by Sean Smith
The mother of the late rapper Tupac Shakur, Afeni Shakur, passed away this past Monday in the Bay Area in California. She was 69 years of age.
Afeni Shakur was a former member of the Black Panther Party and was a civil rights activist as well as being the mother of one of the greatest rappers of all time. One of the many things that made her son a great rapper was his ability to speak to political and social issues, a trait that he no doubt had inherited and was nurtured by the life of his mother. It can be heard throughout the Tupac catalogue of music, but is especially obvious in songs like “Brenda’s Got A Baby”, “Keep Ya Head Up”, and “Unconditional Love” amongst others.
Tupac tragically lost his life in a 1996 drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, following a Mike Tyson fight. He was only 25 years young. After his abrupt murder, Afeni was left not only mourning the loss of her son, but she was also left to try and manage the estate and unreleased music that her late son had left behind. Afeni Shakur played a key role in releasing posthumous music from her son and she also set up the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation in his honor. The center of the foundation was the Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts located in Stone Mountain, Georgia. The center had provided arts programs aimed specifically at kids coming from poverty, although it ceased operating sometime in 2015 for unspecified reasons.
So in honor of Afeni Shakur, this week we want to take a moment to remember a song that her son wrote for her with “Dear Mama”.
Tupac released his third studio album Me Against the World in March of 1995. A month prior to its release, the first single from the album “Dear Mama” was put out to promote the new record. The song quickly found success on the charts as it quickly climbed to the top of the Billboard Hot Rap Singles chart where it remained for a total of five weeks. “Dear Mama” also found some crossover appeal as it reached as high as the ninth position on the more mainstream Hot 100 chart.
The lyrical content of “Dear Mama” deals with the level of understanding and appreciation that Tupac had for his mother Afeni raising him in a tough environment and despite her struggles with addiction. Tupac didn’t always have this level of appreciation for his mother. When he was kicked out of Afeni’s house at 17, Tupac held a grudge against his mother. However, as he started to make a name for himself with his music, and when his mother finally sought out treatment for her battles with addiction in 1990, Tupac and his mother Afeni finally reconciled their relationship.
And so with the death of Afeni Shakur earlier this week, and Mother’s Day coming up this weekend, this week we remember Tupac’s 1995 ode to his mother with “Dear Mama”. Enjoy.
From Me Against The World
“Keep Ya Head Up”
From Strictly For My N.I.G.G.A.Z.
From Greatest Hits
Amaru/Death Row/Interscope Records
“Brenda’s Got A Baby”
From 2Pacalypse Now