This webpage uses Javascript to display some content.

Please enable Javascript in your browser and reload this page.

Recent Novels
Recent Stories
Recent NonFiction
Recent Poetry
Home | Fiction | Nonfiction | Novels | | Innisfree Poetry | Enskyment Journal | International | FACEBOOK | Poetry Scams | Stars & Squadrons | Newsletter

Tupac Shakur

By David Goodwin

 

Click here to send comments

 

In a sun-scorched neighbourhood outside Havana, a sunburnt youth presses the "play" button on an old, outdated cassette player culminating in a voice that resonates in the angry rap of Tupac Shakur. It blasts from the boom box at the feet of several young black men, abruptly ending the mid-afternoon tranquility of several older residents.

 

Seemingly oblivious to the havoc they are now creating, the group is propped casually against a decaying brick wall, absolutely immersed in the rebellious tune. An air of defiance is suddenly apparent as the older residents unsuccessfully attempt to intervene. Knowing when they're beaten, they shake their heads and wonder why these kids are wasting their time with such rubbish.

 

Admittedly, Tupac's life was never exactly peaches and cream. In fact it could be said that life for the ever-controversial rapper was a constant struggle. And this persona, possibly created by his rough, no-nonsense upbringing is more than reflected in his music, movies and poetry. When kids first encounter songs like "California Love" or the infamous "Hit Em Up", you can almost hear them saying: "Hey! This is some crazy shit, I love this guy!" But if they (and others) care to look beyond the "thug" image and that non-stop running foul mouth, they might just discover that this artist had a lot more to say than "nigga" and "muthafucka." 

Admittedly, Tupac's life was never exactly peaches and cream. In fact it could be said that life for the ever-controversial rapper was a constant struggle. And this persona, possibly created by his rough, no-nonsense upbringing is more than reflected in his music, movies and poetry. When kids first encounter songs like "California Love" or the infamous "Hit Em Up", you can almost hear them saying: "Hey! This is some crazy shit, I love this guy!" But if they (and others) care to look beyond the "thug" image and that non-stop running foul mouth, they might just discover that this artist had a lot more to say than "nigga" and "muthafucka." 

Tupac's music was as he put it: real. Tupac himself was a self-proclaimed "realist." And although this may seem like arrogance, before you judge him, you must at least be made aware of the man's remarkable life. When you consider personally enduring being shot five times and self inducing paralysis so that you didn't throw your intestines up, while fighting for your life in hospital and on the very same day being sentenced to two and a half years in prison for a crime that you would later be acquitted of, then sometimes a little ill feeling towards certain individuals can be, if not tolerated, then at least understood. Or alternatively, being beaten beyond recognition (and having a stolen gun being shoved in your face) after simply trying to help another (black) motorist being harassed by two racist policeman who were heavily under the influence of both marijuana and alcohol, a little ill feeling towards the law might also just be able to be fathomed. 

 

Tupac's music was so enticing because it was (and please forgive the cliche) straight from the heart. It was articulate, it was controversial, but most importantly, like him, it was the truth - plain and simple. In his music he said what everyone else was thinking but didn't have the courage to say - therefore he was controversial. And although he was only exercising his freedom of speech (something we all have the right to do), he unknowingly tapped into an entire generation of ill feelings. Kids who were fed up with racism, the lies of their government or just their own unfair lives found Tupac's music an escape and sometimes were inspired by it.

Consequently he became the ideal target for the problems of Black America, which, ironically, he was desperately trying to improve. 

They wonder, as many people do: why are these kids listening to this music What entices them, let alone millions of others around the world into listening to what this man has to say?

Surely Tupac's main attraction is his "rebel" reputation right? Born in prison in the Bronx, New York, 1971, son of a Black Panther, he must have been a Rap record label's dream come true. He cares for no one but himself. He's a "bad ass muthafucka" right? Wrong.

Tupac's music was so enticing because it was (and please forgive the cliche) straight from the heart. It was articulate, it was controversial, but most importantly, like him, it was the truth - plain and simple. In his music he said what everyone else was thinking but didn't have the courage to say - therefore he was controversial. And although he was only exercising his freedom of speech (something we all have the right to do), he unknowingly tapped into an entire generation of ill feelings. Kids who were fed up with racism, the lies of their government or just their own unfair lives found Tupac's music an escape and sometimes were inspired by it.

Consequently he became the ideal target for the problems of Black America, which, ironically, he was desperately trying to improve.

Admittedly, Tupac didn't exactly change the world. But lyrics such as: "And they say it's the White man I should fear, but it's my own kind doing all the killing here", along with "Somebody wake me, I'm dreamin’, I started as a seed of semen, swimming upstream, planted in the womb while screaming, on the top was my pops, my momma screaming stop, from a single drop, this is what they got", kind of make you stop and think. They may even force you to snatch a quick, unpleasant look at life on the other side of the tracks. 

While Ms Brittany Spears sings about sunsets and young love, 2pac (one of his many aliases) raps about a part of society that most of us would rather sweep under the carpet of complacency. The other world. His world. Like the deserts of Ethiopia where not everyone gets fed. A place where life isn't exactly fair. A life full of, as Tupac would call it - reality. 

A perfect example of this is one of Tupac's first ever songs. "Brenda's Got a Baby" is a tragic, but unfortunately all-too-realistic tale of a thirteen-year old named Brenda. In Tupac's sorrowful tale, Brenda falls pregnant to her older cousin, hides the pregnancy from her family, who, as Tupac states "couldn't really care to see, or give a damn if she went out and had a church of kids, as long as when the check came they got first dibs." 

 

With no-one to turn to, Brenda has the baby on the bathroom floor and after being kicked out by her uncaring family, turns to prostitution as a means of keeping herself and her newly born infant alive. As Tupac rather melodically states:
"she thinks that she'll be with him forever and dreams of a world with the two of them all together, whatever. He left her and she had the baby solo, she had it on the bathroom floor and didn't know so. She didn't know what to throw away and what to keep. She wrapped the baby up and threw him in a trash heap. I guess she thought she'd get away, wouldn't hear the cries, but she didn't realise how much the little baby had her eyes."
The amount of passion and stark reality in those lyrics would have been the only sexual education that thousands of young, black girls would have ever received.

 

Although according to former Vice-President Dan Quayle, Tupac's music "had no place in American society." Quayle had given his reasons for this statement saying that it was due to the lyrics of the songs. But one can be forgiven for asking which lyrics in particular? Maybe the lyrics disliked so much by the American Government were possibly such questions as: "you know it's funny when it rains and pours, you've got money for wars but can't you feed the poor?" The fact that America has the highest homeless rate in the world along with the by far the largest budget for weaponry and defence, along with Tupac's thought-provoking lyrics might even make an individual stop and think about the actions and ethics of their government - if only for a second...

 

While always thought-provoking, unfortunately, not all of 2pac's lyrics are what most self-respecting individuals would call "uplifting." Some of his songs, such as the notorious "Hit Em Up" (containing 124 swear words) are angry songs that border on vicious. The media and the government along with many others focus on this and turn Tupac into a convenient scapegoat who must shoulder the blame for every ghetto evil, every shooting, every drug deal and every assault. Why? Because it's a hell of a lot easier to blame all of your problems on one loud-mouthed individual than to actually try and fix them yourselves. One must understand that the same "thug" who wrote the vicious "Hit Em Up" was the same individual who upon receiving a letter from the parents of a dying boy saying that their child's last wish was to possibly meet him, instantly flew to his side Maryland, and after the boy passed away, renamed his publishing company Joshua's Dream (in the child's memory) even though it meant that he lost millions of dollars in sponsorship and naming rights.

 

If Tupac's music is seen as violent, it is only because his music is like a mirror that is simply reflecting that violence back to us. The world's problems are not his fault. Or as he himself puts it "but if you did you couldn't take it. But don't blame me, I was given this world, I didn't make it!"

So next time you hear the words Tupac Shakur, don't think of a "gangsta rapper" who caused all sorts of trouble with his big mouth, because it was that "big mouth" that spoke for all of those without a voice. It was that "big mouth" who explained the cruelty of racism and it was that "big mouth" that was only a tool for communicating the anger, joy, confusion and pain of an entire generation of people.

 

Listen to him, appreciate him, but most of all, try to understand him.