Everything I Need to Know, I Learned From Tupac Shakur

My friend posted something negative about kids she is nannying who were assigned to read a poem written by Mr. Tupac Shakur. Well, I jumped to his defense, and she admitted that she might have been wrong about Pac. The thing is, if you don’t know Pac’s full line of work, all of his lines, or anything about him besides images of throwing up gang signs and his tragic death, there is a lot you should learn.

And that’s where I come in. Today would have been Pac’s 43rd birthday. We lost him at 24 years old.

EINTKILF: Tupac Shakur

1. The meaning of life.

“My mama always used to tell me: ‘If you can’t find somethin‘ to live for, you best find somethin‘ to die for.”

And any words that ever come out of Afeni Shakur should be taken as fact. She is a fierce political activist, a former Black Panther, and really the definition of a fighter. The kind of woman I love and respect so much.

2. Positivity.

“There’s gonna be some stuff you see that’s gonna make it hard to smile in the future. But through whatever you see, through all the rain and the pain, you gotta keep your sense of humor.”

There are positive messages throughout all of Tupac’s lyrics. For anyone who views him as a bitter, pessimistic, angry young man, dig a bit deeper. His lyrics are layered with encouragement, which we all need from time to time. (Or always?)

3. Even roses can grow in cement. 

Speaking of remaining positive, Tupac’s most famous poem is about a very metaphorical rose that grows through concrete. Pac’s poetry has thankfully been considered seriously enough to be studied even in university courses. If you think about it, non-rap music fans, rap music truly is poetry, so it is not a stretch to imagine a rapper also writing words on a page that will never be set to a beat or performed with music. Or it could be like slam poetry!

Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature’s law is wrong it
learned to walk without having feet.
Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams,
it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else ever cared.

4. Count your blessings. 

I have always been a firm believer in the idea that human beings who have come from nothing are much, much better at counting their blessings. I mean, it is almost not a debatable subject. That being said, Pac came from an extremely rough background (obviously), which definitely gave him a solid mindset of realistic cynicism, but with that comes love and respect.

“Be grateful for blessings, don’t ever change, keep your essence.”

Aren’t those words to live by?

5. Dream big.

“During your life, never stop dreaming. No one can take away your dreams.”

6. Don’t assume anything.

I’m gonna hop on a soap box here really quickly and give you guys my “young black men” speech.

One of my least favorite issues in our society is the focus on the degradation of young black men. Yes, I have a million things to say about the way young black women are treated, and obviously all women in general, but this is a very specific issue with black men. On a societal level, we do not take young black men seriously. We do not encourage young black men. We assume young black men are going to cause trouble, and be disinterested in education, and rob people, and shoot people, and listen to rap music and then use bad language and be, in general, threatening to other human beings.

It is, in my very stern opinion, the very worst of the stereotypes. All of this assuming only puts young black men into a place of hopelessness, a cycle of self-destruction. We think these kids are going to be a certain way, so why would they bother fighting against the stereotype?

I speak from a place of knowledge. My family is biracial, but my brothers were treated with such disrespect from authority figures—police officers, teachers, even members of our family— that no one noticed how smart and talented these boys were for a very long time. I was treated so much better than they were, throughout our lives. And for the record, my brothers are smart, moral, kind, and way smarter than I am.

And, in fact, I will never step off of this soap box.

The Pac tie-in here is obvious: he was treated like that his entire short life. Only after he was dead has he been acknowledged as an intellect.

7. Some things will never change.

Speaking of pessimism, I have to admit that the song “Changes” was written in 1992, and the lyrics are eerily accurate today.

“It ain’t a secret, don’t conceal the fact: the penitentiary’s packed, and it’s filled with blacks.”


“And still I see no changes, can’t a brother get a little peace? It’s war on the streets and a war in the Middle East.”

…no explanation needed, though I will say, the line “and although it seems heaven-sent, we ain’t ready for a black president” gives me chills. We were ready in 1992, we got our wish in 2008, on one of the greatest nights of my life. So…maybe some things can change.

8. Love women.

I’ll tell you that my biggest defense of Pac is entirely biased and entirely personal. I am a woman, and not just a woman, but a strong, beautiful, intelligent feminist woman. I have listened to Pac since I can remember listening to anything, really, and I credit him for quite a few of my defining personality traits.

Trust me—I am certainly not a fan of the misogynistic language in a lot of rap music, but you have to look past the use of a derogatory word every once in a while. In his heart, Pac loved women. If you have not truly listened to the song, you should read the lyrics to “Keep Ya Head Up,” which is my favorite song of all time.

“You know it makes me unhappy when brothas make babies, and leave a young mother to be a pappy. And since we all came from a woman, got our name from a woman, and our game from a woman, I wonder why we take from our women? Why we rape our women, do we hate our women? I think it’s time to kill for our women, time to heal our women, be real to our women.”

Those words forever reverse the use of the word “bitch,” in my mind.

And speaking of that song:

9. Keep your head up.

Life is a struggle, for some more than others, but definitely for everyone at some point. Literally all you can do sometimes is keep your head up.

10. There is a brighter day.

Pac said, “if you can make it through the night, there’s a brighter day.” The line gets stuck in my head so often. It inspired me throughout my whole life. I cry when I hear it sometimes. I literally got the word “brighter” tattooed on my wrist because of this line.

Wake up in the morning, and tell yourself this: There is a brighter day. Always.

Rest in paradise, Pac, and Happy Birthday.

Featured image via , GIF via hiphopclassics

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