Thursday, June 16 marked what would have been Tupac Shakur‘s (also known as 2Pac) 51st birthday. Though he left the world early, at the age of 25 in 1996, he gifted us a legacy of hip-hop music and still remains one of the most influential artists of all time.
Twenty-six years after his death, people still remember the west coast rapper’s talent and his activistic lyrics for equality. On his birthday, Twitter was filled with pictures of him in his unique style, golden smile, and greatest quotes. In honor of the one that truly changed the rap game, here are some of 2pac’s best songs.
“California Love,” featuring Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman
The 1995 song was a homecoming and celebration for Tupac when he returned from prison and entered back into the world as Death Row Records’ newest talent. It’s one of Tupac’s most known and successful songs, reaching number one on Billboard Hot 100.
Dr. Dre wrote the song and intended it for himself. But, Tupac heard the track and wanted in on it. Two versions of the song were made, the first, with three verses from Dr. Dre, was intended for The Chronic II (also known as Dr. Dre’s 2001), while the remix went on 2Pac’s All Eyez on Me. Today, the only person that has possession of the song is DJ Jam, who is Snoop Dogg’s personal concert DJ.
“Ambitionz Az A Ridah”
The song became an intro to Tupac’s new persona—a harder more in-your-face, grittier thug persona, marking Tupac’s greater association with the gangster rap label, Death Row Records. It became Tupac’s theme song and entered rap into the realm of what it is today.
Tupac looks to the past and to his childhood in ‘Dear Mama,’ depicting the poverty he endured and his mother’s addiction to crack. Despite these obstacles, Tupac believes that his love and respect for his mother overturns the bad memories of his past.
Beyond the meaning of the song, it is considered one of the greatest hip-hop songs ever, as well as, one of the most historically, culturally, and aesthetically important songs to reflect life in the U.S. ‘Dear Mama’ became Tupac’s first top 10 hit as it entered the number nine spot on the Billboard Hot 100.
Originally recorded in 1992, the song was released after Tupac’s death in 1998, reworking other unreleased songs and re-using lyrics from “I Wonder If Heaven Got a Ghetto.” The song hits on Tupac’s activism, from the war on drugs, police, and racism, to reconciliation between black and white people, and the vicious cycle of African American culture from poverty.
The song was nominated for Best Rap Solo Performance at the Grammy Awards in 2000. It is the only posthumous song to have a Grammy nomination. Thus, the reception of the song revealed that Tupac would continue to have a following after his death, certifying his legacy.