Today is what would’ve been legendary hip hop artist Tupac Shakur’s 49th birthday.
Shakur only had a five-year career in music and film before he was shot and killed in September 1996, but it feels like it was so much longer because of the lasting impact that he’s had.
He’s still considered one of the greatest rappers of all-time today after creating classic classic albums in his early 20’s. And his roles as Bishop in the movie Juice and Lucky in Poetic Justice are still so memorable.
Shakur left this world far too early, but it’s clear that he had the lasting impact on it he intended to.
Celebrate his birthday today with these 10 songs that perfectly embody who Pac was as a rapper and a person.
WARNING: There is some NSFW language in these tracks.
Keep Ya Head Up
One of the most memorable things about Tupac’s career was how frequently he touched on the subject of Black womanhood and the struggles that come with it. In this classic joint, Pac does the work of showing his appreciation to women everywhere while calling out men for their mistreatment of the women we should be appreciating. Sadly, it still holds up today.
Though this is one of Pac’s more upbeat, melodic songs, the message in it about police brutality and the mistreatment of Black people in America is a grim one. This is one of Shakur’s most notable songs — not only because it sounds good, but because it’s also been so relevant across generations.
This song was an ode to Tupac’s mom, Afeni Shakur, who had done the work of raising him as a single mother. In the song, he lets her know he loves her, realizes her struggles and bluntly tells her “you are appreciated.”
Life Goes On
Tupac was never afraid to put some of his deepest, darkest thoughts on wax. This song might be the perfect manifestation of that. It’s Pac reflecting on his life as he lived it and decisions he’s made throughout. It gets deep.
Brenda’s Got a Baby
Tupac’s lyrics weren’t built on his ability to drop mind-boggling metaphors. Instead, what made him a truly great rapper was his ability to tell stories through music. “Brenda’s Got a Baby” is the best example of that. This tale based on a true account reflects on the struggles of teen pregnancy, sexual abuse, drug abuse and more. It’s tragic, but a great listen.
Do For Love
Like we said before about Pac, he’s never been shy about throwing his feelings on to paper and spitting them in the booth. “Do For Love” is that when it comes to relationships. It’s a song about being head over heels in love with someone despite continuing to be hurt by that person. Incredibly relatable.
There are a ton of songs out there across genres of music that show love and appreciation for California. There might not be one that gets as raw as this song does. It’s some of Dr. Dre’s best production ever and some of Pac’s hardest bars ever spit. That’s an untouchable combination.
How Do Ya Want it
This song is all about living the fast life after attaining the fame and fortune so many people look for. It’s a classic “sex, money, drugs” anthem that just lightens up the mood no matter what the situation is.
I Get Around
Pac wasn’t always so serious — there were times where he had fun with his music. One of those times was when he teamed up with the Digital Underground to make this classic party cut that serves as an exploration of promiscuity and fun. The video is classic, too.
This track was dropped posthumously on Pac’s final album, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory. This track was meant to serve as a coming out party for Pac under his new stage name, Makaveli, as he moved into the next phase of his career. It’s sinister, horror-core production is what really gives it life. Pac’s chorus is what brings the whole thing home. It’s incredible.