Tupac’s message lives
Meagan Bens | Thursday, March 2, 2017
If Tupac Shakur was not murdered 20 years ago, he would be 45 now, around the same age as Snoop Dogg and Jay Z.
With each passing year, his music and legacy continue to grow. He did not just have an influence on hip-hop artists; he had an influence over everyone. Some people equate rap to poetry, but only a few artists actually live up to this. Tupac created literature out of universal ideas, something that has been lost in current rappers today, as the major concern to get on the radio is beats, not lyrics. That’s another story for all you Migos, Young Thug and Lil’ Yachty fans, though.
Unlike the image that is pushed by the music industry today, Tupac rapped about personal, yet relatable issues, which is why two decades later, he is still considered one of the most important rappers. One of his most prominent legacies was his ability to express social issues in his music. Sure, his music was problematic at times, but it doesn’t erase the fact that he rapped about real life issues that other mainstream musicians would rather ignore today.
Diving into his timeless lyrics, there are messages that are relevant today. In his 1991 single, “Brenda’s Got a Baby,” Tupac tells the story of 12-year-old girl who is forced into prostitution, and then struggles to provide for herself and her baby after her cousin molests and impregnates her. This is not a light topic at all, yet Tupac detailed the struggle of a single mother in a radical way. Topics such as child prostitution, abuse and poverty are hard to take on, but Tupac showed empathy towards those who suffered and brought it to the forefront with his music.
Another example of his revolutionary songs is his single, “Changes,” recorded in 1992, but remixed and released in 1998. Known as one of his most definitive works, Tupac highlights the war on drugs, the war on poverty and tackles African-American social issues. The most intense moments in his song are when he references police brutality and institutional racism, issues that still need to be addressed today. Repetitively expressing his desire for change, Tupac would be disappointed to see that few things he wrote about have actually changed.
One of his most compassionate and well known songs, Tupac’s 1993 single “Keep Ya Head Up” is dedicated to women, specifically African-American women. He calls on men of color to treat their women and children with respect, while encouraging women to stay strong, even though it is difficult to survive in a one-parent family. He also criticizes the government’s role in perpetuating poverty among people of color. His lines about rape and sexual assault cut deep as they also continue to resonate as serious issues today along with inequality.
The three songs mentioned above are a few of his socially conscious raps that reveal life for minorities in the United Sates. Despite the hard-hitting, depressing topics he wrote about, he was often inherently hopeful. Noticing that his songs were recorded two decades ago, you wonder if he could see into the future.
As his legacy continues to make an imprint on society today, and his face continues to appear on clothing at Urban Outfitters, I encourage you to first and foremost listen and appreciate the legend’s lyrics for free on Spotify before purchasing a t-shirt.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.