Fifteen years ago yesterday, Makaveli’s debut album hit stores. Released just two months after Tupac Shakur’s murder, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory sold over 600,000 copies in its first week, knocking The Beatles out of the No. 1 spot on the Billboard albums chart. But as popular as Shakur’s fifth studio album may be, it remains one of the most enigmatic and misunderstood records in the history of hip-hop.
In those strange and confusing days after 2Pac’s death, rumors spread like a virus. Overwhelmed by grief and denial, fans scrutinized the album for hidden messages. The sleeve copy contained the words “Exit 2Pac, Enter Makaveli,” prompting theories that Pac might have faked his own death.
Many speculated that the 7 days in the album title stood for the time between his September 7 shooting and his subsequent death in a Vegas hospital. But during one of his last interviews, Pac explained that The 7 Day Theory referred to how long it took to record the album—he laid down his vocals in just three days, and the mixing took another four days.
TDK followed close behind Pac’s Death Row debut, All Eyez On Me, released exactly seven months before his death. With A-list producers and a galaxy of guest stars, the 27-track double album was over-the-top in every way.
Fresh from the drama of his time in prison, Pac enacted a Hennessy-fueled fantasy of sex, murder, and thug passion—and his fans loved it. The second 2Pac album to top the Billboard chart, All Eyez On Me ratcheted the East/West tensions within hip-hop to the breaking point.
None of the innumerable posthumous 2Pac releases has come close to the impact of AEOM or TDK. For the past 15 years the debate has raged on: which of these two is Pac’s greatest album?
Choosing between these two masterpieces is like a rap Rohrschach test. The one you prefer says as much about the you as it does about the artist or his work. But there are some undeniable facts to help in our quest to settle the matter once and for all. We already picked Pac's 100 Best Songs, now click through while we break both albums down point by point.
By Rob Marriott (@Tafari)