It's been exactly 21 years since legendary rapper Tupac Shakur passed away, and although the thought of a great musician gone too soon is a sad one, it's always nice to remember the massive influence he had on, not just fellow hip-hop artists, but everyone.
One of Tupac's most lasting and prominent legacies was his ability to to speak about various social issues in his music masterfully. Sure, his work was complicated—and problematic—at times, but that doesn't negate the fact that he was talking about real life things that other mainstream musicians from other genres would too often ignore. Real life issues that still, to this day, are affecting people the world over. And it's because of his musical fearlessness that his legacy lives on.
To celebrate the artist, here are some timeless Tupac lyrics with messages that still ring true in 2017.
"And since we all came from a woman / Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman / I wonder why we take from our women / Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?" — from "Keep Ya Head Up"
Tupac's popular 1993 single is an epic ode to the beauty and greatness of black mothers and black women, and how people—especially men—shouldn't be disrespecting and hurting the ones who gave them life. An always timely topic when you consider that there is still, as GQ points out, continued mass erasure of the violence that black women endure.
"Now Brenda's gotta make her own way/ Can't go to her family, they won't let her stay / No money no babysitter, she couldn't keep a job / She tried to sell crack but end up getting robbed / So now what's next, there ain't nothing left to sell / So she sees sex as a way of leaving hell / It's paying the rent, so she really can't complain / Prostitute, found slain and Brenda's her name, she's got a baby." —from "Brenda's Got a Baby"
Tupac was a master storyteller, and that is probably most evident in the 1991 single "Brenda's Got a Baby," which chronicled the life of a 12-year-old girl who was forced into prostitution to try and make ends meet after having a baby by her cousin who molested her. Although not a light subject at all, the way Tupac detailed the struggle of a young single mother was, and still is, revolutionary. Child prostitution, abuse, and poverty, are still topics that too many people shy away from instead of dealing with head on, and Tupac, showing a great empathy toward the struggle of many young, black women, decided to bring that struggle to the mainstream.
"Cops give a damn about a negro / Pull the trigger, kill a n***a, he's a hero / 'Give the crack to the kids: who the hell cares? / One less hungry mouth on the welfare!'" —from "Changes"
The posthumous single "Changes" is one of Tupac's definitive works, especially since it highlights things like the War on Drugs and the War on Poverty, and how people need to be the change they want to see in their communities. Some of the most poignant moments of the record, though, are the numerous references to the problems of police brutality and institutional racism, matters that should still be talked about openly and publicly by society so long as lives like Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, and Philando Castile continue to be taken from the world too soon.
What's your favorite Tupac song? Let us know in the comments and on Twitter!