Tupac Shakur, born Lesane Parish Crooks in June 1971, more famously known as 2Pac, was a prominent rapper during the 1990s and is still considered to be one of the most influential hip-hop artists of all time. Until his untimely death in 1996 at the age of 25, Tupac used his musical talent, lyrical skills, and raw expression, to create top-selling albums such as Me Against the World, and All Eyez on Me. The former is widely regarded as being his greatest work during his career. Singles such as California Love and Hit ‘Em Up, and Ghetto Gospel, are some of his most popular tracks. Tupac also collaborated with other giants of the hip-hop industry such as The Notorious B.I.G or Biggie, Dr. Dre, Eminem, and Snoop Dogg.
Tupac’s legacy has been a highly influential one. His death from a drive by shooting at a young age sent shockwaves throughout the hip-hop and music industry. It was a reminder that to many that hip-hop was incredibly real and that the music was a reflection of raw emotion. However, Tupac was also known for his devilish wit that allowed him to temporarily move away from his deeper self. Today, Tupac’s legacy of quality rapping continues to influence a vast number of rappers and hip-hop artists such as Eminem today.
The messages in Tupac’s songs show a lot about the culture and the struggles faced as a discriminated minority in America. His music resonates with many young people and gives strength to those who are ostracised. His music is an outlet for many youths experiencing similar hardships. He inspires new artists to create meaningful music, which is an important part of his legacy.
‘Cause I ain’t a crook, despite how I look’
– 2Pac, Young Black Male
The impact that Tupac and his music have on society is large. A unique and fundamental aspect of hip-hop is that it does not aim to gloss reality. The lyrics reflect real life. It is often gritty and very confrontational and these are unique qualities of hip-hop. Those who understand the culture that Tupac was a part of can empathise and enjoy the music. At the same time, many who are far from his world, may find his music to be intimidating. Hip-hop is real, and is a direct link to the grittiness of urban life.
Tupac’s music also allows others to share their thoughts and emotions. Using music as a mode of expression is incredibly effective. Tupac’s influence on musical expression is very important. His lyrics refer to racism, cultural discrimination, injustice, social class, and social conflict. These issues are still very much relevant in the world today.
“Can barely walk the city streets
Without a cop harassing me, searching me”
– 2Pac Trapped
Bringing a City Together and the Link of Music:
There are many predominately popular elements in life which contribute to the uniting of a society or community. Music has been known to be one of these elements as it has the ability to bring people together in celebration, in remembrance and in all aspects in which life represents. Tupac Amaru Shakur (hereinafter referred to as “Tupac”) was a prominent rapper, who based his music around life experiences, tragedy, hardships and successes whose music was so popular that it sold over 75 million records worldwide (Hindustan Times 16 June 2012). Tupac’s music brought many people, of different cultures together, particularly whereby in his music he would speak about racism such as Changes (1994) which has allowed many people to understand the importance of cultural unity. Tupac’s music and his expression of life raised awareness of struggles faced within society and in doing so has brought many cultures together, particularly in respect of acknowledging the African-American culture and how they were discriminated against. Music has been known as an underlying principle which brings people together, such as in the prominence of Kosovo whereby after years of conflict, songs were sang in hope for a better life and future which is similar to the message set out by Tupac (Besa 2005).
The messages of freedom, change, prosperity and equality as shown through the songs Dear Mama, Changes, and Brenda’s Got a Baby which in particular depict issues that tend to occur within low socio-economic societies. Through his music, Tupac has brought cultures together by educating the world and his straight forward lyrics highlight the issues which he faced growing up in a poor economic area. Tupac has brought the world together through his message and music causing a casual link between his followers as it would with people who belong to the same city. Michael De Certeau outlined the features of urban life which is depicted in particular cities and states that particular aspects determine the particular dynamics of that city and its sociological culture. De Certeau through his works, determined that the functionality of a city, the people who are involved in the city, are what turn an area into a city. Similarly, it is those who engage with and interpret the music of Tupac which gives his music sociological and cultural meaning. Tupac’s messages which were embedded through his lyrics contributed to the culture and functionality of society bringing life to a city of people who followed him during his time.
Furthermore, Tupac’s music and the way in which it was performed outlined messages of history. This exceedingly exuberant popular cultural phenomenon is also a basis for cultural traffic which still lives on post-mortem. According to David Byrne’s theory, Tupac’s music caused a movement in culture as it brought together different people from different cultures who have their own different identities yet have embraced Tupac’s own rap culture through his musical influence. Tupac followed the patterns of the successful rap group NWA in creating his music which is how, as argued by sociologist Theodore Adorno, revolutionary. Tupac’s music has, and continues to be an indication of substantial cultural traffic which influences, educates, and embraces the sociological significance of culture and urbanism.
Tupac’s Influence on the Sociological Aspects of Life:
One of the issues in the modern society is the sense of belonging. or lack thereof. Many people seek to be recognised and to feel accepted in the society. Therefore, any segregation brings unsettlement in society. The social evils such as racism were among the issues which were of importance to the musician. One of his songs which received overwhelming accolade and much hearing both during and after his life was the song Changes. This song focused on addressing the topic of poverty and racism in the streets. Tupac argued that these evils will never change and they will always remain. Tupac has played an integral role in educating and inspiring youths to take a stand against oppression and build a stronger society (Burwell & Lenters 2015).
One of the fundamental issues addressed by Tupac related especially to the immediate society in which he lived. During this time, American society was marred by vices such as racism, brutality, inequality and segregation of the minority. He used most of his songs to castigate and address these issues. The existing culture between the minority and the whites was diverse and separate from one another. However, Tupac bridged this gap by seeking to demonstrate the sense of rights and belonging to the minority in the country (Byrne 2012).
Music has been deemed as one of the tools of communicating and addressing issues within the community. The importance of music enables people to express their feelings and allow them to be heard. This explains why the works of Tupac have remained of importance and great influence especially to the American society even after his death. The themes which were integrated by Tupac in his work have remained of significance today, with most people listening to his music to gain a greater understanding of urbanism and its faults (De Certeau 1999). For example, his quest for recognition of the minority and expression of street life has remained as a real and confronting issue.
Tupac’s Version on the Expression of Life:
Having been brought up by a mother who was a leader of the Black Panthers Movement, Tupac was raised in an environment where social tensions became a central factor in his upbringing. Influenced by the political visuals shown through graffiti, which were used to express social discontent (Young 2013), Tupac became highly conscious at a young age. His prominence as a political artist had been pre-determined because of his affiliation with the Black Panthers, who became notorious as the radical manifestation of the Civil rights Movement. He raps in his song, Thug’s Mansion, “how can I be peaceful? I’m coming from the bottom; watch my daddy scream peace while the other man shot him.” In another song, he writes “how can I feel guilty after all the things they did to me?” In both cases, he addresses the victimised mentality of a community that has been subject to a historical narrative that is fraught with racial oppression and degradation. For what purpose should the community be apologetic or peaceful in their retaliation for hundreds of years of oppression? This was the mentality held by the Black Panthers movement, which appealed to those who found the approach of Dr Martin Luther King as having been ‘soft’. Tupac’s influence spanned not only to those who appreciated his musical prowess, but to those who were not only politically like-minded, but also those who were met with the realities that he expressed through his songs.
In a famous interview, Tupac was recorded to have stated “I’m not saying I’m gonna change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain, that will change the world.” Tupac’s influence in the hip-hop community, and arguably throughout the global community, was not stemmed primarily through his production of music. In the music industry, there are countless of artists who break records but the underlying distinction that sets Tupac from his contemporaries, as well those who supersede him, is his prioritisation of social awareness in his music. Irrespective of his success, or where his fame would take him, his affinity to the streets and its struggles became his home (Heller 1995).
“I’m tired of being poor and even worse, I’m black; my stomach hurts, so I’m looking for a purse to snatch”
– Tupac Shakur
The song entitled Changes is regarded as one of the most important pieces of music from the hip-hop genre. The entire piece is a composition of racial politics, idealism and reality. In and of itself, the piece induces a dichotomy of the African-American as being, on the one hand, victims of an institutionalised form of oppression, though at the other hand, contemporary aggressors of social cohesion through the gangster persona. He reconciles the dichotomy through the idea that the aggressors are merely a product of a continuous chain of generational discrimination. The circumstances that were induced upon the African Americans, that being of inadequate welfare and poverty, by the system is what causes the crimes, like theft, to occur, as implied when he says “I ain’t never did a crime I ain’t have to do”.
Tupac Shakur, more commonly known as 2Pac, was an internationally influential hip-hop artist. Due to his legacy and through his music, Tupac was able to express his emotions and portray his talent and lyrical skills. His music mirrored his culture, real life experiences, and the struggles he experienced as being a part of a discriminated group in America. Using his music as a platform has strengthened individuals that were facing similar situations as his lyrics referred to injustices that continue to occur today in everyday life. Through his music, Tupac was able to send a message to a wide audience in order to educate them about African American discrimination in America.
Tupac was able to create a link between the people that listen to his music and provided knowledge to those who were unfamiliar with hip-hop. His music also had a connection between culture and history and he successfully portrayed the reality of urban life in his songs. Tupac had a significant impact on sociological aspects of life by uniting different cultures and influencing many young artists to express their emotions and thoughts through music. Despite the negative treatment he received from members of society as both a young black man and during his career as a hip-hop artist, Tupac shaped the minds of many people with his music. He expressed himself through the media of music in order to get his messages across to a broad community and has a large influence on urban society.
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How Tupac’s Life and Lyrics Raise Awareness of Struggles within society for adolescents http://smrecek.weebly.com/
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