Songs by Theme
If you look for it, you will find 2Pac’s likeness sketched on walls and other surfaces in cities, villages and bedrooms throughout the world. Why 2Pac?
When 2Pac entered the scene as a 21 year old solo artist in the early 90s, he quickly became a symbol of the power and promise of his generation. Around the same time Chuck D, of the group Public Enemy, announced the power of Hiphop as a critical news source. Still, it was not until 2Pac included meaningful information and critiques about issues in society as part of his everyday life that the full potential became evident. 2Pac’s first single was not an apolitical party anthem or a threatening and egotistical display of cold-hearted gangsterism. Instead, 2Pac began his solo career with a song about the abuse of a 12-year-old girl in Brenda’s Got A Baby. This 1991 release is actually a critique of all of us, as well as a full documentation of what social scientists never adequately describe or explain. In contrast to academia’s indifferent depiction of the harsh reality of poor urban life as data, 2Pac told his difficult story with uncompromising realism, critique and compassion. He argued for change and insisted that we can do better, we must do better, society must change, and yes we are all responsible. Tupac Shakur quickly became an influential agent in the evolution of contemporary cultural, political and social thought and activism. 2Pac was not a poster child for the politically correct and progressive politics. He entered the hiphop scene at the top and with a hard-core persona that was raw and empathetic, fed-up and critical of injustice. He would objectify women and also demand that they be respected; he would argue for understanding and reconciliation and also threaten and ridicule his perceived opponents. 2Pac was a man who struggled with his contradictions and shared them with the world. As Dionne Bennett (2003) writes, “Tupac was not a feminist yet he was consistently and passionately engaged in feminist labor despite his problematic investment in sexist discourse.” He wore his conscience on his sleeve and argued for the world to see his humanity and therefore all of our humanity.
Kiese Laymon recalls that as a young man he and his friends believed they were connected to 2Pac and that there were some things that they learned from him and therefore knew for sure. “Tupac would fight for us, with us and against us, when the time came. And we knew he expected the same fight from us, too. We thought he was one of us and looked at him to keep our balance. We looked Tupac Shakur straight in the eye, and he looked back.” (Kiese Laymon 2012) Perhaps in the end what he taught us with his art and words is that lamenting what is wrong and what has happened is not enough. One must also grow and find a way to succeed and show compassion and courage as we move forward. In A Rose That Grew From Concrete 2Pac writes:
You see you wouldn't ask why the rose that grew from the concrete had damaged petals
On the contrary, we would all celebrate its tenacity
We would all love its will to reach the sun
Well, we are the roses
This is the concrete
And these are my damaged petals
Don't ask me why…Ask me how!