Tupac Shakur's Top 22 Songs

Tupac Shakur Performance At The Palladium NYC
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Tupac Shakur left behind a massive catalog of songs. Narrowing Pac's best to just 22 songs wasn't an easy task. 2Pac managed to touch on every subject worth rapping about, from racial injustice to teen pregnancy. As a tribute to one of hip hop's greatest minds, here are 22 of 2Pac's greatest songs.

22
of 22

"2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted" (Ft. Snoop Dogg)

This is the song that blew the doors off the hinges of the epic Biggie-Tupac feud. Anointed as the new prince of the left coast, 'Pac exhibited a new side of himself: a clever, young comrade of the gangsta rap movement of the mid-'90s, alongside Tha Doggfather. The dynamic duo spit murderous daggers at their East coast foes atop a smooth-as-silk party track. Homicide to bump in the ride. Only on the Westside. And 'Pac helped put 'em back on the map! 

21
of 22

"Until the End of Time (RP Remix)"

An eponymous remix track, this "Broken Wings"-sampling Richard Page remix matched Tupac's identity quite well. The beat grips the listener with its heavy bass, snares and urgent church bells as 'Pac spills his soul over with grit and honesty, even from the song's first bars: "Perhaps I was addicted to the dark side/ Somewhere inside my childhood witnessed my heart die." 

20
of 22

"Changes"

Perhaps the most recognizable Tupac track of them all, "Changes" possessed the rare duality of being both a commercial success and a vessel of social upliftment. As 'Pac would say, "some things will never change." Indeed. Songs like "Changes" remain timeless to this very day. 

19
of 22

"Hit 'Em Up" (Feat. Outlawz)

Vitriolic, spiteful, and outright inflammatory, Tupac elevated what was a bitter feud between former friends to outright warfare in this rapid-fire diss record aimed at Notorious B.I.G. Flanked by the marginally skilled ranks of the Outlawz, Pac unleashed private matters—including an alleged affair with Biggie's wife, Faith Evans—for the world to see, giving hip-hop one of its most memorable and venomous tracks. 

18
of 22

"Lord Knows"

A heartfelt lamentation of the ills of black society, an angry and frustrated Shakur struggles to find hope in this cut off Me Against the World. Introspective and spiritual, this song is the expression of Pac at his most honest: conflicted, disillusioned, and desperately clinging to the hope of redemption.

17
of 22

"Picture Me Rolling"

Funky production and guests Syke and CPO offer Tupac enough ammunition to propel an otherwise typical roll through the city block into an ambient portrait of street life. With his typical energy and lyricism, Pac provides a taunt to his critics and detractors, offering a triumphant statement of self in the face of adversity.

16
of 22

"When Thugz Cry"

Self-pity is often reserved for teenage girls, but 2Pac turns it into a song about the persecution that induces black-on-black crime in the African-American community.

15
of 22

"Life Goes On"

This gem from All Eyez On Me finds 2Pac nudging himself forward after losing some loved ones. "Life Goes On" is a bittersweet reminder that 'Pac had a knack for displaying strength in the face of adversity.

14
of 22

"I Wonder If Heaven's Got a Ghetto"

Returning to his role as a social rabble-rouser and plain-spoken prophet, 2Pac questions the failed institutions of the material world and wonders if the divine is more forgiving. Vulnerable yet assured, Pac doesn’t offer apologies, only hope in this earnest song.

13
of 22

"Ambitionz as a Ridah"

The fierce opening track for All Eyez On Me, Pac’s most commercially successful album, sets the tone immediately; menacing, gruff, and uncompromising, this song serves as a haunting foreshadowing of the violence and paranoia that would plague the rest of Tupac's career. 

12
of 22

"California Love" (feat. Dr. Dre)

Though it sometimes gets overshadowed by the more emotive "To Live & Die in LA," "California Love" is one of Tupac's best-known works. Dr. Dre's piano-laden production frames the soundbed for a celebratory ode to Cali, while Roger Troutman's vocoder-aided chorus adds some flavor to the mix.

11
of 22

"Trapped"

"One day I'm gonna bust/ Blow up on this society/ Why did you lie to me?/ I couldn't find a trace of equality!" As he proceeds to critique the so-called justice system and the prison complex, the tone in Tupac's voice grows more and more urgent with each bar. 'Pac finally lets out his aggravated tension in the last line: "I'd rather die than be trapped in a living hell/ They got me trapped!"

10
of 22

"Old School"

With the name-dropping and homage that takes place in Pac’s name today, it’s easy to forget that he was once an up-and-comer. On “Old School,” Shakur gives a nod to everyone from MC Lyte, Big Daddy Kane, and Rakim to Melle Mel, Slick Rick, and Chuck D. for paving the way for aspiring hip-hop artists. 

09
of 22

"My Block"

("Don't cry through your despair /I wonder if the Lord still cares, for us n***as on welfare /And who cares if we survive /The only time they notice a n***a is when he's clutching on a .45 /My neighborhood ain't the same, /Cause all these little babies goin crazy and they suffering in the game.") 'Pac shouts out his 'hood, while praying for better days.

08
of 22

"Me Against the World"

This title track from the 1995 masterpiece, Me Against the World, is a perfect example of 2Pac's eff-the-world, melodrama-inducing attitude.

07
of 22

"Hail Mary"

 Backed by a hazy cosmic soundtrack, 2Pac delivers a dose of vitriol on this standout track from 1996's Makaveli. In 2003, Eminem, 50 Cent, and Busta Rhymes famously summoned 'Pac's spirit as they re-imagined "Hail Mary" as a diss to Ja Rule and Irv Gotti. 

06
of 22

"So Many Tears"

Laid across the somber puffs of the harmonica solo from Stevie Wonder's "That Girl," "So Many Tears" finds Tupac pleading with God, renouncing past sins and his "mind full of demons." 'Pac recollects over the tears he's shed on account of the lives he's seen lost to violence. Truly one of his deepest and most personal moments.

05
of 22

"Only God Can Judge Me"

2Pac and Rappin' 4-Tay trade bars about imperfection on one hand and ponder afterlife on the other. Hear 'Pac predict his own death: "I hear the doctor standing over me, screaming I can make it /Got a body full of bullet holes layin here naked /Still I, can't breathe..." One of the standout moments on the critically acclaimed double album, All Eyez on Me

04
of 22

"To Live & Die in L.A."

From Venice Beach to the San Gabriel Valley and all the areas in between, Tupac loved the City of Angels and the city loved him. Sure, "California Love" was a great party track devoted to the Golden State, but "To Live & Die in L.A." was an authentic gesture of homage -- paid to his true adoptive home -- where it "never rains in the sun." The fact that it became one of his several swan songs further eternalized his name and never-ending presence in the city, even to this very day. 

03
of 22

"Brenda's Got a Baby"

On his debut single from 1991's 2Pacalypse Now, 'Pac narrates the story of a 12-year old female who accidentally conceives and is incapable of raising her child. 17 years later, many rappers have kept this discussion alive by churning their own versions of the song ("Runaway Love," "Lil Girl Gone"), but "Brenda's Got a Baby" still reigns supreme. 

02
of 22

"Dear Mama"

"Dear Mama," 2Pac's ode to his mother Afeni Shakur, is pretty much the unofficial Mother's Day hip-hop anthem. On this meticulously-crafted masterpiece, Shakur pats mama on the back for working tirelessly to put food on the table during the day and trying to liberate him from the perils of street life at night. 

01
of 22

"Keep Ya Head Up"

Perhaps the perfect showcase of the man's softer side, "Keep Ya Head Up" is arguably his best individual performance ever. Over DJ Daryl's rendition of Zapp & Roger's "Be Alright," Pac delivers a message about staying ahead of the struggle and showing respect to all, regardless of gender. ("Time to heal our women, be real to our women /And if we don't we'll have a race of babies /That will hate the ladies...")

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Adaso, Henry. "Tupac Shakur's Top 22 Songs." ThoughtCo, Oct. 14, 2017, thoughtco.com/tupac-shakurs-top-songs-2858001. Adaso, Henry. (2017, October 14). Tupac Shakur's Top 22 Songs. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/tupac-shakurs-top-songs-2858001 Adaso, Henry. "Tupac Shakur's Top 22 Songs." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/tupac-shakurs-top-songs-2858001 (accessed November 18, 2017).