India Arie
Blessid Union of Souls
Tracy Chapman
Ani Difranco
Fisk Univ. Jubilee Singers
Gil Scott Heron
Ice Cube
Mason Jennings
Talib Kweli
Bob Marley
Curtis Mayfield
Prussian Blue
Public Enemy
Jill Scott
Tupac Shakur
The Band
Kanye West


8 Mile
A Time to Kill
American History X
Bend It Like Beckham
Boys Don't Cry
Gentleman's Agreement
G.I. Jane
The Green Mile
Guess Who
Hotel Rwanda
I Am Sam
Malcolm X
Mi Familia
Mississippi Burning
Out of the Ashes
Pleasantville (1)
Pleasantville (2)
Real Women Have Curves
Schindler's List
Something New
The Birth of a Nation
The Pianist
To Kill a Mockingbird


Tupac Shakur

Tupac Shakur is known as one of the best and most influential rappers to ever live. The imagery and analogies that he used to express the truth through his eyes were those of a seasoned poet. He could paint a verbal picture in the minds of listeners who lived far from the world of poverty, gun violence, police brutality and discrimination. 

Now a martyr of gangsta rap, Tupac Amaru Shakur was born in 1971 in Brooklyn, New York, the son of two Black Panther members. Shakur’s family was poverty-stricken; he began living and hustling on the streets before the age of 18. Despite his impoverished circumstances, he managed to work his way into the prestigious Baltimore School of the Arts. There he shined, writing raps and acting. Unfortunately, before he could graduate, his family moved to California. He followed them to A few years later, he was hired as a dancer for rap group Digital Underground and joined their tour. 

2pacalypse Now was Shakur’s first solo project. Released in 1992, this album immediately received criticism for its blunt and explicit lyrics. It provided suburban America with an accurate depiction of street life and the problems experienced by young black males in most inner cities in the nation. Soulja Story was one of his early pieces that contained ugly images of the difficulties faced by youth in neighborhoods like his:

                   Crack done took a part of my family tree
                   My mom is on the sh*t, my daddy's splittin, mom is steady blamin me
                   Is it my fault, just cause I'm a young black male?
                   Cops sweat me as if my destiny is makin crack sales
                   Only fifteen and got problems
                   Cops on my tail, so I bail til I dodge 'em
                   (© 1992 Jive Records; From:

Coupled with his starring role in the movie “Juice,” the album gained significant street credibility and sold primarily through word of mouth. 

Shakur was an outlaw and spent more time in the legal system than in the studio. He had multiple encounters with law enforcement. For example, he shot two off-duty police officers in Atlanta. He also was charged and found guilty of sexual assault. However, during one stint in jail, Shakur debuted on the Death Row label with All Eyes on Me, the first double disc of original material in hip-hop history. This album intensified the East vs. West coast rivalry that existed in the rap industry. The album included songs that publicly “dissed” the Notorious B.I.G., an east coast rapper who was his cross-country competition. Shakur released two more multi-platinum albums before his untimely death in 1996. Me Against the World debuted at #1 on the charts and quickly became platinum. This album showed fans another side of Shakur. His song Dear Mama showed sensitivity, caring, and love for women raising children in the same situation he had once lived in. 

Shakur’s career ended prematurely on September 7, 1996 in Las Vegas when he was shot four times in a drive-by shooting. In the car with him was Suge Knight, the owner of Death Row Records. There have been many theories about why he was shot. Some say it was his rival Notorious B.I.G. who conspired to have him killed. Others argue that the mob ties associated with his record label took his life. 

While Shakur’s soul has gone, his music and words are not forgotten. He is still regarded as the voice of the streets. His songs spoke loudly of the struggles faced by many people who were living in the urban ghettos. Shakur rapped honestly and aggressively about his own life experiences, expressing frustration but also shining a light of encouragement. Although he is know for lyrics that demean women, he has now become a hip-hop legend largely because of how he spoke of his life and demanded change. His prophetic stories and words still teach and inspire people from all backgrounds. 

One of Shakur’s songs, Changes, hopes for just what it says. It’s a slower, harmonious tune that tells the truth about racism and the terrors of the streets. This song bears witness for those in situations similar to Shakur’s. It is a wake-up call for all those people who are blind to truths about race and poverty. Most important, the song demands that something be done, and soon. 

                   I see no changes all I see is racist faces
                   misplaced hate makes disgrace to races
                   We under I wonder what it takes to make this
                   one better place, let's erase the wasted
                   We gotta make a change...
                   It's time for us as a people to start makin' some changes.
                   (© 1998 Interscope Records; From:


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