turn created an ill-fated war that Hip Hop would never forget. It was most definitely a game changer.

  1. Dear Mama

Producer: Tony Pizarro
Album: Me Against the World

Here it is then, my no. 1 Tupac track is the incredible ‘Dear Mama’, a track that every single person on the planet can relate to through their admiration of their mother. This was all about his roots and exactly where he came from. Afeni Shakur was key to the Tupac we all knew and loved at the time, and he made sure that everyone knew about it. He was never one to be shy to rap about his own problems and frailties and this was a perfect example. When Tupac started out rapping, he lived a relatively stable lifestyle in comparison to many at the time, and he even got the chance to study at Baltimore school of Arts – on the other hand, his mother was struggling for work and was linked to the infamous black panther political party. Rapping “When I was young, me and my mama had beef Seventeen years old, kicked out on the streets” Pac was forced to move home to California, and this was when he began to live the street life. Regardless, the respect he held for his mother was huge. It was his “Mama” that kept him on the straight and narrow despite her various problems. This was owed to his mother, who was the only real inspiration he had in his life. “‘Cause through the drama I can always depend on my mama / And when it seems that I’m hopeless/ You say the words that can get me back in focus” “I gotta thank the Lord that you made me/ There are no words that can express how I feel/ You never kept a secret, always stayed real/ And I appreciate how you raised me.”


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