Tupac is known as one of the most impressionable Hip-hop artists to have ever lived. His effort to the Black Power Movement is undeniable. He often expressed his frustrations through his music. There is often a debate considering who is the best rapper to have ever lived between Tupac and Biggie Smalls, I’ll let you be the judge of that one.
In Seeds and Legacies: Tapping the potential in Hip Hop, Gwendolyn argues, that there is a political link between rap music and the Black Power Movement. Afeni Shakur was an integral part of the Black Panther Party, Panther 21, and was arrested in New York for alleged bomb threats. “Afeni gave us Tupac, The Black Power Movement gave us Hip-Hop. Afeni and Tupac then become the physical embodiment for the link between The Black Power Movement and Hip-Hop culture….They can also be viewed as the untapped potential and unfulfilled legacy in rap music.”(Pough)
In Keepin’ It Real in Hip Hop Politics: A Political Perspective of Tupac Shakur, Karin says, Tupac support Black Nationalism through his poems. One specifically that stood out to me was “How Can We Be Free.” In this poem he says, “Sometimes I wonder about this race, Because we must be blind as hell, 2 think we live in equality, while Nelson Mandela riots in a jail cell, Where the shores on Howard Beach, Are full of African corpses…”(Karin) Tupac condemns police violence and the need for political change. I see this as an out-cry, basically saying WAKE UP AMERICA! Why is this still a reality?
I chose “Holla If Ya Hear Me,” as the song I wanted to write about because he is practically begging for change and for the rest of America to open their eyes to the truth of how black Americans were being treated on a daily basis. Black men and women were being racially profiled and killed by police on a regular basis and no one batted an eye. Our government is supposed to protect all men and women equally and Tupac often argued that black Americans were not treated fairly in court because they were not tried by their PEERS but rather citizens who belittle them or feel superior to. This truth surrounded him in his daily life and changes were not happening. He used his platform to beg for change in hopes that maybe HE would be heard.
Aww yeah, uhh, uhh
Holla if ya hear me, yeah
Here we go, turn it up, let’s start
From block to block we snatching hearts and jacking marks
And the punk police can’t fade me, and maybe
We can have peace someday, G
But right now I got my mind set up
Looking down the barrel of my nine, get up
Cause it’s time to make the payback fat
To my brothers on the block better stay strapped, black
And accept no substitutes
I bring truth to the youth tear the roof off the whole school
Oh no, I won’t turn the other cheek
In case ya can’t see us while we burn the other week
Now we got a nigga smash, blast
How long will it last ’til the po’ getting mo’ cash
Until then, raise up!
Tell my young black males, blaze up!
Life’s a mess don’t stress, test
I’m giving but be thankful that you’re living, blessed
Much love to my brothers in the pen
See ya when they free ya if not when they shove me in
Once again it’s an all out scrap
Keep your hands on ya gat, and now ya boys watch ya back
Cause in the alleys out in Cali I’mma tell ya
Mess with the best and the vest couldn’t help ya
Scream, if ya feel me; see it clearly?
You’re too near me –
Unfortunately, Tupac died before he saw any real change. Although we did have a black president, there is a lot that hasn’t changed for black Americans and Tupac’s words are still relatable to this day. Tupac encouraged young men and women of color to stand up for their rights as American citizens and did so by his activism. Maybe it’s time we need someone with his same devotion and effort to stand up and do the same.
Seeds and Legacies: Tapping the Potential in Hip Hop. Gwendolyn Pough. SAGE. 2011.
Keepin’ It Real in Hip Hop Politics: A Political Perspective of Tupac Shakur. Karin L. Stanford. Routledge.
AZLyrics. 2Pac Lyrics. Holla If Ya Hear Me. 2000. Aug 12. 2018