Photo: Al Pereira (Getty Images)
It’s been more than twenty years since one of the most talented and influential rappers ever, 2Pac, unexpectedly left us, but his spirit still seems to be with us. To many people, he was not just a musician, but an icon that fought for the rights of black, underprivileged people in the USA and the world. Fighting the unjust system, he often got into trouble with the law and the opposing “East Coast,” which ultimately resulted in his untimely death under suspicious circumstances. As we celebrate Tupac Shakur’s upcoming induction into the Hall of Fame, let’s take a look at 2Pac’s greatest hits songs and see what made them so great.
Brenda’s Got a Baby
2Pac’s debut album, 2Pacalypse Now, released in 1991 brought us some amazing tunes and saw him tackle some serious social problems. One of these songs is the well-known Brenda’s Got a Baby where Shakur discussed the issue of teen pregnancy and its causes. In the song, Brenda is a 12-year-old girl living in the ghetto that ends up having a baby she can’t possibly support. What makes matters worse is she gets no support from baby’s father or the government, while the society generally looks down upon her. Tupac was inspired by real events he read in the newspapers about a young mother abandoning her child. He realized that the problem was much deeper.
Growing up in the unforgiving ghetto, Tupac often reflected on his childhood and the problems he encountered. One bright aspect of it all was, certainly, the strength he got from his mother, Afeni Shakur. This former political activist and a Black Panthers member managed to bring up her two children successfully, despite numerous hardships that followed the ghetto life. Dear Mama is Tupac’s emotional tribute to his sacrificing mother and its power lies in its true sincerity. The song was even added to the National Recording Registry because of its cultural importance.
2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted
The song called 2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted was a single from Tupac’s album All Eyez on Me. Released in 1996, just a few months before his death, the song is filled with frustration from all the people that want to harm him or put him back in jail. Along with Snoop Dogg, Tupac makes a stand and presents himself as one of the two most wanted men in the country. Even his album’s title All Eyez on Me seems to carry the same message – everyone is watching his every move, waiting for a slip-up and an opportunity to get him down. All Eyez on Me is also the name of an upcoming biographical movie about 2Pac set to be released this year. Whether it would offer us some new facts about 2Pac’s life and work, we have yet to see.
One of 2Pac’s most famous songs, that is still as popular today as it was back then is, no doubt, California Love, which he made with his friend and long-time associate, Dr. Dre. California Love is an upbeat, hip-hop tune that announced Tupac’s return to the stage in 1995 after he had been released from prison. What’s most interesting about this song is the fact that, even though he was abused by the system and wrongfully imprisoned, the song harbors no hate, but instead rises above and fights injustice with love for his personified California. Even today, the catchy beat and the famous talk box chorus easily put smiles on people’s faces.
Letter 2 My Unborn
After his death in 1996, a number of albums were released in Tupac’s name featuring various mixes of his unused materials that show just how prolific rapper he really was. One of the most haunting songs tunes from the 2001 album Until the End of Time is certainly Letter 2 My Unborn where Tupac addresses his hypothetical child and offers him various pieces of advice in case he doesn’t live to see him. Set to the melody of Michael Jackson’s soft hit Liberian Girl, Letter 2 My Unborn is a touching confession of a man sensing his near demise.
Starin’ through My Rearview
During his life, while his popularity was at an all-time high, Tupac also tried his luck in the film industry and did a couple of movies including the masterful 1997 Gridlock’d featuring veteran Tim Roth and the beautiful Thandie Newton. That same year, after his death, another movie by the name of Gang Related was released and featured some of Tupac’s new, unreleased material. One of the songs was the amazing Starin’ through My Rearview that, along with some others, became much more meaningful after his death. Set to the melody of Phil Collins’ In the Air Tonight, the song really functions as Tupac’s goodbye to the world and all its troubles. The idea is that distancing ourselves from our problems offers a fresh perspective and often leads to a meaningful solution.
Finally, there’s the song that pretty much summarized 2Pac’s ideas and remained embedded into the minds of so many 90s children – Changes. The song uses a melody from “The Way It Is” by Bruce Hornsby and the Range but, in time, became much more popular than the original. The tune perfectly accompanied Tupac’s deep voice and carried an important message. In a way, as the title predicted, the song actually changed the public’s perception of rap music and its creators. It was released posthumously, after his violent death, which only made the message that much stronger.
Which one of these entries do you feel really belongs on the list of 2Pac’s greatest hist songs? Why?