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
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
done took a part of my family tree
mom is on the sh*t, my daddy's splittin, mom
is steady blamin me
it my fault, just cause I'm a young black male?
sweat me as if my destiny is makin crack sales
fifteen and got problems
on my tail, so I bail til I dodge 'em
1992 Jive Records; From: www.azlyrics.com)
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.
see no changes all I see is racist faces
hate makes disgrace to races
under I wonder what it takes to make this
better place, let's erase the wasted
gotta make a change...
time for us as a people to start makin' some
1998 Interscope Records; From: www.azlyrics.com)