There’s no doubting the impact Tupac Shakur had on music. Aside from his intense charisma and charming personality, the iconic rapper, 2Pac, was capable of some of the most incredible verses rap has ever seen. While much of his output has come out after his shocking death in 1997, we like to think of his best work coming while he was alive.
There are few artists who can boast the kind of huge impact 2Pac had on his audience and he did it, largely, with a plethora of massive songs. It is in these songs that Pac made himself a legend and with these songs we still pay tribute to the late, great rapper—arguably the Greatest Of All Time. Below we’re ranking his five enigmatic solo albums in order of greatness.
Shakur was never the most technically gifted rapper or indeed gifted lyricist. But what Pac did was sell the product. His charisma and his attitudes were as vitally important as his work on the mic. But still, despite being considered far from the top of his class, 2Pac quickly ascended to the top of the pile and refused to be taken down. During his lifetime, there was no rapper bigger or entirely better than Shakur.
While the posthumous albums certainly offer up more of the rapper’s material, as they were released after his death and so can’t be considered a piece of work that the rapper would have even released. As such, our list is comprised of only albums Pac personally presided over.
Ranking Tupac Shakur’s albums:
5. 2Pacalypse Now
1991 was a wild west for rap. The genre was still in its comparative infancy but was already getting hot-headed. It was on 2Pacalypse Now that Shakur made his name, the debut album signalled the arrival of a gigantic talent. Naturally, the record isn’t quite complete.
Pac’s flow and voice are not yet established and he’s more than a little garbled on some songs. But lyrically, Shakur is already sitting deep in the pocket and throwing bombs. While Shakur would soon see the inside of multi-million dollar studios, this LP is rough and raw.
It also displayed Pac’s incredible duality, the ability to both be sensitive and vulnerable all while posturing with aggressive intent. Standout tracks include ‘Brenda’s Got A Bab’ and ‘Trapped’. A classic debut.
4. Strictly For My N.I.G.G.A.Z.
The difficult second album was no real issue for Pac and he delivered a masterclass. The rapper took on Strictly For My N.I.G.G.A.Z. like a pro but he still had some rookie in him. The rapper still hadn’t quite finessed his flow but the signs of his raw talent being shaped into something spectacular are all there. This album will remain a perfect stepping stone to greatness.
Carrying over from Pac’s debut, Strictly For My N.I.G.G.A.Z. is still raw and comparatively unpolished, it still reeks of the streets and while undoubtedly providing a viewpoint of an icon in the making, is the final album before he becomes a rap hero.
The album has a plethora of great tracks on it but perhaps the best place to start is the emotionally charged ‘Keep Ya Head Up’ while ‘Papa’z Son’ deal with absent fathers. It may well be a stepping stone but it sent Tupac down the right path.
3. The Don Killuminati The Seven Day Theory
The last album to be complete during Tupac’s lifetime was The Don Killuminati The Seven Day Theory, it was released a few months after Pac’s murder. The album is highlighted for its unwelcomed by devastatingly accurate foreshadowing.
The album is utterly littered with references to his own death and Pac never shies away from the world he is living in. As well as being lyrically arresting, instrumentally, the album is the best he ever made. The album is stacked full of features which actually ends up bringing it down a notch or two.
Outside of the features and beats, concentrating solely on Pac’s lyrics, it is one of the rapper’s most brutally honest efforts. Emotional and poetic at every turn perhaps Pac knew something was going to change his life forever.
2. Me Against The World
Pac’s third album showed that the rapper was far beyond his fellow artists. While hip-hop had become a violent and uncompromising scene, Pac was able to both be rooted in its history and transcend its destination. It is one of his most cohesive records, without a doubt.
Not quite completely confirmed as his thug persona, Me Against The World still allows the terribly sensitive Pac to show his softer side and crack open his armour to let a bit of himself out onto the record. It is on this album that Pac truly finds his voice.
There are no real weak songs on this album, instead, we are given an all-round great standard of music with tracks ‘Dear Mama’ and ‘So Many Tears’ easily beating out the rest as the album’s best. However, ‘If I Die 2 Nite’ and ‘Temptations’ are a close second.
1. All Eyez On Me
Rightly seen as his magnum opus, All Eyez On Me is quite possibly the greatest hip-hop album of all time, bar none. The number of records sold probably attests to that on its own but the fact that the LP is nearly flawless, tells you all you need to know about Pac.
Pac was at the peak of his fame when it was released and the record sold over 10 million units in the US alone. That was largely supported by a variety of songs that all hit like a sledgehammer. As well as ‘California Love’ and ‘Only God Can Judge Me’ there were songs like ‘Heartz of Men’ and ‘Ambitions Az A Ridah’—all of which showed off Pac’s still-growing talent.
Though many have pointed to All Eyez On Me being a little too long (at 27 songs, they may have a point) the fact remains that this is Pac’s definitive album. It is the record that in 100 years people will study and pay attention to.
If they were to do that, they would find Tupac as the uncompromising, talented, compassionate and creative poet he truly was.