Rap is indubitably one of the most misunderstood and slandered genres of music. With many people refusing to move past the profanity and raw lyricism to understand an artist’s intent, rap songs that contain beautiful poetry and make important statements are often lost or renounced. The seemingly lazy approach that society takes toward listening to rap is a direct result of people misunderstanding the culture associated with who is making rap music.
In response to the widening divide in our society between the majority and the minority, many rappers choose to use their platform to bring awareness to the way they grew up and the problems they face in society. Unfortunately, many of these attempts are unsuccessful as the people who don’t understand rap culture are also the ones unwilling to move past the profanity associated with rap, thereby perpetuating the lack of understanding further.
With that being said, many rappers have been incredibly successful in bringing awareness to their circumstances. One of the most successful of those was Tupac Shakur, also known as 2Pac. While 2Pac definitely made his share of profane rap, it seems he put thoughtful intent behind every song he wrote. All of his songs are carried by careful poetry and exposition of the life he and the people close to him lived.
“Changes” is a great example of how 2Pac was able to have influence in social groups other than the rap community. Sampling Bruce Hornsby’s “The Way It Is,” a song recognized and loved by many Americans at the time, 2Pac took full advantage of the opportunity to shed light on his circumstance while he had the attention of a vast majority of America. While the song was released after his death, it became one of his most popular songs, gaining accolades in places as surprising as Norway and The Netherlands. The lyric that always stands out in the song is “I ain’t never did a crime I ain’t have to do.” In one fell swoop, 2Pac sheds a whole new light on systemic oppression. While many people outside of the black community don’t often realize it, the systemic oppression of black people remains to be a prevalent problem today. A lack of compassion from politicians has led to a severe lack of resources for black children growing up in impoverished communities, leading them to crime in order to survive. 2Pac even says in the song that he is “tired of bein’ poor and, even worse, (he is) black.”
A blatant lack of respect for women is another reason why rap tends to be renounced in greater society. While it is true that many rappers only exemplify this stereotype, 2Pac, time and time again, showed a deep understanding of the trials women face and used his influence to expose these problems while showing support for women. The greatest exemplifications of these actions are his songs “Keep Ya Head Up” and “Brenda’s Got a Baby.” The former is a song of support for black women and speaks on the problems they often face, unbeknownst to many within and not within the black community. The latter is a narration on the story of a girl who gets pregnant at the age of 12 and turns to prostitution to survive. A lyric that has been cited as a standout by many is “She didn’t know what to throw away and what to keep.” The lyric is eerily representative of the lack of care and regard that impoverished black children receive. Unexpectedly, 2Pac wrote a women’s anthem that did something rap had really never done before. It shed light on problems that weren’t addressed by men and supported women in prevalent yet unsavory situations.
While many people might solely remember 2Pac for his gangster anthems and close proximity to violence, his music continues to carry immense value in the exposition of the circumstances he and other people around him faced. Valiantly, he used his platform to say what he felt needed to be said, qualifying him as one of the greatest rappers to walk this Earth.