For this list, I will be ranking 2Pac’s five solo albums, the five albums that were completed during his lifetime. Remember this is just a personal opinion, based on my own preferences and ideas. There’s always a lot of emotion and angriness when there’s a ranking of something and 2Pac is involved – so many people always want him on the #1 spot, whatever the criterium. Well, five 2Pac albums can not all be number one, so some of you will be disappointed. Just don’t be angry – know your opinion counts just as much as mine does.
A lot of people get their panties in a bunch if they hear any criticism on 2Pac, or when the perceived flawlessness of his albums is questioned in the slightest way. 2Pac idolizing has taken on almost religious forms with many Hip Hop fans. I’ve got nothing but love and respect for 2Pac and his music, but it irks me to no end that when GOAT rappers or Hip Hop albums are discussed, there are so many people who will automatically say: “2Pac” and “2Pac’s albums”. My contention is that these people are usually just casual Hip Hop listeners (nothing wrong with that, by the way!), and simply do not know enough other rappers and Hip Hop albums to be able to really make an informed judgment as to which rapper or what album deserves GOAT status.
I always felt 2Pac’s greatness has mostly to do with him as a person – his powerful charisma, his message, and how he was able to relate that message and his emotion. He was big before his death but became iconic because of when and how he died. He was never the best emcee by most criteria – he wasn’t the most technical rapper, not the most creative when it comes to rhymes schemes, multiple syllabic rhyming, or the use of creative metaphors & similes. When it comes to substance and the power of voice and emotion he DOES rank up there with the best of them. But the pavlovian reaction that 2Pac is the absolute GOAT emcee no matter what is just too easy.
There are few – if any – Hip Hop artists who can boast as many classic songs as 2Pac can, but his albums: is there a truly flawless classic among them? I think not, not like Nas’ Illmatic, Public Enemy’s Nation Of Millions, or Tribe’s Low End Theory. That being said, I think one of 2Pac’s albums comes very close, as you will see.
Not considered for this ranking are his Thug Life group album, nor all the posthumous releases. R U Still Down? was a pretty good album, but most of the rest of 2Pac’s posthumously released work should have stayed on the cutting floor where 2Pac left it. Good or bad, the posthumous albums obviously were all released without 2Pac’s knowledge or consent, so we can not know if he would have approved of all that material being sold (most likely not). Therefore, I do not consider them ‘real’ 2Pac albums and will not consider them for this list.
Let’s get into it – and remember: if you disagree, don’t get mad, just share your opinion in the comments!
5. 2Pacalypse Now (1991)
After Oakland crew Digital Underground put him on, this debut album signaled the arrival of a major new talent. It is true that 2Pac’s flow and voice aren’t fully developed yet and the beats on 2Pacalyps Now are not all great – but the lyrical content of the album is excellent.
2Pac clearly is still looking for his style but presents himself as a talented and intelligent young artist who confidently tackles subjects like poverty, police brutality, discrimination, politics, and life on the streets. The album is rough around the edges, but insightful and sensitive and at the same time aggressive and intense.
“Brenda’s Got A Baby” and “Trapped” are the classic tracks here, other noteworthy songs are “Tha Lunatic”, “Part Time Mutha”, “If My Homie Calls”, “Words of Wisdom” and “Soulja’s Story”. Great debut. 7/10
4. Strictly For My N.I.G.G.A.Z. (1993)
Like was the case with 2Pacalyps Now, on his sophomore album Strictly For My N.I.G.G.A.Z. 2Pac still hasn’t found his style yet – but 2Pac’s raw talent and powerful charisma are even more evident here than on his debut, which makes this album the perfect stepping stone to his real break-out album Me Against The World.
Strictly For My N.I.G.G.A.Z. has a raw, sometimes a bit unpolished, underground feel to it and is less consistent production-wise as his following albums would be – but it is an important album anyway, if only because it showed the world an icon in the making.
The beatiful ode to women “Keep Ya Head Up”, the emotional song about an absent father “Papa’z Song” and cuts like “Holler If Ya Hear Me”, “Souljah’s Revenge”,”I Get Around” (with Digital Underground), “Last Wordz” (with Ice Cube and Ice-T) are just a few of the highlights, cuts that were instrumental in setting 2Pac on his path to the versatile, emotional, and charismatic legend he would become. 7.5/10
3. 2Pac - All Eyez On Me (1996)
Now, some of you will get all upset. Many people see this album as 2Pac’s magnum opus and one the best, if not THE best, Hip Hop album ever. Of course, because of the number of units sold and its iconic status, All Eyez On Me is a classic. But is it a flawless album and artistically deserving of classic status?
All Eyez On Me probably is 2Pac‘s most popular album, released when he was at the peak of his fame (while alive). It certainly was a bestseller, selling upwards of ten million units in the US alone. Packed with classic songs – like “I Ain’t Mad At Cha”, “Ambitionz Az A Ridah”, “Life Goes On”, “California Love”, “Only God Can Judge Me”, “Heartz Of Men” and “Picture Me Rollin'” – and showcasing 2Pac’s signature mix of “thug-ism” and his vulnerable, thoughtful side, All Eyez On Me surely is a landmark album. But is it a classic, or even 2Pac’s best album? I would say no.
A double album, All Eyez On Me just is too long (and a little too heavy on the ‘thug’ side) for its own good, especially the second album contains a bunch of filler tracks. The album could have done with fewer guests, too. Much like Biggie’s Life After Death, it probably would have been better had the best 12 tracks been released as one album – which would have made All Eyez On Me the all-time classic it could have been. As it is, it is not flawless – but still an excellent album, and no doubt one the highlights of 2Pac’s epic career. 8/10
2. The Don Killuminati The Seven Day Theory (1996)
Released just a few months after 2Pac’s murder, The Don Killuminati The Seven Day Theory turned out to be extremely prophetic with so many references to (his own) death it’s chilling. The album features some of the best instrumentals Pac ever got to work with and lyrically it has 2Pac at his harshest, yet emotional and poetic best – with classic cuts like “Me And My Girlfriend”, “Hail Mary”, “Hold Ya Head” and the anthemic “To Live And Die In L.A.”.
The Don Killuminati The Seven Day Theory turned to be the last monumental album of a young tormented genius who sadly ‘thugged’ his way to his own demise. 8.5/10
1. Me Against The World (1995)
2Pac’s best album. Although the follow-up All Eyez On Me may be the more popular album, Me Against The World is much more cohesive, balanced and tight.
Me Against The World is 2Pac’s third album and the one on which he reaches real maturity. He is not the all-out thug persona yet and the album is better for it. On this album, he is able to show us all aspects of his tormented being, better than on any of his other albums. On this album he truly finds his prophetic voice, projecting his struggle, confusion, hope, bitterness and anger in a brilliant way.
“Dear Mama” and “So Many Tears” are the absolute highlights, but unlike his other albums, Me Against The World holds no real weak or filler tracks. “If I Die 2 Nite”, “Heavy In The Game”, “Temptations”, “Death Around The Corner”, “Me Against The World” and the ode to those who came before “Old School” are all 2Pac bangers, and the rest of the tracklist is dope too.
Me Against The World easily is 2Pac’s best – an impressive album, and an all-time classic. 9.5/10