The BBC Radio 1Xtra DJ breaks down some of the revered rap legend's essential songs.
It has now been 21 years since one of the greatest rappers of all time, Tupac Shakur, passed away, but his legacy continues to permeate popular culture. Most recently the biopic detailing his life, All Eyez On Me, availbale on DVD and blu-ray on October 30, reminded the world of his complex nature - of his raw talent, powerful lyrics and revolutionary mindset that propelle him to mythic status, balanced with his history of violence and controversy. All of this came together to make him the enigma he was, and he continues to grow in stature even in death.
One of the many upon whom Tupac left a deep impression is Jamz Supernova. The BBC Radio 1Xtra DJ and Future Bounce general has been a fan from day dot, captured by the vast array of talents that Tupac had, and felt compelled to produce a list for us of her favourites tracks. Jamz can explain better than we could:
"Tupac was my introduction to hip-hop. I remember being really young and asking my dad how he died, I was six. But it was summers with my uncle that really got me hooked; he’d drive us around Birmingham in whatever flossy car he was stunting with at the time. He’d blast it in the car and even in the house and whenever it was playing he was always in thought. It was as if Tupac really spoke to him or they related on a pain level. He also had a Thug Life tattoo. So one summer I decided to buy the Greatest Hits album at 13 with the money he’d given me, the album led to me pouring over lyrics on A-Z & reading his poetry!"
'Brenda’s Got A Baby'
Jamz: "This is the deepest and rawest record I have ever heard, still to this day. It was based on an actual news story that he had read. The storytelling and socal commentary is so intense. It’s as if Brenda’s life flashes before you in four minutes. Every time I hear it I feel for Brenda and all the Brendas in our society, it’s pretty fucked."
'How Do You Want It'
"It’s kind of crazy how easily he can jump from cuts like 'Brenda', to hood records to straight up party vibes like this. I love the sweet spot of when hip hop & R&B combine, and the 90's perfected that formula. I’m sure I’m not the first female to admit that Tupac was sexy as hell and I think this record just encapulates it with his confidence and forthright lyrics."
"I wish I could have hung out with Afeni Shakur - what a woman. It’s pretty challenging to make a record for your mum and it not sound corny, but I feel this record is not just a celebration of Afeni, but mothers everywhere, especially single ones. I have fond memories of me and my mum hanging out in the kitchen listening to this."
'Keep Ya Head Up'
"From when the intro starts you know what time it is!! Hip-hop gets a bad rep for misogny but this record is an important one in not only uplifting women, but laying it out clearly as to how we should be treated. I’m also here for the positive black affirmations. “Some say the blacker the berry the sweeter the juice/I say the darker the flesh and the deeper the roots” - what a line to open with!"
'I Ain’t Mad At Cha'
"I’m still so tripped that this record came out after his death, and not only that in the video it’s like he’s in heaven. Very strange timing and of course fuels every conspiracy theory going - cue googling “is Tupac Alive?” whilst wearing a tin foil hat. But all jokes aside, Tupac has the ability to translate pain so well and this track represents the longing for adolescent years when everything was easier."
"Definetely a commercial cut but a banger none the less. Again he exhibits how important he was in giving the people a voice, his social commentary cuts quite close to the bone because, sadly, I’m not sure what has changed since this record dropped. One thing that feels me with hope is whilst Tupac might have not lived to see a black President, I have."
'Hit Em Up'
"This record feels me with so much hip-hop bravado it’s unreal. When I passed my driving test I used to ride round South East London in my Corsa blasting this out, I don’t know who I thought was, it makes me laugh now!! Even though I love Biggie and I refuse to believe Pac slept with Faith, I would have loved to have been of an age to hear this record and understand what was going on. Can you imagine the controversy it would have caused? It’s a straight diss record and no holding back. (Listens & sips tea)"
'2 Of Amerikaz Most Wanted'
"Again this is one for my hip-hop bravado, I love how Pac & Snoop bounce of each other on this. Having watched (documentary) The Defiant Ones, you get a better understanding of their friendship. I think its such a shame we never had more records of them together as the chemistry was insane."
'All About U'
"This, for me, is G-Funk at it’s finest! Despite the lyrics not exactly repping for the ladies, whenever I hear this record I so want to be at a house party in Crenshaw doing the candy dance!!!"
'In The Event Of My Demise (Dedicated To Those Curious)'
"Whilst I could have gone for another song, I wanted to pick a poem! I feel that we put so much emphasis on him being the greatest rapper that we often forget what a great poet he was! His poetry offers a further insight to him emotionally, but also is a great reminder that a 'gangsta rapper' can still be an intellect and, hopefully, the purist poetry community can read his work and understand that hip-hop is also powerful poetry!"