Tupac Shakur

Tupac Shakur was born in Harlem in 1971. Both of his parents were members of the Black Panther party and their ideologies and views on civil rights influenced his personal life and music career.

Jazz, swing, and ragtime were important cultural art forms that helped create and propel civil rights movements in the early twentieth century. Since the 1990s, hip-hop and pop music have been cultural art forms that organize social change. Studies of popular culture show that music can allow “individuals to create meaning, identify, and find community” (Clay 106). Therefore, hip hop and pop music have become tools to create collective identity but also individual identity. In his song “Changes” Tupac Shakur raps about many personal and collective injustices:


…I’m tired of bein’ poor and even worse I’m black.
My stomach hurts, so I’m lookin’ for a purse to snatch.
Cops give a damn about a negro? Pull the trigger, kill a nigga, he’s a hero.
Give the crack to the kids who the hell cares? One less hungry mouth on the welfare.
First ship ’em dope & let ’em deal the brothers.
Give ’em guns, step back, and watch ’em kill each other.
“It’s time to fight back”, that’s what Huey said.
2 shots in the dark now Huey’s dead…
I see no changes. All I see is racist faces.
Misplaced hate makes disgrace for races we under.
I wonder what it takes to make this one better place…
let’s erase the wasted.
Take the evil out the people, they’ll be acting right.
‘Cause mo’ black than white is smokin’ crack tonight.
And only time we chill is when we kill each other.
It takes skill to be real, time to heal each other.
And although it seems heaven sent,
we ain’t ready to see a black President, uhh.
It ain’t a secret don’t conceal the fact…
the penitentiary’s packed, and it’s filled with blacks…
“I made a G today” But you made it in a sleazy way.
Sellin’ crack to the kids. “I gotta get paid,”…
And still I see no changes. Can’t a brother get a little peace?
There’s war on the streets & the war in the Middle East.
Instead of war on poverty,
they got a war on drugs so the police can bother me.
And I ain’t never did a crime I ain’t have to do.
But now I’m back with the facts givin’ ’em back to you.
Don’t let ’em jack you up, back you up, crack you up and pimp smack you up.
You gotta learn to hold ya own.
They get jealous when they see ya with ya mobile phone.
But tell the cops they can’t touch this.
I don’t trust this, when they try to rush I bust this.
That’s the sound of my tune. You say it ain’t cool, but mama didn’t raise no fool.
And as long as I stay black, I gotta stay strapped & I never get to lay back.
‘Cause I always got to worry ’bout the pay backs.
Some buck that I roughed up way back… comin’ back after all these years.
Rat-a-tat-tat-tat-tat. That’s the way it is. uhh
Some things will never change

Throughout the song, Shakur raps about racism in his life and in the life of African Americans. He mentions police brutality, the prison system, drugs, and social welfare. I chose to research Tupac Shakur because of his Harlem roots, but also because he wrote songs that were both personal and relatable. When teenagers were interviewed about popular culture in the 1990s, one student said that Shakur “brought so much emotion, he [could] make you cry, laugh, kill somebody all in one song and it just made you think about everything” (Clay 108).

Summarizing the effectiveness of hip-hop to create identity and community, another student said, “Homies and home girls, the listen to hip-hop like Tupac and can connect to him, so I listen to Tupac. Because, it’s true and he portrayed it so well. He’s the greatest fuckin’ artist of all time, because he performs the revolutionary role so well, and the thug role, and the soldier. And youth connect with that. And I can say, have you heard this song by Tupac, where he talks about him getting chased by the police and how they got money for war, but can’t feed the poor? And it’s a reference that I can use to get folks to think about other stuff. ‘Cause they’re not at the point where they’re going to read Wallerstein, or Malcolm X even, you know? Little examples that you can use to get them reading that stuff and thinking about stuff in different ways. Hip-hop is a tool. It’s a big fat tool. Even if they try and commercialize it, it’s till gonna be a tool. They can’t escape the fact that capitalism is there and the stories of inequality are there” (Clay 114).


Clay, Andreana. “”All I Need Is One Mic”: Mobilizing Youth for Social Change In the Post-Civil Rights Era.” Social                     Justice. 33.2 (2006): 105-121. Web. 27 Sep. 2011.