Tupac Shakur’s legacy as a rapper, spokesman for the voiceless and more has only grown in the near 25 years since his tragic murder in 1996. As the world celebrates his birthday, the reality that he’s been gone longer than he was alive grows even larger.
There have been numerous books, movies, documentaries and more dedicated to the life of Shakur. In this current moment, where Black men and women and children are once again demanding that their humanity be heard and understood, it’s his voice that is ringing loud from street corner to street corner.
Pac’s life, as complicated as it was, still spoke to the rage of young Black men and women who dealt with police brutality, the conditions of living in designated ghettos and more. Take a trip down memory lane from 1993’s Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z to Pac’s Greatest Hits and see a glimpse into five of the most heard and known Pac songs of protest.
1. “Holler If Ya Hear Me”
The lead single from 2Pac’s sophomore album, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. took on all the anger Pac had in 1993 and bottled it up for a four-minute salvo asking Black men and women to defend themselves and that just because they were born Black does not mean they’re automatically conditioned to sing songs of peace when they desire change across all lines.
2. “Only God Can Judge Me”
Amid battling his own paranoia following the Quad City shooting in 1994, Pac’s “Only God Can Judge Me” emerged as a statement that became echoed by every man and woman who subscribed to Thug Life. Walking through the streets, the squelching talk box from the 1996 track could be heard everywhere and Pac asks the police to understand the inherent trauma of being Black around the cops.
“Mister police: please try to see that there’s
A million motherf*ckers stressing just like me”
3. “I Wonder If Heaven Got A Ghetto”
When you truly think about it – “I Wonder If Heaven Got A Ghetto” speaks to not only one of the sparks of the Los Angeles Riots (the murder of 15-year-old Latasha Harlins) but the same injustice and sentiments regarding race, policing and the urgency to make change and be a difference. The song was so powerful, much of it was cribbed and morphed into an entirely new Pac song, one that would turn up and become one of the biggest songs of 1998.
“It’s been goin’ on for years, there’s plenty more
When they ask me, when will the violence cease?
When your troops stop shootin’ n*ggas down in the street”
The default of 2Pac protest songs is “Changes,” the lead single from his 1998 Greatest Hits album. Containing plenty of lyrics from his 1997 song, “I Wonder If Heaven Got A Ghetto,” the record ultimately calls for a shift in the way of thinking as the old ways haven’t worked. The spoken-word piece before the third verse is what draws everyone in.
“We gotta make a change
It’s time for us as a people to start makin’ some changes
Let’s change the way we eat, let’s change the way we live
And let’s change the way we treat each other
You see the old way wasn’t working so it’s on us to do
What we gotta do, to survive”
5. “Keep Ya Head Up”
Tupac cares if don’t nobody else care.
Uplifting everyone is a signal of protest, especially in regards to protection. Right now, all Black men and women need protection and Black women, especially from their Black brothers.
“It’s gonna take the man in me to conquer this insanity
It seems tha rain’ll never let up
I try to keep my head up, and still keep from gettin’ wet up”