I was listening to some Tupac Shakur songs today and started crying for how much truth their poetry holds for our current world, in light of the Black Lives Matter movement. I love Tupac’s desire for brotherhood with blacks and police in these songs and his desire to end suffering and poverty for his people (ie the ghetto). His references to war and the problems with leadership in our country remind me of biblical prophets who spoke of justice while their kingdoms were in turmoil (Isaiah) and while their brothers were hurting them (Jeremiah). And his hope for a home for people who have no paradise here on earth is like a vision of Zion. In fact, he likens the trap of drugs for black kids to a new kind of slavery, much like God’s people in Egypt. The lines in Thugz Mansion makes me want to say, “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” Six months before Tupac’s untimely death, he said in an interview, “I’m not saying I’m going to change the world, but I’m going to spark the brain that will change the world.”
The following are lyrics that sparked my brain, and I hope they do yours, too.
“I see no changes. Wake up in the morning and I ask myself,
“Is life worth living? Should I blast myself?”
I’m tired of bein’ poor and even worse I’m black.
My stomach hurts, so I’m lookin’ for a purse to snatch.
Cops give a damn about a negro? Pull the trigger, kill a nigga, he’s a hero.”
“I got love for my brother, but we can never go nowhere
unless we share with each other. We gotta start makin’ changes.
Learn to see me as a brother ‘stead of 2 distant strangers.
And that’s how it’s supposed to be.
How can the Devil take a brother if he’s close to me?”
“And although it seems heaven sent,
we ain’t ready to see a black President.
It ain’t a secret don’t conceal the fact…
the penitentiary’s packed, and it’s filled with blacks.
But some things will never change.” Tupac, Changes
“Can’t a brother get a little peace?
There’s war on the streets and the war in the Middle East.
Instead of war on poverty,
they got a war on drugs so the police can bother me.” Tupac, Changes
“Will I survive all the fights and the darkness?
Trouble sparks, they tell me home is where the heart is, dear departed
I shed tattooed tears and couldn’t sleep good
for multiple years, witness peers catch gunshots
Nobody cares, seen the politicians ban us
They’d rather see us locked in chains, please explain
why they can’t stand us, is there a way for me to change?
Or am I just a victim of things I did to maintain?
I need a place to rest my head
with the little bit of homeboys that remains, cause all the rest dead
Is there a spot for us to roll, if you find it
I’ll be right behind ya, show me and I’ll go
How can I be peaceful? I’m comin from the bottom
Watch my daddy scream peace while the other man shot him
I need a house that’s full of love when I need to escape
the deadly places slingin drugs, in thug’s mansion”
“Dear momma don’t cry, your baby boy’s doin good
Tell the homies I’m in heaven and they ain’t got hoods
Seen a show with Marvin Gaye last night, it had me shook
Drippin peppermint Schnapps, with Jackie Wilson, and Sam Cooke
Then some lady named Billie Holiday
Sang sittin there kickin it with Malcolm, ’til the day came
Little LaTasha sho’ grown
Tell the lady in the liquorstore that she’s forgiven, so come home
Maybe in time you’ll understand only God can save us
When Miles Davis cuttin lose with the band
Just think of all the people that you knew in the past
that passed on, they in heaven, found peace at last
Picture a place that they exist, together
There has to be a place better than this, in heaven
So right before I sleep, dear God, what I’m askin
Remember this face, save me a place, in thug’s mansion” Tupac, Thugz Mansion
“God isn’t finished with me yet
I feel his hand on my brain
When I write rhymes I go blind and let the Lord do his thing…
Before we find world peace
We gotta find peace and end the war in the streets.” Tupac, Ghetto Gospel
This last quote was said in an interview six months before his death, when asked about religion (paraphrased for profanity and clarity.)
“We don’t part the red sea, but we walk through the hood without getting shot. We don’t turn water into wine, but we turn dope heads into [productive] citizens of society. We turn words into money. What greater gift can there be? I believe God blesses those who hustle. If the churches gave half of the money they [make] and gave it back to the community we’d be alright. If they gave half the buildings they use to praise God and gave it to [people] who need God, we’d be alright.”