The 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time

18

2Pac, 'Dear Mama'

Me Against the World, 1995

"The emotional, the sad songs, were his personal favorites," said Johnny J, one of the late Tupac Shakur's producers. There was always a plaintive side to 2Pac's thug-life tales, and he foregrounded the pathos on his 1995 ballad tribute to his mother, Afeni Shakur. The song is the ne plus ultra of hip-hop odes to Mom. Tony Pizarro's beat, with its plush Seventies soul samples, sets a tender mood, and the rhymes strike a similar note: "I appreciate how you raised me/And all the extra love that you gave me." But "Dear Mama" hits harder for its warts-and-all realism, as 2Pac doesn't shy from describing his own failings, his pain over his absent father and his mother's struggle with drug addiction: "And even as a crack fiend, Mama/You always was a black queen, Mama."

 

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