When today’s up-and-coming hip-hop and rap artists think of their influences, surely Tupac (or 2Pac) Shakur comes to mind. In his career before his death in 1996, he created five studio albums; five albums of his material were released after his death, leading many to believe that the artist was still alive. Whatever you believe, Tupac left a lasting legacy. Despite his singing about violence, revenge and the infamous east coast/west coast rivalry, he also sang songs about serious issues and supporting women, inner city youth and black people overall. Here are five of Tupac Shakur’s best lyrics and verses.
5. “Brenda’s Got a Baby”
Essentially, this track, off of 1991’s 2Pacalpyse Now, is about young pregnancy (specifically at 12 years old) in the ghetto, how hard it is to raise a child and how often women turn to prostitution. The song tells a story, beginning with lyrics like, “I hear Brenda’s got a baby / but Brenda’s barely got a brain / a damn shame / the girl can hardly spell her name / (that’s not our problem, that’s up to Brenda’s family 0 / well let me show ya how it affects the whole community.” He then goes on to describe Brenda’s absent mother, her junky father and the father of her baby being her cousin. This is how her family treats the situation: “She tried to hide her pregnancy from her family / who didn’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.” The following lyrics describe vividly but simply what happens next: “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 the trash heap / I guess she thought she’d get away / wouldn’t hear the cries / she didn’t realize / how much the little baby had her eyes.” The story continues with Brenda going back for her baby, but without support from family, she has no way to make a living, so she ends up a prostitute who in the end of the song, gets killed.
“Starin’ Through My Rear View” is a track that many may misunderstand, yet Tupac says in the lyrics exactly what he means by it: “The world, the world is behind us / Once a mother***er get an understanding on the game / and what the levels and the rules of the game is / then the world ain’t no trick no more / the world is a game to be played / so now we lookin’ at the world, from like, behind us / niggaz know what we gotta do, just gotta put our mind to it and do it / it’s all about the papers, money rule the world / bitches make the world go round / real niggaz do what they wanna do / bitch niggaz do what they can.”
3. “Unconditional Love”
“Unconditional Love” is a track about all those deep in Tupac’s heart. Some of the most memorable lyrics include, “come listen to my truest thoughts, my truest feelings / all my peers doing years beyond drug dealing / how many caskets can we witness / before we see it’s hard to live this life without God / so we must ask forgiveness.” Other lyrics include, “this fast life soon shatters / cause after all the lights and screams / nothing but my dreams matter / hoping for better days / maybe a peaceful night, baby don’t cry / cause everything gonna be alright.”
Using the melody and some of the chorus from Bruce Hornsby’s “The Way It Is,” “Changes” has become one of Tupac’s most popular songs. In the first ten lines or so, he manages to describe thoughts of suicide, wanting to steal because he’s hungry, how when cops kill a black person the cop is considered a “hero” and hints of how drugs and guns thrive among black youth culture because the government is allowing it to happen. He then shows a dash of hope within lyrics like, “I got love for my brother / but we can never go nowhere / unless we share with each other / we gotta start makin’ changes / learn to see me as a brother ‘stead of two distant strangers.” He then goes on to describe racism and how it affects black people, as well as rapping, “and although it seems heaven sent / we ain’t ready to see a black president.” Lastly, he talks about how there’s a war “in the streets,” “in the middle east” and a “war on drugs,” yet there’s no war on poverty; because of the color of his skin, he has no other choice but to be the stereotypical gangster, always having to watch his back in case someone he wronged in the past decides to get revenge. Essentially, he wants things to change, but he knows they probably won’t, and “that’s just the way it is.”
1. "Keep Ya Head Up"
“Keep Ya Head Up” is a track off of 1993’s Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. It features the backing vocals of Dave Hollister. This song could easily be seen as Tupac’s tribute to all single mothers. Here are some of the lyrics in the beginning of the track: “Some say the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice / I say the darker the flesh then the deeper the roots / I give a holler to my sisters on welfare / Tupac cares, if don’t nobody else care / I know they like to beat ya down a lot / when you come around the block brothas clown a lot / but please don’t cry, dry your eyes, never let up / forgive but don’t forget, girl keep your head up.” His praise for women continues with the following: “I think it’s time to kill for our women / time to heal our women, be real to our women / and if we don’t we’ll have a race of babies / that will hate the ladies, that 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 / so will the real men get up?” He continues, “you can’t complain you was dealt this / hell of a hand, without a man, feelin’ helpless / because there’s too many things for you to deal with / dying inside, but outside you’re looking fearless.” He also makes mention of his gratitude towards his mother and the influence of Marvin Gaye; the chorus itself partially taken from Gaye’s song, “Ooh Child (Things Are Gonna Get Easier).”