Portrait of Tupac Shakur Portrait of Tupac Shakur
Getty Images

10 Songs That Embody Tupac's Love For The Kids Of Black America

We've highlighted ten songs from Tupac's discography that embody his love and concern for the children of Black America.

True legends never die, and although Tupac Amaru Shakur passed away 20 years ago on September 13, 1996 after being the victim of a drive-by shooting seven days prior, his legacy as hip-hop's preeminent icon remains iron-clad. Over the course of his relatively brief career, he was able to touch the hearts of men, the ills and impoverished conditions plaguing the black and Latino community, and cater to the thugs and ladies, all while dominating the Billboard charts, a feat that has yet to be matched in the wake of his death. Not only a great rapper and a charismatic figure, Pac's authenticity and propensity for having his life mirror his music would make him one of the most controversial and polarizing artists in history, regardless of genre.

His shooting of two off-duty police officers in November of 1993—a case in which he was exonerated—as well as being shot five times during the infamous Quad Studios robbery in 1994, only to show up to court for his rape trial the next day is the stuff of legend and encompasses his fearlessness, whether in front of or behind the gun. Part thug, part poet, and a full-blown revolutionary, Tupac's influence is multi-faceted and endures stronger than any other figure's in the history of hip-hop culture. Setting the template for what it means to be authentic as rap artist, Tupac's distinction as the prototypical gangster rapper has become even clearer in death.

While names like DMX and 50 Cent have managed to come close, none have been able to duplicate the effect that Tupac's presence had on hip-hop culture, and the world as a whole. Many may point to his prolific output, his charismatic, yet fiery disposition, his engaging personality, or his participation in the East Coast/West Coast beef of the mid '90s when celebrating Tupac's legacy, but one of his more underrated qualities is his love for children. From the beginning of his career until his untimely death, Tupac's soft spot for the underprivileged and forgotten children of urban America was evident.

Whether it was songs inspired by children victimized by their families and the foster care system that Pac personally knew or learned about from news clippings, or fictional tales that were cautionary in nature and meant to shed light on those issues, he made sure to let the world know that Tupac cared, even if no one else did. With that in mind, we've highlighted ten songs from Tupac's discography that embody his love and concern for the children of Black America.

1. "Brenda's Got A Baby"

One of 2Pac's most iconic songs is "Brenda's Got A Baby," on which Pac shares a story of a young woman who becomes impregnated by a member of her family and attempts to dispose of the baby by throwing it in a dumpster to keep her pregnancy a secret. Well, it has been alleged that the song was based more on fact than fiction and that Brenda may have been a character inspired by a story 2Pac caught on the NYC crime blotter during the filming of the 1992 film, Juice, which would be Tupac's first starring role in a film. The article, which was published on March 28, 1991, involved a baby found alive in a trash compactor in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, whom would be given the name "Trevor" upon arrival at Brookdale Hospital, in East New York. While it has yet to be officially determined if Trevor is in fact the baby that helped inspire the story of "Brenda's Got A Baby," when mulling through the evidence presented, it's not too far-fetched of a conclusion to make and is one of many examples of Tupac's interest in touching on the harsh realities that plague children growing up in the inner-city.

 

2. "Part Time Mutha"

"Brenda's Got A Baby" may be the most cited song from 2Pac's debut album, 2Pacalypse Now, but the LP's close-out track, "Part Time Mutha," also finds Pac lamenting how being a neglectful mother can contribute to a child losing their way and become heartless. Speaking from the perspective of a young man who became a cold-hearted criminal as a result of a lack of attention or care from his mother, while the second verse sees guest star Angelique delivering a heart-wrenching tale of child abuse. Rapping, "I grew up in a home where no-one liked me/Moms would hit the pipe, every night, she would fight me/Poppa was a nasty old man, like the rest/He's feelin' on my chest, with his hand in my dress," Angelique's words are vivid and tug at your heart-strings as she details her mother's failure to come to her aid, instead placing the blame on her for her well-developed body. "Part Time Mutha" is a brutally honest look into the lives of young boys and girls forced to grow up prematurely due to bad parenting, fueled by drug addiction.

 

3. "Keep Ya Head Up"

Other records in his discography may have been more successful, but none are more endearing than his 1993 classic, "Keep Ya Head Up." The lead single from his sophomore album, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z., "Keep Ya Head Up" takes black men to task, but is also focused on the children. Lines like, "they say it ain't no hope for youth, and the truth is, it ain't no hope for the future," signify his belief that without properly nurturing the younger generation, society will ultimately be doomed. It was inspired by his "god son Elijah and a little girl named Corrine," as Pac notes at the beginning of the record.

 

4. "Papa'z Song"

2Pacalypse Now put the focuses on absentee mothers, but on Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z., 2Pac's sophomore release, would feature a selection that put the spotlight on fathers that choose not to be a part of their children's upbringing. Lines like "I'm gettin sick of all the friendships/As soon as we kick it he done split and the whole sh*t ends quick/How can I be a man if there's no role model?/Strivin to save my soul I stay cold drinkin a forty bottle," touch on the revolving door of men in and out of the children subjected to single-parent households. "Papa'z Song" serves as a reminder to the men attempting to right their wrongs that the damage they have caused can be irreparable and speaks for all of the products of broken homes.

 

5. "Young N***az"

2Pac's third solo studio-album, Me Against The World, has been deemed by some as the most cohesive and well-rounded album of his career. The album may be remembered more for cuts like "So Many Tears" or its title-track, but one of the more intriguing tunes on the album is "Young N***az," which was inspired by a real-life event that shocked the nation in 1994. "I wanna dedicate this one to Robert 'Yummy' Sandifer/And all other lil' Young N***as that's in a rush to be gangstas," 2Pac states at the beginning of the song, referencing the slain 11-year-old who was the subject of a cover story in TIME magazine after committing a gang-related shooting spree, resulting in the death of a 14-year-old girl, and would lead to his own execution. The story, which was published in September of 1994, almost exactly six months prior to the release of Me Against The World, would become one of the more notorious instances of the topic of senseless gang violence amongst children in the to hit mainstream news publications to date. 2Pac taking out the time to acknowledge the life and use it as an inspiration to craft a song dedicated to the lifestyle and mentality of adolescents just like him is yet another reason he stands apart from the pack as a figure in hip-hop.

 

6. "Shorty Wanna Be A Thug"

Even at the apex of 2Pac's career following his signing to Death Row Records, he still kept the shorties in the ghettos across the U.S. on his mind, as evidenced by the All Eyez On Me cut, "Shorty Wanna Be A Thug." A fictional tale centered around a middle-classed ruffian from a parentless home that finds refuge in a life of crime, 2Pac paints a description of the young man-child, rhyming "Was only 16, yet convicted as a felon/With a bunch of old n***as, but you the only one who ain't telling/I tell you it's a cold world, stay in school/You tell me its a man's world, play the rules." But 2Pac's pleas for him to straighten out his act and focus on his education falls on death ears, as the teen continues to sharpen his skills as a career criminal. "No mother and father, you see, the n***as all alone/Old timers my role model, the war zone/Released with this game 'til its a part of me/My heart don't beat no fear and it ain't hard to see," are couplets that define the mind state of young men coming of age in the inner-city while being swallowed in by their surroundings and the influences that come along with them.

 

7. "Hellrazor"

"Hellrazor," one of the more passionate selections on R U Still Down, finds Pac speaking from the vantage point of a 16-year-old thug that's already given up all hope for the future. Admitting his lack of formal education and his thirst for violence with choice couplets like, "Elementary wasn't meant for me, can't regret it/I'm headed for the penitentiary and cuttin' classing/I'm buckin blastin, straight mashin/Mobbin through the overpass laughin/While these other motherf**kers try to figure out, no doubt," a fast-track to the prison system appears to be a foregone conclusion. But even amid his own madness and strife, the question of why the good die young is one he can't reconcile. He rhymes, "While the po' babies rushin' into early graves/God come save the youth/Ain't nothin else to do but have faith in you/Dear Lord I live the life of a thug, hope you understand/Forgive me for my mistakes, I gotta play my hand," while begging for forgiveness for his transgressions a reprieve from his heartache. "Hellrazor" also mentions LaTasha Harlins, the 15-year-old Los Angeles teen who was shot and killed by a Korean store clerk after being accused of stealing from the store, which would contribute to the public unrest that spurred the 1992 riots in Los Angeles.

 

8. "Nothing To Lose"

"The only way to change me is maybe blow my brains out/Stuck in the middle of the game, can't get the pain out," 2Pac spits on the R U Still Down standout, "Nothing To Lose," a track that takes a glimpse at the thoughts and emotions of a young teenager with no family and no where to turn. "Am I wrong for wishing I was somewhere else/I'm thirteen, can't feed myself/Can I blame daddy cause he left me?/Wish he would've hugged/Too much like him, so my mama don't love me," Pac spits while speaking on the emotional neglect he's faces and his lack of resources. He touches on instances in which children are forced to leave home and find their own way in the world via melancholy bars like, "I'm starting to lose hope, it seems everybody's on dope/Mama told me to leave, 'cause she was broke/Sometimes I choke on the indo, creeping out the window/Alone, on my own, I'm a criminal/Got no love from the household, I'm out cold." "Nothing To Lose" is a selection that encompasses how it feels to be young and black in America with minimal options and the sense that they no longer have anything to live for.

 

9. "I'm Getting Money"

R U Still Down was the first posthumous release by 2Pac, and aside from the hit singles like "Do For Love" and "I Wonder If Heaven Got A Ghetto," one of the more memorable numbers on the album is "I'm Getting Money." Dedicated to all of the young hustlers in the hood grinding to make ends meet, the song celebrates the survival tactics of those forced to sink or swim in the land of broken dreams. Barking things like, "I'm up before sunrise first to hit the block/Lil' bad motherf**ker with a pocket full of rocks/Learned to throw them thangs, get my skinny lil' a** kicked/N***as laughed, 'til the first motherf**ker got blas-ted," 2Pac takes on the persona of a young denizen of the hood that's been groomed for the hustler lifestyle an to get his by any means. Already resigned to the fact that he may not live a full life, the young clocker instead focuses on living for the moment and building his rep as a gangster, with lines like, "Tell mama don't cry, 'cause even if they kill me/They can never take the life of a real G," making it clear that he's been taken under by the hood and has no plans on turning back.

 

10. "Mama's Just A Little Girl"

"She was born a heavy set girl with pigtails and curls/A heart full of gold, still it won't change the world," 2Pac delivers on the Better Dayz highlight, "Mama's Just A Little Girl," a tune empathizing with young single mothers and their emotional baggage and daily struggles. The first verse centers around a woman who witnessed her parents murder, only to discover that she has become pregnant as a result of being raped and will have to care for the baby on her own. Rhyming, "Never asked for this misery, but look at what you're gettin'/It's a blessin' in disguise when you find out you're pregnant/No money, no home, and even though you're all alone/You gots to do this on your own, so baby gone," 2Pac goes on to detail the birth and upbringing of the child, who would eventually grow up to become a thug himself. "Mama's Just A Little Girl" is one of the more intricate cautionary tales of 2Pac's career and is another example of his concern for the young back women that are robbed of their innocence.

From the Web

More on Vibe

CIRCA 1980: Photo of Bill Withers
David Corio/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Bill Withers' Greatest Hits: Remixed, Sampled And Covered

The recent loss of legends in jazz, soul and classical music have saddened the music industry and reminded us of their touching gifts to music. The passing of Manu Dibango, Krzysztof Penderecki, Ellis Marsalis Jr., Bucky Pizzarelli and Alan Merrill brought endless tributes from peers and fans with the recent loss of soul singer-songwriter Bill Withers doing the same.

With a mirage of hits, the iconic songwriter left his mark on music with the release of his debut album Just As I Am in 1971. "Ain't No Sunshine" put a spotlight on his songwriting while 1977's "Lovely Day" reminded the industry of his signature vocals. Withers released eight studio albums, one live album and garnered three Grammys for his powerful songs that gave hope and love to fans to this day.

Hip-hop and R&B have gained the most from Withers as his music went on to inspire records like "No Diggity" by BLACKStreet, "Roses" by Kanye West and other songs from UGK, Dr. Dre, Jill Scott and more.

Take a look at some of Withers' finest tunes covered, remixed and sampled below.

__

8. “Lovely Day” | Menagerie (1977)

Sampled On: T.W.D.Y., “Player’s Holiday” | Derty Werk (1999) LunchMoneyLewis - “It's Gonna Be A Lovely Day” feat. Aminè | Pets 2 Soundtrack (2019) Swizz Beatz - “Take A Picture” |One Man Band (2007)

Standout: T.W.D.Y., “Player’s Holiday” | Derty Werk (1999)

Short for "The Whole Damn Yay," the group used Withers' sample while throwing a splash of The Bay's laid back flavor. With cameos from future legends like E-40 and Ray Luv, the single already embodied the best of R&B and hip-hop with guest verses from Too Short, Mac Mall and Otis & Shug. The mimosas and yacht are also a great touch.

Covered By: Jill Scott, The Original Jill Scott from the Vault Vol. 1 (2011) Alt-J, This Is All Yours (2014) Robert Glasper Experiment, Black Radio 2 (2013) Kirk Franklin, The Nu Nation Project (1998)

Standout: Kirk Franklin, The Nu Nation Project (1998)

Who was going to beat a chorus singing to the lordt? Franklin's take on the classic gives us stirring gospel and appreciation for Withers and God. There are plenty of covers that have lifted the same vocals as Withers, but the ones listed have put their unique spin on the track.

7. “Ain't No Sunshine” | Just As I Am (1971)

Sampled On: DMX - “No Sunshine” | Exit Wounds Soundtrack (2001) Lil B - “Up And Down” | Based Jam (2012) 2Pac- "Soulja's Story" |  2Pacalypse Now (1991)

Standout: DMX - “No Sunshine” | Exit Wounds Soundtrack (2001)

"No Sunshine" served as the only single from DMX's film alongside Steven Seagal, which gave everyone the perfect backdrop to the movie and X's intricate storytelling. Both the original and flipped version points out the dark elements of our lives. Withers penned the song after watching the film 1962 movie Days of Wine and Roses, he pondered over the toxicity in his life. "Sometimes you miss things that weren't particularly good for you," he said in 2004 to SongFacts. "It's just something that crossed my mind from watching that movie, and probably something else that happened in my life that I'm not aware of."

Covered By: Soul For Real | Candy Rain (1994) Michael Jackson | Got to Be There (1972) The Boris Gardiner Happening | Is What's Happening (1973) The Temptations | Solid Rock (1972)

Standout: Michael Jackson | Got to Be There (1972)

At 14, the future King of Pop gave a riveting cover of Withers' hit for his debut album, Got To Be There. From his vocal control throughout the track to the instrumentation, his cover takes the song to another level of heartbreak.

6. "Grandma's Hands” | Just As I Am (1971)

Sampled On: BLACKstreet - “No Diggity” feat. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen | Another Level (1996) Big K.R.I.T. - “I Gotta Stay” | K.R.I.T. Wuz Here (2010) Brother Ali - “Waheedah's Hands” | Champion (2004)

Standout: BLACKstreet - “No Diggity” feat. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen | Another Level (1996)

R&B heads are well aware of BLACKstreet's neverending ballads and the genius of Teddy Riley. But the pivot of their sound for their sophomore album Another Level was due to Withers and the William “Stylez” Stewart. Speaking to Fact Mag in 2017, the creator of New Jack Swing gave credit to Stylez for bringing him the sample of "Grandma's Hands."

“If he hadn’t played that sample for me, there would never be a ‘No Diggity’ And if he didn’t write it according to the melody I gave him so it would sound that way because I wanted it to sound funky,” he said. “I wanted it to be appealing to everyone, but mostly to women. I wanted every woman to feel like they were the ‘No Diggity’ girl and that song was about them and it came across. And now, still, today, that song plays and people are on that dancefloor.”

Covered By: Gil Scott-Heron, Reflections (1981) Merry Clayton, Merry Clayton (1971) Barbra Streisand, Butterfly (1974)

Standout: Gil Scott-Heron, Reflections (1981)

Gil Scott-Heron's version of the soul classic reminded us of his versatile talents. From spoken word to his vocal abilities, the Godfather of rap music always came through with his own sound and style. Reflections was one of four albums the late artist dropped in the 80s with critics looking to it as one of his finest projects. Other cuts from the album included "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" and "B Love."

5. "Use Me" | Still Bill (1972)

Sampled On: Kendrick Lamar - “Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst"  | Good kid, Maad City (2012) J. Cole- "Dollar And A Dream II" | The Warm-Up (2009) Leela James - “So Good" | Fall For You (2014) UGK - "Use Me Up" | The Southern Way (1992)

Standout: Kendrick Lamar - “Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst"  | Good kid, Maad City (2012)

Lamar's take on "Use Me" blended right into the themes of his debut album, Good kid, Maad City allowing the artist to create another world on the project. To make things even better, Lamar also sampled Al Green's "I'm Glad You're Mine" for the track.

Covered By: Grace Jones, Indigo Nights, Live (2008) Mick Jagger feat. Lenny Kravitz, Wandering Spirit  (2004) Issac Hayes, Dr. Dolittle Soundtrack (1998)

Standout: Mick Jagger feat. Lenny Kravitz, Wandering Spirit (2004)

On his third solo album, Jagger linked with Rick Rubin to test his creative energy, allowing him to work with Lenny Kravitz on their version of "Use Me." Colliding worlds was one thing but to hear Kravitz's vocals come in on the bridge, set the track apart from the rest.

4. “Kissing My Love” | Still Bill (1972)

Sampled On: J. Cole - “The Cut Off" featuring kiLL Edward  | KOD (2018) Dr. Dre - "Let Me Ride" featuring Snoop Dogg, RC and Jewell | The Chronic (1992) Masta Ace- "Movin On" | Take A Look Around (1990) Master P- "Bastard Child" | The Ghettos Tryin To Kill Me! | 1994

Standout: Dr. Dre - "Let Me Ride" featuring Snoop Dogg, RC and Jewell | The Chronic (1992)

"Kissing My Love" is one of most sampled from Withers catalog, thanks to its feverish drums. It's also why it fits into Dr. Dre's single and the G-funk era.

3. Grover Washington's “Just The Two of Us” featuring Bill Withers | Winelight (1981)

Sampled/Covered On:  Will Smith - “Just The Two of Us” | Big Willie Style (1997) Eminem- "Just The Two of Us" | Slim Shady EP (1997) Keri Hilson- "Pretty Girl Rock" | No Boys Allowed (2010)

Standout: Will Smith - “Just The Two of Us” | Big Willie Style (1997)

Touching and soulful, Smith's dedication to his eldest son Trey is just too cute for words.

2. “Let It Be” | Just As I Am  (1967)

The Original: The Beatles - “Let It Be” | Let It Be (1968)

"Let It Be" is a pretty special record. Aretha Franklin recorded a version a year before the release of The Beatles' version and Withers gave his take on the record in the 70s. Slightly faster, his upbeat take on "Let It Be" just hits different.

1. “Rosie” | Menagerie Re-Issue (1977)

Sampled On: Kanye West - “Roses” |  Late Registration (2005)

As the somber part of Late Registration, "Roses" brings us into Kanye's world where he contemplates the mortality of a loved one. It's a sentimental take on the sample and one of the artist's most underrated songs. It's also a hidden gem for Withers as it isn't featured on Menagerie's LP. It was added as a bonus track on

Enjoy the jams in playlist form below.

Continue Reading
YouTube

Remain Calm: 5 Ways To Curve Negative Effects Of Coronavirus Isolation

Self-isolation during the coronavirus outbreak seems to be best practice in keeping our families and peers safe but it's also a shift in our normal social behavior. As millions of families around the country get adjusted to self-isolation, the state of our mental health and how our bodies react to the practice are changing by the day, especially lower-income and marginalized groups.

Speaking with Wired, John Vincent, a clinical psychologist at the University of Houston, shared how apathetic behavior can rise to the forefront, making space for anxiety and depression.

“People start getting lethargic when they don’t have positive inputs into their small worlds,” Vincent says. “We can expect depression to kick in, and depression and anxiety are kissing cousins.”

But the biggest reason behind the uneasiness isn't the self-isolation but just how long it will last. Details of COVID-19 are changing by the day with the most cases now coming out of New York. Yet, there's still little to no information on what happens next.

“Open, transparent, consistent communication is the most important thing governments and organizations can do: Make sure people understand why they are being quarantined first and foremost, how long it is expected to last,” Samantha Brooks of King’s College London told the outlet. “A huge factor in the negative psychological impact seems to be confusion about what's going on, not having clear guidelines, or getting different messages from different organizations.”

Uncertainty hitting low income and marginalized groups is also a problem within itself. As virtual parties and celebrities opening up on social media happen on a daily, there are people who might not access fun distractions on the web.

“Some people have posited technology as a means of connecting people, but lower-income groups might not even have FaceTime or Skype or minutes on their phone,” Thomas Cudjoe, a geriatrician researching the intersection of social connections and aging at Johns Hopkins University says. “People take that for granted, using their devices can be a strain on people’s incomes.”

To make self-isolation less than a bore or a daunting task, experts suggest creating a schedule to dictate control in your home.

1. Work It Out

Gyms are closed, but your home can be transformed into a personal training center. Use heavy bags for weights and if you can, create a playlist of workouts on YouTube. For those who have memberships for Blink or Peloton, the platforms have streamed their workouts on apps.

2. Mindful Meditation

Meditation isn't about dumping your thoughts, it's about staying aware and mindful. AQUA has developed online that leverages the power of "Mindful Meditation and Mobility Movements" for flexibility and fluidity in the body. Classes are free of charge but feel free to donate.

3. Take It Back To High School

Give your friends a call or indulge in a FaceTime party. Feel free to use the Wifi in your home to reduce the amount of data used on your phone. Lala Anthony held a too-cute FT birthday party for writer Kiyonna Anthony with a 70s theme. You can also find creative ways to hop on the phone with friends and family instead of constantly chatting about 'rona.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

We made the best out of our quarantine situation🎉‼️FACETIME 70s Party💃🏽🎉HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY NIECE @kiyonnathewriter ❤️❤️💃🏽💃🏽SHOUT OUT TO ALL MY ARIES ♈️ MAKE THE BEST OF IT!!!😘

A post shared by ℒᎯ ℒᎯ (@lala) on Mar 23, 2020 at 7:14pm PDT

4. Start A Journal

Journals just aren't for kids. The practice not only gives you something to do, but it fuels creativity and a new level of self-awareness. Former First Lady Michelle Obama recently developed Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice, with over 150 inspiring questions and quotes that connect to key themes in her memoir. The journal will also help bring readers to terms with the importance of family and personal reflections as well as the goals they'd like to make a reality.

5. Have a Dance Party or Enjoy Lo-Fi Beats To Quarantine To

If you don't have data or battery power to watch a virtual DJ party, make your own. If you have to pull out your record player, do it! You can also hop on your favorite streaming service and create a playlist all your own.

Continue Reading
Getty Images

From Teen Sensation To Vocal Bible: Brandy's 15 Best Songs

September 27, 2019 marked the 25th anniversary of the multiplatinum self-titled debut album by one of R&B’s greatest voices, Brandy Rayana Norwood, or simply Brandy. She was already well on her way to stardom prior to her debut as a background vocalist for Immature and one of the stars of the short-lived ABC series, Thea. However, it was the album Brandy that set her on the path to tremendous success.

Since officially bursting onto the scene in 1994 sporting her well-known braided crown of glory, she has been a force to be reckoned with. She was handpicked by her idol, the late Whitney Houston, to portray the role of the first Black Cinderella in the 1997 film Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella. Her show Moesha was one of the longest-running black sitcoms. Brandy was also a CoverGirl in 1999 and became a friend of Barbie that same year when Mattel released the Brandy Doll. In music, she’s released six studio albums, sold more than 40 million records worldwide, headlined three world tours, and won more than 30 awards including seven Billboard Music Awards, a Grammy and the Soul Train Lady of Soul Award. Brandy deserves her flowers.

Let’s check out the top 15 songs that helped solidify Brandy as your favorite singer’s favorite singer (just ask Solange) and earned her the title of the “Vocal Bible.”

Continue Reading

Top Stories