10 of the Best Songs by Tupac Shakur

As a long time fan of Tupac Shakur, I’ve had years to devour the many songs he released while living, and those that were released posthumously by Amaru records.

Tupac’s catalog of music was often blasted by critics for being needlessly violent and misogynistic. In many cases I can do nothing but agree, not just in regards to Tupac’s music, but also rap in general. That is one reason I’ve had what you can consider a “falling out” with the Hip-Hop music genre. I can only list a handful of rappers that I still listen to. Tupac is one of them primarily because some of his music could touch you on a personal level. He wasn’t the “50 Cent” of the mid-90s. He wasn’t all macho-braggadocio like today’s rap contemporaries. Despite his claims to the “Thug Life” and other gang affiliations, every one of his albums contain songs that anybody can relate to.

The coming list of songs will include some fan-favorites, and others that you may not have heard, but that have left long-lasting impressions on me. The majority of these songs have shamefully gone under the radar, overshadowed by their more popular and violent cousins like 2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted and Hit’Em Up.

Without further adieu, let’s begin:

10: Better Dayz – Tupac says in Better Dayz, “I’d love to see the block in peace with no more dealers and crooked cops”. He continues, “and only we can change. It’s up to us to clean up the streets that ain’t the same”. Better Dayz is one of those mellow songs where Tupac speaks on the violence that plagues the black community, his own relationships, friendships and other things.

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9: Brenda’s Got A Baby – This is a song that has stayed with me since the very first moment that I heard it. It’s the first great record from Tupac’s discography. Brenda’s Got A Baby is a metaphorical song. Brenda, the fictional African-American girl spoken of in this song, represents the many immature teenage girls who, through unfortunate circumstances, have been burdened with a pregnancy they did not want or could not handle. The song’s resolution is a sad reminder of what has happened to many girls in such a situation.

8.) Still I Rise – You may find the title familiar. That’s because it was named after a poem by the world-renowned Maya Angelou. Although Tupac only has a single verse in this song, it is the singular moment of the entire song. Tupac eloquently expresses his anger, “this cruel world could do without me”. “The lord can’t see us in the deep dark clouds of the projects. Ain’t no sunshine. No sunny days and we only play sometimes”.

7.) Young N—-z – Don’t let the title turn you off. Young N—-z is actually a song where Tupac advises the younger generation to stay away from the gang life. If only songs like this were more prevalent, instead of the more common gang-glamorizing music that you’re more likely to hear.

6.) Hell Razor – This is one of the more intense records in Tupac’s catalog. It may not fit in with the rest of the songs on this list. I’ve included it because it is a great showcase of Tupac’s intensity, especially toward the end of the song where he raps about Latasha Harlins. She was a young black girl who was shot and killed by a Korean shop-owner, after she allegedly attempted to steal a bottle of juice. This incident was also a pre-cursor to the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which in my view were completely and utterly useless. They caused nothing but death and destruction.

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5.) Papa’z Song – If you grew up without a father in your life, like I did, then this song is for you. In Papa’z Song, 2pac and company express the anger laden within fatherless youths of all creeds.
4.) Keep Ya Head Up – When this song released in 1993, people started to realize that Tupac wasn’t just another rapper. There was something different about him. In Keep Ya Head Up, Tupac discusses a range of issues including the black communities’ disparities, but most notably, the hardships that black women are subjected to.

3.) Krazy – This is the best song on this list in terms of mood. It is very slow and laid back. In Krazy, Tupac reflects on many events in his life, “and I swear I seen a peaceful smile on my mama’s face when I gave her the keys to her own house”.

2.) Dear Mama – Not much can be said about this song that hasn’t been said already. Dear Mama is to Tupac what Dance With My Father is to Luther Vandross.

1.) Thugz Mansion – “Is there a way to change or am I just a victim of things I did to maintain?” That’s a powerful question that Tupac asked in Thugz Mansion. Only Tupac knows if he ever found the answer to that question before he was shot to death in September of 1996. Thugz Mansion also happens to be where it all began for me. By that I mean it was the first Tupac record that I heard. It left such an impression on me years ago, but I hadn’t even heard of Tupac at the time. Since then, I’ve collected every single one of Tupac’s official albums. The rest is history.

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I ultimately believe that in behaving the way that he did in 1996, which subsequently led to his own demise, Tupac wasted his potential. These 10 songs signify not only how different he was from the common rapper, but also how much more he could have done. He was a genuinely good person who chose the wrong path, and in the end he paid the ultimate price.