The Poetry of Tupac Shakur
Poetic Panther: A look at Poetry by Tupac Shakur
Tupac Shakur was an artist of many talents. He was a Hip-Hop sensation and even he younger generation can find enjoyment in his music. In the introduction of The Rose That grew From Concrete, Leila Steinberg writes: “Tupac felt that through art we could incite a new revolution that incorporated the heart, mind, body, spirit, and soul. He wanted his art to instill honesty, integrity, and respect” (xix). Tupac saw art as a way to reflect on issues at hand. He felt that art could help people deal with the difficulties in their lives; Tupac was especially interested in mixing art with education. “By combining art with education, Tupac felt we could begin to heal society’s pain and confusion” (xix).
Tupac wasn’t just a rapper, he was also a poet who sought to change the world with his art and we see that in the poems he’s written. Everyone knows Tupac the rapper, but I find that only fans know his poetry. It wasn’t until 1999 that his poetry was first published, and I have found a new respect for the man as an artist. His poetry is confessional poetry and in it you can understand struggles that young black men faced. Through his poetry he allows you into his mind and soul, and becomes an open book to his readers. So let’s get to know Tupac the poet and not judge him for being the ‘gangster rapper’ the media had portrayed him to be.
One of my favorite poems is “Sometimes I Cry” because it’s a vulnerable poem that allows you to become emotional for the writer. After reading the poem I felt saddened that a person would have no one to turn to when they cried. Crying alone or internally is a painful thing to experience and no one should have to, you feel overwhelmed by your emotions and like the world has given up on you. I think this poem also shines light on how our society doesn’t stop enough to sympathize with others or care to learn their struggle.
Sometimes I Cry Sometimes when I’m alone I cry because I’m on my own The tears I cry R bitter and warm They flow with life but take no form I cry because my heart is torn and I find it difficult 2 carry on If I had an ear 2 confide in I would cry among my treasured friends But who do u know that stops that long to help another carry on The world moves fast and it would rather pass u by than 2 stop and c what makes u cry It’s powerful and sad and sometimes I cry and no one cares about why p. 7
What I like about this poem is that anyone can relate. White, black, purple, green this poem sees no color only sadness; sadness for the one crying alone and sadness for a society that doesn’t seem to care. Our society today are too consumed with social media to stop and experience real human connections and I think as a society we could use a poem like this today. It illustrates how people care less and less about the emotions of others and only focus on how they feel, it’s really selfish.
Another poem that I find captivating is “Untitled”. It speaks volumes and I believe gives a voice to a race looking for hope. This poem shows something that young black men struggle with, their environment and how to rise when their culture is being glossed over as insignificant. With lines like “But now like a nightmare I wake 2 c / That I live like a prisoner of poverty” and “4 I would rather be stricken blind / than 2 live without expression of mind” this poem has a way of drawing readers in and sparking something in them that says rise above what you think you are and become what you know you are. Tupac was a man who sought to change the world with his words and I love that he wanted to show other young black people that they aren’t alone. I believe that some of the young black men today could use this and grow from this. We live in a society now where we have more and more single moms trying to do it all and unfortunately some young people of today get lost in the cracks. In the class rooms there isn’t enough focus being paid on how to get through to the kids, instead the teachers just pass them without even getting to know their story. Teachers now need to go the extra mile to help mold these young people after all they are with them for a good 8 hours a day.
Please wake me when I’m free
I cannot bear captivity
where my culture I’m told holds no significance
I’ll wither and die in ignorance
But my inner eye can c a race
who reigned as kings in another place
the green of trees were rich and full
and every man spoke of beautiful
men and women together as equals
War was gone because all was peaceful
But now like a nightmare I wake 2 c
That I live like a prisoner of poverty
Please wake me when I’m free
I cannot bear captivity
4 I would rather be stricken blind
than 2 live without expression of mind p.15
What I enjoy about this poem is the message of hope. Hope that things will change, that people will see the importance of other cultures and races. It’s a beautiful poem about knowing what your culture can be, but having these obstacles standing in the way. It’s as if he was unable to reach his full potential because of the world’s view of his culture. I think it’s a powerful poem that illustrates how a man of Tupac’s background views his world. It allows us into his mind to see things through his eyes.
Tupac is a beautiful poet who seemed to have a romantic soul, two of his poems help to illustrate this romantic essence. “The Mutual Heartache” and “A Love Unspoken” are two poems that have a Shakespearean presence in them. When I read these two poems I get a Romeo and Juliet vibe, a forbidden love. “The Mutual Heartache” is more of the forbidden love and why these two lovers shouldn’t be together. They are from two different worlds, the man is a hard rough character who always seems to be fighting a battle and he wants to keep this life from his lover. While his lover is more innocent and naïve, she claims to know about his world but is blinded by her love. She wants so badly to fit into his world, but knows she can’t. In lines 5-8 Tupac writes: “u talk as I do but yet u don’t / understand when I mumble / u c as I do but your vision is / blurred by naivete” (page 49). Here he is saying that even though it looks as if Juliet comes from Romeo’s world she is far from it. She is like him in some ways, but their differences over shadow because of her innocence. Then he continues in lines 9-14, to show us how their differences will separate them and why their heartache is necessary. He writes: “This is the barrier that separates us / I cannot cross yet / There is 2 much of me that / would frighten u so I live in / heartache because we cannot / fully explore this love and / what of your heartache” (p. 49). Here Romeo character is explaining to his lover why they wouldn’t work he is the monster under her bed that would frighten her if she saw his true form. The difference between these star crossed lovers and Romeo and Juliet is that these two chose to part and live with their heartache, where Romeo and Juliet chose to die and let their love live eternally in their death. The other poem that illustrates this star crossed lover idea is “A Love Unspoken”. In this poem the love that is illustrated is one of secrecy, much like the love Romeo and Juliet’s in its birth. The poem illustrates the struggle of a secret love, and not giving it a label or name. Tupac also asks the question, should a lover unlock their love, their relationship or should they continue a romance of secrecy.
A Love Unspoken
What of a love unspoken? Is it weaker without a name?
Does this love deserve 2 exist without a title
because I dare not share its name
Does that make me cruel and cold
2 deny the world of my salvation
because I chose 2 let it grow
People tend 2 choke
that which they do not understand
Why shouldn’t I be weary
and withhold this love from MAN
What of a love unspoken
no one ever knows
But this is a love that lasts
and in secrecy it grows p. 53
This is a beautiful poem of love and it’s intriguing to read it from a man that led an interesting life. It gives us a new perspective of him, a romantic at heart. In this poem he seems to be pinning over his lover and he has many poems in his book that illustrate all kinds of love.
Tupac Keep Your Head Up
In a way, Tupac was also a poet of politics. Many of his poems illustrated the struggle of an entire race, and I feel he writes them to leave as his legacy. It’s as if he wants to ensure that he leaves this world sending a positive message to the young black people who slip through the cracks and believe all hope is lost. Some of my favorites include, “How Can We Be Free”, “And 2morow”, “Government Assistance or My Soul”, and “The promise”. All 4 of these poems have powerful messages about our government and corruption. Tupac was passionate about questioning everything and rusting no one in a suit. He spoke out for a race that was still at war with the powers that be and never backed down. I believe his poetry will continue to live on for many years to come and should be taught in poetry and creative writing courses across the world. It’s interesting to see the difference in his rap and poetry. His poetry seems to touch the depths of his soul, places where rap music can’t venture. It shows a beautiful man who is passionate about whom he is and he wouldn’t dare change anything about his life or struggle because it shaped his life. I will leave you with one last poem to sum up his message in full.
In The Event OF My Demise: Dedicated 2 Those Curious
In the event of my Demise
when my heart can beat no more
I Hope I Die For A Principle
or A Belief that I had lived 4
I will die Before my time
Because I feel the shadow’s Depth
so much I wanted 2 accomplish
Before I reached my Death
I have come 2 grips with the possibility
and wiped the last tear from my eyes
I Loved All who were Positive
In the event of my Demise?
Shakur, Tupac. The Rose That grew From Concrete.Pocket Books. New York, 1999.