Tupac Shakur was an unstoppable force during his final years. His legendary work ethic propelled Death Row into the biggest rap label in the world, and created enough material for a dozen posthumous albums.
When he first got out of Clinton Correctional Facility on October 12, 1995, the first place Pac went to was the studio to record “Ambitionz Az A Ridah” and “I Ain’t Mad At Cha.” He finished both songs in one night.
“He was ready to go,” recalled Dave Aron, a recording engineer who worked with Pac. “He was very hyped, very focused, a lot of energy – mad energy. And you could tell he was really one a mission. He really had a real vision of what was going on, and he wanted to get a lot done in that short amount of time.”
Within a matter of months, Pac’s fourth album, and his first for Death Row, was complete. All Eyez on Me dropped February 13, 1996 and was the first double rap album in history.
Bolstered by hit singles like “California Love” (which was Pac’s first number one single), “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted”, “How Do U Want It” and “I Ain’t Mad at Cha,” the album topped the charts, selling 566,000 copies in its first week. It was certified 5x platinum just two months later.
For most rappers, having two number one songs and a multiplatinum number one album would have been enough for a single year. But not for Pac. He was back in the studio working on his next album by August 1996.
Enlisting outside producers Hurt-M-Badd and Darryl “Big D” Harper to produce the bulk of the album and his Outlawz crew for the majority guest verses, Pac focused on creating a much darker sound with The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory. According to people involved in the making of the project, it took seven days to finish the album: Pac wrote and recorded the lyrics in three days, while mixing and mastering took up the rest.
After Pac was tragically passed away on September 13, 1996, Death Row released The Don Killuminati in November. While lacking the smash hits like “California Love”, the album still featured songs like “Toss It Up”, “To Live & Die in L.A.” and “Hail Mary” that would have moderate chart success. The album topped the charts, selling 664,000 copies in its first week and making it the biggest first week sale number for a rap album in 1996.
A couple years later, DMX would go on to achieve the same feat with his first two albums debuting on top of the charts – It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot sold 251,000 copies in its first weeks and Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood sold 670,000.
In 2015, both Drake and Future would top the charts twice in one year – the former’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late would sell 535,000 and the latter’s DS2 would sell 151,000. Their joint album, What a Time to Be Alive, topped the charts with 375,000 units moved.
Snoop Dogg: I think what I learned from 2Pac was basically a different type of work ethic. I always had a good work ethic about myself as far as being timely and being on point and being a professional, but he just showed me how to be a little more faster at it as far as getting to the meat of it all and not really just listening to it all the time, and not absorbing it but more just doing it and keep doing it and doing it. Let the engineer mix it and master it, not fall in love with it, but fall in love with the craft of being able to do it and continue to do it.Snoop Dogg reveals the biggest lesson 2Pac taught him | Revolt