The Top 5 Most Influential Tupac Songs
Tupac Shakur is widely considered to be one of the most influential rappers of all time. Although his name is usually associated with gangster rap, he's written a number of different songs on just about every topic. Eminem once referred to him as "The Greatest Songwriter of All Time". This is probably because he incorporated traditional songwriting techniques into rap music, which is a genre that wasn't always associated with having complex storylines in the lyrics. Tupac's versatility when it comes to songwriting is acclaimed by many other artists and fans, but some songs have influenced people more than others. Let's take a look at some of his most influential songs and why they had such a strong impact with people.
Keep Ya Head Up
"Keep Ya Head Up" is a ballad for women everywhere who may be going through hard times. When this song was released, it was one of the first times that we had seen a man dedicating a song to women who are suffering from domestic abuse or other common hardships that only women can relate to. But the song didn't just strike a chord with women, it has become one of the most popular songs in Hip Hop history, although it didn't chart as well as some of his more rougher songs. This is because it also addressed many modern day problems that people face, with poetic lyrics such "You know it's funny, when it rains it pours. They have money for wars, but can't feed the poor". The song's melody contains a sample from "O-o-h Child", which was originally recorded by The Five Stairsteps. It's an uplifting song and even as a grown man, I still listen to it whenever I'm having a bad day or things aren't going my way. Even Nas, who had an ongoing beef with Shakur while they were both alive, performed the song on stage as a tribute to 2pac after he had died.
Brenda's Got a Baby
Brenda's Got a Baby ranks at the top of many artist's lists as Tupac's best song. It's not just a fan's song, but an artist's song as well. The song is about a 12 year old girl who gets pregnant and tries to abandon her baby in a trash can because she can't afford to keep it. She then feels guilty and goes back to get her baby, eventually turning to prostitution to try to raise the baby on her own. Her life as a prostitute comes to an abrupt end when she is ultimately killed by one of her customers, or possibly her pimp. The song was one of the first heartfelt and serious songs about a real issue in America that rap fans had ever heard on a mainstream level, and it had a tremendous impact on many future rap artists and the content of their music. It raised awareness about a dire, but common situation in the ghetto during the crack era, and showed other rappers that it was ok to talk about serious issues with emotion and still be a "thug".
Hit Em' Up
After 2pac was robbed, shot, and sent to prison, he began to suspect employees of the Bad Boy record label of being involved in his 94' shooting. While in prison, there were many people who were making jokes about him being in there or making jokes about him being shot, such as Chino XL. So upon his release, he unleashed the most furious and well-known battle rap of all time. On the track, he verbally assaults every person he suspected in his shooting, as well as the people who were laughing or insulting him while he was locked up. If people outside of the Rap Game didn't know what a battle rap was at this time, they certainly knew after Hit Em' Up dropped. Up until then, most beefs on albums were relatively friendly or simple insults done in a joking manner. This was the first time that a major artist called out as many people as he did on a track, and did it in such a merciless and threatening tone. It was a declaration of war, to say the least. For those standing on the sidelines, it was like a movie in the making. People knew that this wasn't your typical rap beef, because with the shooting and prison time and all the evidence out there that 2pac was set-up, it began to play out like a real life mobster flick, with 2pac returning for his vengeance like Tony Montana did in Scarface after surviving Frank's ambush in the night club. This was the real deal and it pushed Hip Hop as a whole on to a completely different level at this point, in addition to causing some friction between two sides of a country. There was no talk of an Eastcoast/Westcoast war in Hip Hop until Hit Em' Up was released. The media quickly noticed that all of the people Tupac was dissing on the track happened to live on the Eastcoast. So they began instigating the whole thing and making the connections that weren't necessarily there. Before Hit Em' Up, there was little interest in rap for beefs between artists, except for the hardcore Hip Hop heads. Afterwards, people outside of the elite Hip Hop circles began to take interest in these types of musical disputes, and this eventually led many to become interested in freestyle battles. Now it's almost like an unwritten rule for an artist to have a beef or diss track on their album. But no battle rap will probably ever be as ruthless and cinematic as Hit Em' Up.
Ambitionz Az A Ridah
From the minute the beat starts and that unique and distinguishable snare kicks in, this opening track from All Eyez On Me has enough adrenaline and juice to get anybody's blood flowing. Since it was the first album 2pac had released since prison, and the very first track on that album, it was almost like a re-introduction to 2pac and the world's first glimpse at the artist after coming out of prison. It's more lyrical than any songs on his previous albums, and the words seem to sound a bit sharper and more venomous. It has a more polished sound than before, with the song being produced by the Dogg Pound's Daz Dillinger. As soon as the song starts, it's like a warrior coming out of the gates, entering the arena for battle, while the ref yells "Let's get ready to rumble" in the background. It's definitely one of the most powerful intros to an album, and if you listen closely, it's the first time 2pac addressed those who shot him in Quad Studios on a track, while vowing to get revenge for the act. Since this song was first released, it's been sampled, stolen, copied, or covered by plenty of artists in the Rap Game. Some of the songs (or cheap rip-offs) out there that include samples or tributes to this track are as follows: Kanye West - Family Business, Kanye West - I Wonder, Lil Wayne - Rider, Fabolous - Can't Deny It, Ashanti - U Can't Deny It, Ca$his - U Ain't Fuckin With Me, Krayzie Bone - Game Tight, Cam'ron - Live My Life (Leave Me Alone), and Jay Z - Some People Hate.
The song Changes was released after Tupac's death, and although he never heard the official released version of the song, I'm sure he would be proud to see how the finished product turned out. With a piano sample/interpolation from Bruce Hornsby's "That's Just the Way It Is", Tupac's Changes is one of the most heartfelt and socially conscious songs he ever wrote. The song's intro lyrics are a familiar theme to Tupac fans; an inside look at what it's like to be an underdog in today's society. The first few lines of the song talk about being poor and black in modern society. It shows what separates Shakur from majority of the other people in the rap game. It's his ability to scratch deeper and get below the surface of an issue and show an issue in 3-D. Any other rapper would just talk about how it's hard to hustle or get by, but they don't normally get into the deeper thoughts of the underdog, or the emotions of that person struggling. Changes is a song that manages to offer a black man's reflections on his own personal demons, while also addressing some of the dirty politics found in modern day America that compound that man's problems and make things harder for him. It also points out how everybody has, in one way or the other, been screwed by the system. It points out how poverty is color-blind, and that "both blacks and whites are smoking crack tonight". This song is extremely influential, because it was released in 1998 on his Greatest Hits album. Around this time, there was a new generation of teenagers coming of age, as the last generation was reaching their early 20's. This new generation were around 12-13 years old when 2pac was alive and at the top of the charts, so many didn't know much about his music until they were about 14-16 and began taking more interest in music like many do during those ages. So it helped to push his legacy on to that next generation. However, this probably wasn't necessary, as new songs and albums are still being released 14 years later (though most are remixed and unrecognizable from their original versions). The end of the song also foreshadowed 2pac's death, as Shakur raps "I always gotta worry about the payback, from some buck that I roughed up way back, coming back after all these years, rat-tat-tat-tat-tat", since this is similar to the scenario that most people believe caused his death.
Dear Mama is a song where Tupac reflects on his close relationship with his mother. He talks about both of their faults and flaws, but how they both love each other unconditionally in spite of these things. When I was 18, I was what you would call a "2pac Stan". I was obsessed with him because at that age I related to him more than I ever did. But I knew most white people in their 30's or older probably didn't know who he was, and if they did know, they probably despised him and viewed him as your typical gangsta/thug rapper that helped to "ruin Rock". So I hardly ever talked about him around older people if our conversation ended up on the subject of music. One night I was working with an older white man in his 50's, and he asked what types of music I listen to. I told him "Rock, Rap, Techno, and pretty much everything that isn't Country". He then said, "I'm more of a rock fan myself, but one rap song I really like is that song Dear Mama by Tupac". I was stunned. I couldn't believe this 50 year-old white guy knew one of Tupac's songs, and I was shocked that it wasn't California Love (because that was definitely 2pac's biggest hit up until then and was very radio friendly as well). For this reason, I would definitely consider Dear Mama as one of Pac's most influential songs. It's one of those rap songs that crosses genres and touches people of all ages and races. It's similar to how Walk This Way by Run DMC crossed over into the Rock genre, but the main difference being that Dear Mama didn't need any electric guitars or Aerosmith collaborations to do that. It's a one-of-a-kind rap song, and while some hardcore hip hop heads may compare it to Ghostface Killah's song All That I Got Is You, they need to keep in mind that 2pac's is much more of a ballad than just a regular rap song about his mother. Secondly, Ghostface Killah's song was recorded and released directly after Dear Mama was released on the Me Against the World Album. So it's very likely that Ghostface was inspired by 2pac's track, as 2pac's song was a massive hit at the time and I doubt there were any rappers who weren't familiar with it by then. To this day, you can still find all different types of people commenting under the video for Dear Mama on Youtube. Not just rap fans, but all people in all shapes and sizes. There was definitely millions of people who probably didn't respect rap too much until they heard a touching song like that. So it helped convert a lot of people and helped Hip Hop gain more acceptance in today's society. It also made it acceptable for hardcore "gangsta" rappers to make affectionate or emotional songs.
comments powered by Disqus