25 Essential 2Pac Tracks, Ranked

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Not sure you heard, but today is Tupac Shakur’s birthday; were he still alive, the wildly talented and equally controversial performer and recording artist would have turned 45 years old today. The first trailer from his upcoming Benny Boom-directed biopic, starring Demetrius Shipp Jr. as 2Pac, dropped today.

As we often tend to do when an artist generates discussion around everything but the music, we decided to reflect on 2Pac’s music. He released five studio albums (including The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, recorded as Makaveli and finished just weeks before his death), but has had more albums (and bootleg mixtapes) drop after his death than while he was still alive. His prolific recording habits, and what that meant for his posthumous output, will forever be a part of his legacy.

Whether you know him as a loud-mouthed gangsta rapper with “THUG LIFE” tattooed on his belly, or a sensitive social justice warrior worried about the pregnant 12-year-old prostitutes in the ghetto, or even just a mama’s boy, one thing made clear from looking at 2Pac’s recorded output is that the dude contained multitudes. A trained actor and gifted storyteller, he so deftly wielded fictional narratives and characters that it’s foolish (and arguably, undesirable) to attempt to pin any of it to his actual life. But it also means his records are a rich tapestry of stories and people, filled with as much hope and joy as hate and cynicism.

So how do you sift through all the bootlegs and deep cuts to get to the essential 2Pac? Well, if you’re here, you simply click through for the definitive list of the 25 most essential tracks from one of hip-hop’s all-time most influential icons. Disagree? Fight me (on Twitter).

25) “Dopefiend’s Diner” – The Best Of 2Pac – Part 2: Life (2007)

24) “Me Against The World”- Me Against The World (1995)

23) “Hit ‘Em Up” – How Do You Want It (Single) (1996)

22) “Changes” – Greatest Hits (1998)

21) “Trapped” – 2Pacalypse Now (1991)

20) “Only God Can Judge Me”All Eyez On Me (1996)

19) “Ghetto Gospel” – Loyal to the Game (2005)

18) “Unconditional Love” – Greatest Hits (1998)

17) “Thugz Mansion (Acoustic)”Better Dayz (2002)

16) “Holla If Ya Hear Me”Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. (1993)

15) “Got My Mind Made Up”All Eyez On Me (1996)

14) “Picture Me Rollin’”All Eyez On Me (1996)

13) “My Block (Remix)” – Better Dayz (2002)

12) “All About U”All Eyez On Me (1996)

11) “To Live & Die in LA” – Makaveli – The Don Killuminati (1997)

10) “I Ain’t Mad At Cha”All Eyez On Me (1996)

9) “I Get Around” – Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. (1993)

8) “Hail Mary” – Makaveli – The Don Killuminati (1997)

7) “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted” – All Eyez On Me (1996)

6) “Ambitionz Az A Ridah” – All Eyez On Me (1996)

5) “Brenda’s Got a Baby” 2Pacalypse Now (1991)

4) “California Love” – California Love Single (1995)

3) “Dear Mama” – Me Against The World (1995)

2) “Me & My Girlfriend” – Makaveli – The Don Killuminati (1997)

1) “Keep Ya Head Up” – Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. (1993)