by Sean Smith
This past Sunday marked the 19th anniversary of the death of Tupac Shakur. The rapper died on September 13, 1996, after being shot in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, NV following a Mike Tyson fight on the night of September 7.
The death of Tupac, and later his former friend and later rival Notorious B.I.G., are often blamed on the ongoing escalating tensions at the time between east coast and west coast rappers. Specifically, the back and forth between Suge Knight’s California based Death Row Records (where Tupac was signed) and Sean “Puff Daddy” Comb’s New York based Bad Boy Records (where B.I.G. was signed). However, the many documentaries, books, and magazine articles suggesting an array of theories behind the murders of Tupac and B.I.G., to this day both cases remain unsolved.
Tupac Shakur is widely regarded as one of the greatest rappers in the genre’s history. Despite his involvement later on in his life in the east coast-west coast hip hop beef, Tupac was actually born in Harlem, New York. He later spent a few of his teenage years in another east coast city Baltimore, MD, before ultimately putting down roots with his family out in Marin City, CA. During his formative years Tupac was always drawn to creative outlets like poetry, acting, jazz, and even ballet. All of which he studied for a time while attending the Baltimore School for the Arts. It was also at the School of the Arts where he became very good friends with a young lady by the name of Jada Pinkett, who would later go on to achieve great stardom herself with acting. The two remained close friends up until Tupac’s death.
It was during his Bay Area days when Tupac finally broke into the music industry. He started out working as a roadie and a backup dancer for the hip hop group Digital Underground, of “The Humpty Dance” fame. The aspiring young Pac would get a chance to put his rapping skills on display in 1991 when he was given a verse on the Digital Underground song “Same Song.” This led to Tupac getting the opportunity to release his own solo material which he did in 1991, and the lead single from that album is the subject of this week’s #tbt.
Tupac released his debut solo album 2Pacalypse Now in November, 1991. The lead single for the LP was “Brenda’s Got A Baby”, which was released just a few weeks prior to the album release date. Tupac was inspired to write this social commentary track dealing with the plight of young poor teenage mothers after he read a real life story in the paper. The story was about a 12 year-old-girl who had become pregnant from her cousin, and upon giving birth to her child threw the newborn into a trash compacter. The song consists of one long verse by Tupac sandwiched between smooth vocals which open the song by singing the song’s title and end the track by riffing about the tough situation Brenda is now in. One of the voices singing on the record is none other than Dave Hollister, who would later become one-fourth of the popular R&B group Blackstreet. Hollister also provided vocals on another of Tupac’s more socially aware songs, 1993’s “Keep Ya Head Up.” While “Brenda’s Got A Baby” has become a respected classic in hip hop, and is still referenced in hip hop songs today, at the time of its release it didn’t perform extraordinarily well. The song reached as high as #10 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs chart, and had little to no crossover appeal at the time of its release.
With this past Sunday marking 19 years since the passing of Tupac Shakur, this week we take the time to remember his socially conscious debut single “Brenda’s Got A Baby.” Enjoy.
“Brenda’s Got A Baby”
From 2Pacalypse Now