Happy 20th Anniversary to 2Pac’s All Eyez on Me, originally released February 13, 1996. [Stream album and watch videos below]
When The Game released his better-than-expected double album The Documentary 2 and The Documentary 2.5 in two successive parts this past October, one couldn’t help but recall 2Pac’s fourth album released nearly twenty years earlier and seven months before his infamous death.
Released less than a year after his acclaimed Me Against the World LP and four months after Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight and Interscope Co-Founder Jimmy Iovine bailed him out of prison after serving nine months for a sexual assault conviction, All Eyez on Me was hip-hop’s first double album ever released as a single, combined package. The Notorious B.I.G.’s Life After Death and the Wu-Tang Clan’s Wu-Tang Forever would follow soon thereafter, but All Eyez on Me unquestionably established the blueprint for the hip-hop double LP.
The ambitiously conceived, thrillingly executed head rush of an album showcases 2Pac in his rawest and most audacious form, defiantly spitting fire from deep within his heart and soul. Indeed, 2Pac placed lofty expectations on himself with this record, explaining in a 1996 interview for Vibe magazine that he vowed to Knight that he would “‘make Death Row the biggest label in the whole world. I'm gonna make it bigger than Snoop even made it.’ Not stepping on Snoop's toes; he did a lot of work. Him, Dogg Pound, Nate Dogg, Dre, all of them. They made Death Row what it is today. I'm gonna take it to the next level.”
Indeed, with the diamond-certified All Eyez on Me, Death Row’s well-deserved reputation as hip-hop hit-making machine was further solidified. Moreover, 2Pac’s remarkable transformation from the low profile Digital Underground sideman featured on the group’s “Same Song” just five years earlier to full-fledged ambassador of the thug life was now complete.
Though some will surely disagree, while All Eyez on Me was indeed a significant milestone for 2Pac and arguably his magnum opus, it fell just a few notches shy of hip-hop masterpiece status. As is to be expected of an album comprised of a whopping 27 tracks, a handful of tracks (“Shorty Wanna Be a Thug,” “Holla at Me,” “Run The Streetz,” and a few others) can rightfully be considered filler fare. In retrospect, had 2Pac released All Eyez on Me as a single album with, say, 15 songs, the masterpiece tag would likely never have been in question.
Staying with this hypothetical train of thought, we’ve selected the five tracks that we believe would have been imperative, no-brainer additions to the streamlined version of the album. Check out our choices for All Eyez on Me’s five choicest cuts below, and by all means, let us know if you agree or disagree with our selections.
All Eyez on Me’s 5 Best Songs:
 “Only God Can Judge Me” (feat. Rappin’ 4-Tay)
Arguably All Eyez on Me’s most poignant track, with 2Pac at his most lucid, vulnerable and captivating, as he explores the psychological consequences of his 1994 shooting and more broadly, the rampant jealousy, scrutiny, and strife he’s endured throughout his life.
Notable lyrics: “Got a body full of bullet holes laying here naked / Still I can't breathe, something's evil in my IV / Cause every time I breathe, I think they killing me / I'm having nightmares, homicidal fantasies / I wake up stranglin', tangled in my bed sheets / I call the nurse cause it hurts, to reminisce / How did it come to this? I wish they didn't miss / Somebody help me, tell me where to go from here / Cause even thugs cry, but do the Lord care?”
 “Got My Mind Made Up” (feat. Daz Dillinger, Kurupt, Method Man & Redman)
The strongest of the album’s handful of posse cuts, and a shining example of 2Pac extending the proverbial olive branch to his East Coast brethren. Daz’s minimalist yet hypnotic production also deserves kudos, as does 2Pac’s clever references to his Poetic Justice co-star.
Notable lyrics: “My lyrics motivate the planet / It's similar to Rhythm Nation, but thugged out, / forgive me, Janet / Who's in control, I'm activating your souls / You know the way the games get controlled / Yo, two years ago, a friend of mine / Told me Alize and Cristal blows your mind / Bear witness to the dopest fucking rhyme I wrote / Taking off my coat, clearing my throat”
 “Picture Me Rollin’” (feat. Danny Boy, CPO & Big Syke)
One of the album’s most sonically rewarding tracks, owing to the late Johnny J’s melodic production, blessed by the stellar sample of a guitar riff lifted from Kool & The Gang’s “Winter Sadness.”
Notable lyrics: “Full grown, finally a man, just scheming on ways / To put some green inside the palms of my empty hands / Just picture me rollin' / Flossing a Benz on rims that isn't stolen / My dreams is censored, my hopes are gone / I'm like a fiend that finally sees when all the dope is gone / My nerves is wrecked, heart beating and my hands are swollen / Thinking of the G's I'll be holdin' / Picture me rollin'”
 “California Love” (Remix) (feat. Dr. Dre & Roger Troutman)
Although the original version of the mega-hit “California Love” was excluded from All Eyez on Me because it was originally slated to appear on Dr. Dre’s planned but never-released The Chronic II, the funked-out remix more than holds its own.
Notable Lyrics: “Famous because we throw grands / Worldwide, let them recognize from Long Beach to Rosecrans / Bumping and grinding like a slow jam, it's Westside / So you know the Row won't bow down to no man / Say what you say, but give me that bomb beat from Dre / Let me serenade the streets of L.A / From Oakland to Sac-town, the Bay Area and back down / Cali is where they put their mack down”
 “Life Goes On”
Rivaling “I Ain’t Mad At Cha” for sentimental value, this emotionally charged track finds Pac paying homage to his fallen friends and comrades, while presciently confronting his own mortality.
Notable lyrics: “Bury me smilin', with G's in my pocket / Have a party at my funeral, let every rapper rock it / Let the hoes that I used to know / From way before kiss me from my head to my toe / Give me a paper and a pen so I can write about my life of sin / A couple bottles of gin in case I don't get in / Tell all my people I'm a Ridah / Nobody cries when we die, we outlaws, let me ride”