Tupac Shakur was an American artist who had great influence on the hip-hop genre of music in the United States. He was born in 1971 and died in 1996 at the age of 25 (Johnson and McQuillar 3). His notoriety is evident from the number of records sold before and after his demise. He is ranked among the best-selling performers and artists of the 20th Century. Shakur was ranked as the second best hip-hop artists of all times by MTV (Johnson and McQuillar 33).
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He started his music career as a dancer and a member of a group referred to as the Digital Underground. After performing with the group for several years, Shakur left the group and became a solo artist. Throughout his music career, he released many songs that topped music charts around the world. On the other hand, he faced legal issues that landed him in jail. Despite his many tribulations, Shakur released many influential songs that had positive messages (Johnson and McQuillar 37).
This paper will analyze three of Shakur’s songs. These songs include Changes, I cry, and Only God can judge me. Each of these songs has a different theme and message. Shakur is considered as one of the most influential artists in the history of hip-hop. His songs were real expressions of his life that was laden with controversies. He was real and did not write songs to make money only but also to advocate for change in the American society by fighting oppression and racism.
Analysis of the song “Changes”
Tupac Shakur rose quickly to fame because of the poetic nature of his songs. “Changes” is one of his most poetic songs listed among his most famous and influential songs. In this song, Shakur dropped his gangster image to sing about various issues that African Americans experienced during his time. For instance, he sings about poverty and the effect of race on the standards of living. Other themes explored in the song include racism as well as the brutality and oppression of the criminal justice system.
He says that his poverty and color of skin are the main reasons that motivate him to steal because of the need to feed and take care of himself (Az Lyrics par. 4). In addition, he shows how African Americans suffer because of their race. As a result, they turn to stealing as a way of fulfilling their needs because they do not have as many opportunities as people from other races. Crime is their only source of livelihood. Shakur expresses his anger and discontent.
For instance, he advocates for drug dealing by young people because it helps them take care of themselves (AZ Lyrics par. 4). He also laments about the treatment that African Americans received from law enforcement agencies. For instance, he sings that police officers do not care about African Americans because they target and kill them mercilessly (AZ Lyrics par. 5). He argues that the killing of an African American does not raise eyebrows because it is not a big deal.
The main aim of writing and releasing the song was to goad fellow African Americans to join him in fighting for their rights through eradication of racism, discrimination, as well as the chance to gain access to more opportunities. Shakur argues that the government should focus on fighting poverty instead of drugs (AZ Lyrics par. 5). He sings that young people sell drugs because that is the only avenue of surviving. Otherwise, they only commit crimes that are forced upon them by their unfortunate circumstances.
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Shakur also criticizes the prevalent hatred and lack of unity among African Americans. He raps that hatred is the main reason why their race is not as prosperous as other races. In order to solve the problem, Shakur advocates for changes among his people. The changes he proposes include love, unity, and cooperation. In the song, Shakur is calling upon African Americans to unite and work together so that they can easily achieve prosperity.
Throughout the song, Shakur reiterates the need for change. He laments about the lack of changes among his people. He calls upon them to implement changes in all facets of their lives. In particular, he urges them to change their treatment to each other. According to Shakur, their old ways are derailing their progress. Therefore, they need to make changes in order to enhance their survival (AZ Lyrics par. 6). “Changes” is a very inspiring and influential song.
Shakur took it as his responsibility to unite his people and fight for their rights. The song is a good example of how artists can use music to bring changes in the lives of people by calling upon them to act and change their ways of living. Another theme dominant in this song is racism. Shakur acknowledges that people from all races smoke marijuana. However, police officers only target African Americans and kill them. According to him, any young person killed because of prejudices from police officers is a hero.
Shakur also criticizes the operations of the American political and legal system. According to him, their priorities are misplaced and of no help. The governance system ignores the effects of great social issues, like fighting poverty, and instead focuses on fighting its own citizens through its war on drugs. For that reason, police officers target marginalized communities and arrest their members.
This only motivates young African Americans to turn to crime for survival. The main goal of Shakur might have been to advocate for change in the society. However, his way of doing that was largely ineffective because many young people who listened to his songs resulted to crime and drugs. They failed to understand the depth and real meaning of his lyrics.
Analysis of the song “I cry”
This song covers the theme of suffering. Shakur expresses his pain because of loneliness and lack of caring from others. In the song, he is crying because no one cares about his problems, pain, and suffering. Shakur uses repetition to augment the dominant themes of sadness and loneliness. The mood of the song is sadness as evident from the line that expresses his pain and sorrow. On the other hand, the tone of the poem is depression. Shakur says that he cries many times when he is alone because of loneliness (Tupac Poems par. 3).
He cries because his heart is torn and no one is available to offer comforting words. For that reason, he finds it difficult to carry on with the life. Shakur also uses figurative language to augment his message. For instance, he says that his tears that lack definite form flow with life, and are bitter as well as warm (Tupac Poems par. 3).
Rhyming is another poetic tool that enhances the passage of the message in the song. Shakur’s message in the song is that many people cry because of either loneliness or because other people do not care about them. He laments about people’s lack of feelings towards those people who are in pain. He is saddened by the fact that few people are ever willing to stop by crying friends in order to find the cause of their crying and loneliness (Tupac Poems par. 3). Many people do not care about the predicaments of others.
According to Shakur, that is saddening and painful. The song expresses Shakur’s desire for friendship and concern from people who care about him. This is evident from a line in the song that says that he could cry among his treasured friends only if he had people to listen to his story. However, that does not happen very often. The song also expresses the writer’s hopelessness in his situation. He poses a question to the listener asking whether the listener knows anyone who spends time listening to the stories of other people’s suffering.
Shakur sings that the world would rather pass by other than stop and listen to the reasons for other people’s cries (Tupac Poems par. 3). This song represents the uncaring attitude of people in contemporary societies. In many developing countries, people are so dedicated to their jobs and lives that they have little time for other people.
There are little interactions and minimal communication among people compared to olden days. In an era of rapid technological advancement, physical interaction is gradually disappearing as people spend most of their time online. Many people suffer alone without anyone to alleviate their suffering. This lack of caring for other people is the motivation behind this song. Shakur has written this song to express his feelings and lament about a situation that faces many people.
A thorough study of the song reveals the emptiness that the writer feels in his life. The sadness, loneliness, and emptiness covered in the song are common occurrences among people. In many instances, people experience sadness and depression because of the challenges they face in their lives. However, their suffering is not alleviated because no one is available to listen to their cries. The feeling of loneliness is common among many people. People can relate to the feelings expressed in the song.
Another theme explored in the song is selfishness. Many people only care about their own welfare. They go about their lives oblivious of the cries and suffering of others in society (Tupac Poems par. 3). This song challenges the listener to care about other people and listen to them despite their busy lives. Shakur uses metaphors throughout the song to express his sadness. In addition, he uses comparisons to express the extent of his suffering and sadness.
For instance, he sings that his tears are bitter and warm to express the intensity of his pain (Tupac Poems par. 3). That metaphor helps the reader relate to the themes covered in the song, such as loneliness and sadness. The song was written in a manner that passes the message clearly and challenges the listener to think about the issues covered.
Analysis of the song “Only God can judge me”
This song expresses Shakur’s discontentment with the American system of justice, which, according to him, is racist and oppressive. In the opening line of the song, he says that only God has the authority and power to judge him (Lyrics.com par. 1). This song contributed largely to the consideration of Shakur as an important cultural force that helped to shape the perception of African Americans with regard to the American criminal justice system (Johnson and McQuillar 45).
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In certain legal and political domains, the lyrics to this song are considered as a source of counterproductive force that encourages violence among young African Americans. In the song, Shakur laments about his race and considers it as a curse. According to the song, he was told that the only person he should fear is a white man. This line furthers the concept of racism in the American society. In addition, he sings about the lack of unity and love among his people.
He says that even though he was told to fear the white, African Americans perpetrated most of the killings (Lyrics.com par. 1). Therefore, he should fear his own people because they did not want to see him succeed. He laments about the merciless killings that people ignore. He has experienced blood loss and killings among his own people. He expresses his attitude towards the media by saying that the media plays tricks on people and cautions everyone to be cautions of the media (Lyrics.com par. 1).
The themes of violence and injustice are dominant throughout the song. For instance, in the second verse of the song, he narrates his experience in hospital after a fatal shooting. This incident presents Shakur in great pain and suffering. The intensity of his pain is evident when he says that he wishes the shooter never missed. He prefers to be dead rather than alive and undergoing such pain and suffering. The song also shows his courage. He sings that it is better to die like a man rather than die like a coward (Lyrics.com par. 1).
The second verse of the song is laden with connotations of death. For instance, he figures himself walking in a cemetery and sings about heaven. He believes that there is a ghetto in heaven for people who die courageously (Lyrics.com par. 1). Shakur sings about racism that was prevalent in society during his time. In the song, he states that the fate of African Americans is a lifetime of hatred from people of other races.
This reveals Shakur’s pessimism regarding the probability of enjoying opportunities similar to those enjoyed by other people. His pessimism is further augmented by his act of cursing peace. He says that there is no need for peace because young people are killed mercilessly in the streets by police officers. As a result, every young African American has a gun to protect himself from the brutality of police (Lyrics.com par. 1).
These sentiments reveal the violent side of Shakur. According to Shakur, surviving a fatal shooting strengthened him. Therefore, he sings that no one should tell him how to live his life. The message of the song reveals Shakur’s perception of the criminal justice system. He considers the justice system as racist and oppressive. Through the song, he describes the criminal justice system as brutal and unfair (Lyrics.com par. 1).
The message passed through the song rhymes with the perception of the justice system held by many young people during the time of Shakur. The song reveals a strained relationship between African Americans and the police. The song portrays police officers as brutal, racist, and oppressive because they only target African Americans. The song is highly influential because collisions between the police and young people in the United States are common.
Many young people participate in criminal activities because of the influence they get from hip-hop music. Hip-hop has been widely criticized for promoting violence and defiance to the rule of law. It is common for young people to commit crime in order to get money to survive.
The song is highly critical of the American criminal justice system. The main aim of the song was to express Shakur’s dissatisfaction with the system that he felt was unfair, racist, and oppressive. The song was released at a time when racism was a serious problem in the American society.
Tupac Shakur was an influential American hip-hop artist. He was born in 1971 and died at the young age of 25 years in 1995. Many of his songs were criticized for their violent content. For that reason, many of them were censured. Some of his songs were hailed for their thought-provoking content. For instance, the song “I cry’ contains lyrics that move the listener to think about how much they care about other people. In that song, Shakur explores the themes of loneliness, sadness, and emptiness.
He laments because even though he is crying and in pain, no one is available to alleviate his suffering. The song reveals the heartlessness of people who do not care about others. Many people can relate to this song because in this age of technological advancements, there is little physical interaction among people. The songs “Changes” and “Only God can judge me” express Shakur’s discontentment regarding various social and political issues that were rampant in the American society.
In “Changes,” Shakur advocates for an end to racism. According to him, it is important for people to change their way of life in order to improve the American society. His criticism of the American criminal justice system is expressed through the song “Only God can judge me.” In the song, Shakur describes the legal justice system as oppressive, brutal, and racist. According to him, the system targets people of his race only.
In addition, the song is highly influential because collisions between the police force and young people in the United States are common. Many young people participate in criminal activities because of the influence they get from hip-hop music. Tupac Shakur was an influential artist because many people can relate with the content of his songs.
The main goal of writing these songs was to advocate for change in the social and justice systems of the United States. However, they only served to increase violence among African American youths. This happened because Shakur’s life was laden with cases of violence and drug use. He was not a good role model to the young people in his community.
AZ Lyrics: Changes 2003. Web.
Johnson, Freddie, and T. McQuillar. Tupac Shakur: The Life and Times of an American Icon. New York: Da Capo Press, 2010. Print.
Lyrics.com: Only God Can Judge Me 2001. Web.
Tupac poems: I Cry 2000. Web.