This article was first published on July 13, 2013. It is being republished today to commemorate the anniversary of 2Pac Shakur’s death exactly 17 years ago today. He would have been 42 years old.
“Since we all came from a woman, got our name from a woman, and our game from a woman. I wonder why we take from women, why we rape our women, why we hate our women? I think its time we killed for our women, be real to our women, try to heal our women, cus if we dont we’ll have a race of babies that will hate the ladies, who make the babies. And since a man can’t make one he has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one.”
– Tupac Shakur (“Keep Ya Head Up” | 1993)
The themes of most of Shakur’s songs revolved around the violence and hardship in the ghettos where he grew up, racism and other social problems. Both of his parents and several other of his family were members of the Black Panther Party, whose ideals were reflected in his songs.
Many would, however, describe him as a very controversial figure not because of this but because of his perceived disrespect for women and the family in general.
This perception was mostly wrong though his method of delivering his lyrics were usually explicit and probably did not help his image much in this respect. But truth be told, how else can you preach against the evils he talked except in the language the perpetrators would understand?
The first single from his debut album, “Brendan’s got a baby” (1991) was based on a newspaper story of a twelve-year-old girl getting pregnant from her cousin and trying to dispose of the baby in a trash can. In the song, he explores the issue of teen pregnancy and its effect on the young mothers and their families.
“Dear Mama”, from his third solo album, Me Against the World (1995), is probably one of his best known songs and was written in homage to his mother, Afeni Shakur where he praised her for the undeserving and unending love his mother showed to him. It is still considered by many to be 2Pac’s most emotional and most respected song.
The record producer, Tony Pizarro, says about the song;
Pac used to make references to ‘Dear Mama’ in a lot of different songs and I’d always be like ‘You know that’s a songs in itself.’ And one day he was like ‘I got somethin’ for that.’ And he was like ‘Man, you have “In My Wildest Dreams” by the Crusaders and I was like ‘Yeah.’ He was like ‘Yeah, I got something for that.’ So I got the track ready. Pac just came through and just dropped it and blessed it with them vocals.
“Letter 2 My Unborn” (2001) is yet another where Tupac showed his true opinion about his respect for the family. In the song Tupac speaks to his hypothetical unborn child, relating stories of his own life and advising the child to avoid the troubles that he himself has faced.
Even moderately explicit tracks like “Wonda why they call you b*tch” (1996) that, on the surface, seems to be demeaning to women, was in fact advising a particular lady who he considered a sister to change her ways from prostitution and related vices.
Perhaps to satisfy the critics of this track, a recording released in his fifth posthumous studio album “Better Dayz” (recorded 1996 but released 2002) featured the track “Never Call U B*tch again” where he was apologizing to an hypothetical girlfriend, telling her how much he appreciates her, promising to change his ways and more importantly, promising never to call her a b*tch again.
2pac still remains one of my best rap artiste ever. His Unfortunate death in 1996 at the age of 25 has not in any way diminish the very high regard i have for this poet. Listening to his songs quickly brings to fore the shallowness of most of the songs we hear today, especially from the Nigerian music scene.
As we approach the 17th year anniversary of the demise of this music icon come September 13th, one can only wish that there would be an increasing appreciation of the positive aspects of his music.