Tupac Shakur is easily one of the most respected and well-liked rappers in the history of the genre. He was one of the original poetic rappers and in part due to his feud with Notorious B.I.G., both artists gained recognition and are regarded as two of the best.
He was gunned down at the age of 25 during a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, and although his killer was never caught, his involvement in the East Coast-West Coast feud is likely what caused it. In addition to his rap career, he appeared in several films such as Poetic Justice and Gang Related.
It has been nearly 20 years since his death, but his music and the messages that he rapped about continue to resonate with popular culture and especially black America. His lyrics in songs like “Changes” and “Keep Ya Head Up” are incredibly important for people who are still wanting to see a change in today’s society.
Now, on what would have been his 44th birthday, here are 6 of his most important songs that should be remembered:
The song was written for his mother, someone who was dear to his heart throughout his life after raising him as a single parent. It is a great ode to mothers everywhere who are forced to take the responsibility on themselves and those have made a difference on children around the world. A notable lyric includes: “Through the drama I can always depend on my mama, and when seems that I’m hopeless, you say the words that can get me back on focus. When I was sick as a little kid, to keep me happy, there’s no limit to the things you did.”
Although some things have changed and a couple lyrics may seem outdated in Tupac’s “Changes,” his message about how blacks were mistreated is still very relevant today with new videos surfacing of police brutality all the time. One incredible lyric from the song is still very relevant and applies to people of all races: “It’s time for us as a people to start making some changes. Let’s change the way we eat. Let’s the change the way we live, and let’s change the way we treat each other. You see the old way wasn’t working so it’s on us to do what we gotta do to survive.”
“Keep Ya Head Up”
The song is used as a message for anyone who has ever felt down, whether because they are youth or from discrimination, trying to get them to keep their head up. He was known to speak up for women and this song was a great example, saying “I wonder why we take from our women/ Why we rape our women, do we hate our women / 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…”
“Me Against The World”
The song was the title track from his album and one of his most important songs, and the album is considered one of the most influential hip-hop albums of all time. It refers to him as being alone and fighting to stay alive in the world with no help as many people can relate to. One key and inspiring lyric from the song: “I know it seem hard sometimes but uhh, Remember one thing, Through every dark night, there’s a bright day after that, So no matter how hard it get, stick your chest out, Keep your head up, and handle it.”
“Brenda’s Got A Baby”
It’s another tribute to women who try to tough it out on the streets and sometimes don’t make it. The song is about a 12-year-old named Brenda who gets pregnant and has no support while growing up in the ghetto, forced to get rid of her baby and attempt to survive on the streets. One haunting lyric in the song that some people are forced to deal with: “She tried to sell crack, but end up getting robbed / So now what’s next, there ain’t nothing left to sell / So she sees sex as a way of leaving hell / It’s paying the rent, so she really can’t complain / Prostitute, found slain, and Brenda’s her name, she’s got a baby.”
It is the song that he is perhaps most well-known for and one of his biggest hits. It focuses less on his poetic genius and is more of a fun to sing and jam along to. It was the first single released on Death Row records and just after he was released from prison, used to show love for his home state of California, also featuring Dr. Dre for one of the best featured verses of all time. The chorus is one that just about any hip-hop fan has committed to memory years ago: “California…knows how to party
California…knows how to party
In the citaaay of L.A.
In the citaaay of good ol’ Watts
In the citaaay, the city of Compton
We keep it rockin! We keep it rockin!”