“Dear Mama” by Tupac Shakur
This essay delves into Tupac Shakur’s iconic song “Dear Mama,” exploring its lyrical depth and the emotional narrative it portrays. It examines how the song reflects Tupac’s complex relationship with his mother and his upbringing, highlighting themes of love, struggle, and resilience against societal challenges. The piece will also analyze the song’s influence on hip-hop culture and its role in humanizing the experiences of those living in poverty and facing systemic issues. The objective is to provide a comprehensive understanding of the song’s impact both as a personal tribute and a broader social commentary. At PapersOwl, you’ll also come across free essay samples that pertain to Hip Hop.
How it works
In the early 1990’s, the rap game was introduced to someone new. Tupac Shakur was the first ever rap poet. For many people, Pac resembled the struggle between tremendous talent and tragedy. From writing poems about underprivileged youth, struggling single moms, and the world through his eyes, Pac left an everlasting memory on society. “Tupac’s poems are written in a way to make the reader feel the same emotion that the author is feeling at the current moment in the text.
” As Pac’s fame grew, his message was heard around the world, which sparked interest. Some can even argue that Tupac Shakur is a household name as it is known worldwide. In the short amount of time Tupac Shakur lived, he left a great legacy. We will be looking at Pac’s background and how it shaped him. Through poetic analysis, we will be looking at Pac’s use of word play and rhymes, while also implementing elements of poetry that made him so successful.
Throughout the 90s, there was one man who changed American culture forever. From the way he dressed and represented himself, rapper Tupac Shakur left a permanent memory of a rap icon. His outstanding album sales, worldwide tours, and never-ending influence on society spoke to the tremendous success of his career. However, some may say that Tupac Shakur was a gangster, hood rat, or bad influence, but his words represented much more. To this day Mr. Shakur’s music is played, not only as rap, but as a form of poetry. From his early days at Baltimore School of the Arts and continuing to his passing, Pac wrote about so much more. Pac wrote poetry about an alternative vantage point in the world that he represented in his music.
“Tupac was a mirror of contradictions” (Rolling Stone). Throughout Tupac’s short-lived life, he was a poet, actor, model, artist, and a convicted felon. With gangland affiliation and a “thug” life, Pac was revolutionary not only with his poetry but with his vivid paradoxes, too. From the day Tupac Shakur was born, fate was not on his side. Tupac’s mother, Afeni Shakur, was a leader with the spirited Blank Panthers. His father and step-father were active in the Black Panther movement. Afeni Shakur named her son Tupac Amaru after the Incan revolutionary leader who had fought against Spanish imperialism several centuries before Tupac’s birth. The name translates to “shining serpent,” as well as “Shakur,” which comes from Arabic origins with the meaning of “thankful” or “appreciative.” The young Pac was being shaped and groomed to become a member of the Young Communist League. Later on, the social reality of the projects of Baltimore, where he grew up, represented a retreat from politics. With no “father figure” in sight, by the time Pac was a teenager, he had taken the role of “providing” for his half-sister, as his mother had been reduced to a crack addict who he later writes and dedicates a song to. While living in a rough, black dominate neighborhood, Pac was surrounded by struggle and hardships. While struggling to raise himself, sister, and mother out of poverty, Pac used music as his helping aid.
Tupac could have been the most responsible for the politicization of rap music, while embracing a “gangster” lifestyle. From the various topics he wrote about, Pac was more known for his homilies to struggling women on the welfare system, conflict, and aspirations to make the world a better place. “He reeled out screeds of poetry but would become infamous for his volatility and a reckless proclivity for violence. He lauded the values of community and social struggle while simultaneously embracing the individual wealth and material status his fame brought him” (Rolling Stones). Tupac’s tragedy, and brilliance, lies in the fact that he was a living embodiment of this contradiction. Often, Tupac would appear in music videos and at parties in a flashy outfit with a thick gold chain around his neck, but that did not stop him from giving out money to a struggling single mother in the parking lot. Tupac’s songs often carried the same unsettling fusion of misogyny and materiality. Pac always wanted to make a point and help others to give back, regardless of his “celebrity status.”
Tupac’s music reached millions of people after only being released for a couple months, as most of them hit platinum. To this day in society, Tupac’s music is still being appreciated and bumped on speakers as it is more relevant than ever. Tupac is placed among the top rappers of all time because of his legacy. Other MCs say that “Tupac mastered every element, every aspect” (Wikipedia). His legacy left a message that inspired many artists. The top artists of today will always relate back to Tupac. For instance, J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, and Jay Z. Not only was Pac an inspiration to rappers, but he was also a role model for many teenagers and young adults. He was known as a symbol of rap and its violence. Among Pac’s numerous hit songs, here are his top five that made an everlasting impression: “ Dear Mama” “ California Love” “ Keep Ya Head Up” “ Changes” “ How Do You Want It”
Throughout his various songs, Pac talked about his love/hate relationship with his mother, a celebration of the California hip-hop lifestyle, and not only spoke about black women and their struggles, but he defended them from within a genre that was and still very much is “a man’s game.” “Our view on Tupac’s ability to communicate what was going on around him was second to none. It wasn’t necessarily about telling a story in the most intricate and detailed of ways, it was about making you feel like you were there seeing what he was seeing” (Rolling Stones).
Once again, the fact is that Tupac’s songs really talk about the struggles he and his family went through while he was growing up, and his songs are relatable to his followers. In “Dear Mama,” he talks about how he never thought he would be locked up in the state pen, “and hey who think in elementary, one day I’d see the penitentiary.” He also mentions his mother’s addiction to cocaine, and forgiving her for it, while also saying she was still all they could have wished for as a mother in the hard times they had “and even as a crack fiend mama, ya always was a black queen, mama.” Pac mentions how his father was not in his life while he was a child and how it made him extremely angry that he never knew the man who passed on his seed to him, “he passed away and I didn’t cry cuz my anger wouldn’t let me feel for a stranger.” Next, he talks about how he got started into the drug dealing game. He says that he hung around with the older dealers at a young age because they gave him protection, and it made him feel loved. Eventually, as he became older, he grew into it.
He says, in an interview back in the early 1990’s, that he “isn’t really committing a crime, but sells crack because it pays the bills.” Pac then proceeds to talk about all the sweet things his mother did for himself and his sister when they were kids and how she always loved and nurtured them. While appreciating her and respecting everything she did, he knew he could never pay his mother back. Pac was so gifted that he could nail the same rhythm and tone quality of every single take, which is very challenging. Tupac had studied jazz and poetry, as well as theatre, which made him have incredible control of rhythm and ability to layer his vocals very effectively, without compromising flow or cohesion. Arguably, his most famous song, “Changes,” shows Pac’s compromise with being a bad-boy gangster thug to his African American social issues. One of the reasons why Tupac stood out so much in the rap game was because of his ability to be poetic. In the first couple of lines of the song, Tupac raps, “I’m tired of bein’ poor and even worse I’m black, my stomach hurts so I’m looking for a purse to snatch.”
This illustrates how many black people are living in poverty because of their limits of opportunities and instead must subject themselves to crime. Throughout his song, the use of an anaphora is used multiple times in the chorus. Not only are there multiple rhymes like, “Don’t let ‘em jack you up, back you up, crack you up, and pimp-smack you up,” Pac uses onomatopoeia to illustrate the sound of a gun being fired, and he makes you feel what he feels, “Rat-a-tat-tat-tat that’s just the way it is.” Among his huge range of diversity, Pac also uses ballads, as he not only raps, but sings as well. In every song, Pac uses irony to put a literal twist on his words to reveal a much deeper meaning, “Give crack to kids, who the hell cares?? One less hungry mouth on the welfare,” which makes his songs more relatable with multiple levels, as he relates that often people use drugs to numb their stressing situations, and how the black community tends to suffer by considering other options to get through the day. Finally, at the very end of the song, Pac uses a free verse in order to express a message to survive in the world. “Pac embodies how he wants to see his people rise and make changes to benefit them” (Wikipedia).
No artist has had that effect on so many people as Tupac did, and that is why he will reign as one of the most influential rappers who paved and engrained his footprint into the foundation of the genre. While using calculated metaphors, rhymes, and layering, Tupac Shakur will forever be current in today’s society as we are all living the life he wrote about. Not only would he spit from a different part of his mind, heart, and body, but his work was built on education and history. Therefore, his work impacted those who listened to it. Today, you could fly anywhere and surely there would be someone who knows of Tupac.