On September 13, 1996, iconic rapper Tupac Amaru Shakur died of injuries resulting from a Las Vegas drive-by shooting. Known for highlighting racial injustice in his music the prolific artist was only 25 when he passed away.
Although the popular West Coast rapper's passing abruptly ended his legendary career, his legacy is still felt in his lyrics. To commemorate the anniversary of Tupac's unfortunate demise, here's a list of timeless verses that bring his monumental impact on music and Black culture to memory.
1. I wonder why we take from our women / Why we rape our women, do we hate our women? – 'Keep Ya Head Up'
YouTube | 2whitethugz
Though Tupac's gangster aesthetic was a large part of his public image, he also wasn't ashamed to support women, sympathizing with the abuse they've experienced from men. Women have historically been demeaned in rap music, but on "Keep Ya Head Up," Tupac became an advocate for Black women. After this verse, Tupac urged others to protect and heal "our women." The verse is just as relevant in 2019 as it was in 1993.
2. Learn to see me as a brother instead of two distant strangers/ And that's how it's supposed to be / How can the Devil take a brother if he's close to me? – 'Changes'
YouTube | 2PacVEVO
In this verse, Tupac challenges the violence that takes place between Black men. He informs listeners that these violent behaviors are a product of white supremacy, and spells out how the police disproportionately target Black men. Tupac suggested that men within the community perceive each other as brothers, while he reminisced on the playful times of Black youth.
3. Penitentiaries is packed with promise makers / Never realize the precious time that b***h n****s is wastin' – 'Hail Mary'
YouTube | DaMVKing86
Tupac opens up "Hail Mary" with one of his hardest lines, warning anyone wanting to mess with him that he simply isn't one to be attacked. As the song progresses, he gets deeper into a topic that was close to his heart — Black incarceration. The verse speaks on how Black men are institutionalized into the prison system.
4. A poor single mother on welfare, tell me how you did it/ There's no way I can pay you back / But the plan is to show you that I understand – 'Dear Mama'
YouTube | 2PacVEVO
When "Dear Mama" came out, it instantly became a classic Mother's Day anthem. Tupac honors his mom, activist Afeni Shakur, for raising him when she couldn't even provide for herself. Although Tupac acknowledges that he didn't have the best living environment, the way he expresses his appreciation for his mother's sacrifice makes this entire track a classic.
5. Father forgive us for livin' while all my homies stuck in prison / Barely breathin' believin' that the world is a prism/ It's like a ghetto we can never leave / A broken rose givin' bloom through the cracks of the concrete – 'I Ain't Mad at Cha'
YouTube | ezikill
How Tupac rapped was just as monumental as what he rapped about. In "I Ain't Mad at Cha," he pulls out all kinds of tropes and poetic tools. He tells the hood story in the most eloquent ways, pulling three different narratives together.
6. How many brothers fell victim to the street? / Rest in peace, young n***a, there's a heaven for a G / Be a lie if I told you that I never thought of death / My n***a we the last ones left – 'Life Goes On'
YouTube | 2Pac – Topic
In "Life Goes On," reflects Tupac's life before becoming famous. While prior to achieving fame, his life included simple things like chasing girls and hanging with friends, it also included tragedy. The lyrics recall the friends he lost along the way, expressing his emotions about death in this rap ballad.
7. The message I stress: To make it stop study your lessons / Don't settle for less — even the genius asks questions / Be grateful for blessings / Don't ever change, keep your essence / The power is in the people and politics we address – 'Me Against the World'
YouTube | 2Pac – Topic
In this verse for "Me Against the World," Tupac acknowledged how he was basically on his own, as obstacles tried to get in his way. Although he was a superstar, his celebrity status didn't stop him from getting in trouble with the law. However, Tupac didn't let that stop him from being successful, which forms a lesson for listeners who are thinking about giving up on their dreams.
8. Now, give me 50 feet / Defeat is not my destiny, release me to the streets / And keep whatever's left of me – '2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted'
YouTube | Jrad's Edits
Nothing could stop his hustle, and he wanted listeners and his haters to be aware of it. On "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted," Tupac teams up with fellow West Coast rapper Snoop Dogg to spit verse after verse in perfect cadence. His lines revealed how heavily invested he was to his craft.
9. Driven by my ambitions, desire higher positions / So I proceed to make Gs, eternally / And my mission is to be more than just a rap musician / The elevation of today’s generation, if I could make 'em listen – 'Unconditional Love'
YouTube | OfficialDeathRow
Summarizing Tupac's legacy, this verse expresses how he aimed to be more than just a rapper; Tupac was an activist who genuinely wanted to inspire change for his generation. He used every song as an opportunity to encourage people to want better for themselves, which is one of the many reasons he's considered an all-time great.
Tupac was bigger than hip-hop. He became a voice of a generation of Black people, who were tired of dealing with racism and police brutality in their communities. He also became an advocate for change and encouraged people to be the change they wanted to see around them. Tupac's activist legacy will live on forever as his lyrics continue to resonate with future generations.
Rest in peace.