Final Paper: Tupac, The Black Panther Party, and Black Nationalism

“ WE just wanna control the World 🌍 and when i say world i mean OUR World my life is my World your life is your World, I mean controlling OUR World atleast WE can have movie theaters and stores a COMMUNITY, WE don’t even have a COMMUNITY, They got little Italy little everything They don’t got a LITTLE AFRICA, They got The Ghetto and WE think that’s OURS that’s not Even OURS that was what was just left over! “ – TUPAC SHAKUR  (New Afrikan Nationalism )

Tupac is acknowledged as one of hip-hop’ greatest rappers to date! Infamous for his thug image and reputation; Tupac’s legacy still lives on years beyond his death and this is evident though his influence on pop culture. His thug image is often imitated in association with a bandana tied on the one’s head, a thug life tattoo across the stomach, and gangster behavior. Although Tupac is greatly known for his thug-life image, Tupac and his legacy are much deeper. Tupac’s persona and lyrical content proves he is heavily influenced by the Black Panther Party and Black Nationalism, through his childhood upbringing and lyrical content.

The Black Panther Party is known as one of, if not the greatest, African American political party to emerge during the 1960’s. The Black Panther Party (BPP) was the first organization to challenge and pose a threat to the U.S. Government. What makes the BPP so revolutionary is their forceful and rebellious approach to eliminating racism and black oppression. The year of 1966 in Oakland, California the Black Panther Party was formed by student of Merritt College, Huey P. Newton and Bobbie Seale. As former members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) Newton and Seale were influenced by the black nationalistic ideas of Malcolm X and decided to form the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. Their objective was to protect the black communities from police brutality, which was very high during the time. The BPP rebellious attitude demonstrated that they would fight and die for what they believed in. Members of the BPP typically wore black leather jackets with black berets while carrying shotguns. For many years prior to the BPP’s existence civil rights movements and organizations approached the racial inequalities with a nonviolent approach; however the BPP believed that violence was the only way to eliminate racism and black oppression.

Make Us Beautiful Black Again Ft 2pac & Shakka – Haki Kweli Shakur

The BPP outlined a Ten Point Platform which called for “the political autonomy of all black communities”. In the Ten Point Platform they make demands for “political freedom, black control of black communities, full employment, and an end to white economic exploitation, better housing, better education, health services, fair trials, exemption of black men from military service, and an end to police brutality”. The BPP also promoted black cultural pride, and beliefs were heavily influenced by the ideology of Black Nationalism.

Black Nationalism is a belief system that stems from the history of the Atlantic slave trade, slavery and capitalism. Black Nationalism is a belief system that “supports the establishment of black controlled institutions to meet the political, social, educational, economic, and spiritual needs of black people, independent of nonblacks” along with the “celebration of African ancestry and territorial separatism [being] essential components of black nationalism”. Black Nationalism is completely against slavery, and the diaspora as well as the capitalist system that oppresses blacks. The Atlantic Slave trade has stripped Africans from their culture and forced blacks “into a new radicalized identity in a brutal and dehumanizing process of enslavement”. Slavery and racism has affected the black community greatly and has created major obstacles for blacks. Even after slavery being abolished blacks were still denied access to white communities. This racial discrimination helped form the beliefs of Black Nationalism. Slavery has made blacks dependent of the white man for everything while America was practically built on the backs of African slaves. The capitalist system also was a system whose economic development was due to slavery.

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There are many Black Nationalism movements that have formed throughout history such as the Haitian Revolution and leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah. The Haitian Revolution for instance was a revolution in Haiti that was led by Toussaint Louverture in an attempt to push the European powers out. In the late 1700’s Haiti was under the French empire and sugar was France’s source of income. In Haiti there was a full on slave revolt for freedom and liberation from the French government. In 1803 Haiti received its independence. Also leader Kwame Nkrumah believes in Black Nationalism. Kwame Nkrumah was the leading figure for Ghana’s independence, who believed in education and separatism as a means of gaining freedom and liberation from European powers. The Haitian Revolution and the fight for Ghana’s independence are both examples of Black Nationalism because both revolutions wanted the freedom and liberation from their white oppressors. As well as a nation that belonged to its native people. In both cases the Europeans came and took control over their land for some monetary benefit at the cost over others. These blacks were mistreated, discriminated against, and face social, political and economic inequalities. This oppression, mistreatment, discrimination, and inequality are what drive the Black Nationalism system of beliefs.

Tupac Shakur was an infamous rapper and one of the greatest rappers in Hip Hop. Although Tupac is known for thug-life and his gangster image, Tupac was much more than that. Tupac was socially aware and heavily influenced by the Black Panther Party. His childhood and upbringing is reflective through his persona and lyrical content and it speaks volumes about his knowledge and beliefs. On June 16th, 1971 Tupac Amaru Shakur was born in New York City to Afeni Shakur. Afeni Shakur was a well-known and active member of the Black Panther Party, holding a high position. Afeni attended conferences, visited colleges, protested and marched, as well as lecturing about freedom and liberation. A month before Tupac was born, Afeni just returned from jail. At seven months of her pregnancy the police arrested Afeni because of her involvement with the party. During the late 1960’s the government felt highly threatened by the party and by any means wanted to put an end to the revolution. As a child Tupac was taught three key things from his mother, “respect, knowledge, [and] searching for knowledge”, along with being community oriented and respecting women. Growing up Tupac was always surrounded by Panthers; his step father Mutulu Shakur, Aunt Assata Shakur, and godfather Geronimo Pratt. As a result of this Tupac knew about black history, oppression, Black Nationalism and the struggle.

Growing up Tupac and his family were poor, so Tupac understood the struggle that blacks back then and even today face. He lived in Baltimore, Maryland between 1984 and 1988. Baltimore was known to have the highest rate of teen pregnancy, AIDS, black on black crime, and teen suicide. Tupac referred to Baltimore as “ignorance town”. Unlike others Tupac had an escape away from the madness of the hood. Tupac attended the Baltimore School of Arts where he was exposed to new things of diverse subjects. Tupac was exposed to theater, ballet, Broadway, and many other lifestyles aside from the one he was accustomed too. In 1988 Tupac decided to move to Oakland, California. Prior to his fame Tupac was barely making it, smoking weed, partying and hanging out with drug dealers. Tupac didn’t want this lifestyle so he began to rap, and this is what led to the iconic Tupac we know and love today. All Tupac’s childhood experiences and upbringings are what molded him as a man and artist. Tupac knew his history, and understood the struggle not only from knowledge but also from living it. Tupac was well rounded also; he wasn’t just a kid in the hood that never stepped out of a ten mile radius but he was exposed to different subject matters and lifestyles.

Tupac was socially aware, and this is evident in many of his songs. Three that stand out are “Changes”, “Words of Wisdom”, and “White Manz World”. Tupac got the reputation of being a gangster rapper because his lyrical content was detailed, brutal, real, and raw! Tupac says, “…I’m a rapper, this is what I do. I’m an artist. And I rap about the oppressed taking back their place. I rap about fighting back. To me, my lyrics and my verses are about struggling and overcoming, you know? Not gangstas. I don’t rap about sitting up eating shrimp and shit. I rap about fighting back”.
Tupac’s song “Changes’’ for instance speaks about the struggle within the black community, police brutality, and racism. In his opening verse his says,
“I see no changes. Wake up in the morning and I ask myself, “Is life worth living? Should I blast myself?” I’m tired of bein’ poor and even worse I’m black. My stomach hurts, so I’m lookin’ for a purse to snatch. Cops give a damn about a negro? Pull the trigger, kill a nigga, he’s a hero. Give the crack to the kids who the hell cares? One less hungry mouth on the welfare. First ship ’em dope and let ’em deal to brothers. Give ’em guns, step back, and watch ’em kill each other. “It’s time to fight back”, that’s what Huey said. 2 shots in the dark now Huey’s dead. I got love for my brother, but we can never go nowhere unless we share with each other. We gotta start makin’ changes. Learn to see me as a brother ‘stead of 2 distant strangers. And that’s how it’s supposed to be. How can the Devil take a brother if he’s close to me? I’d love to go back to when we played as kids but things changed, and that’s the way it is”.

The meanings behind these lyrics are very deep. Tupac starts with how there is no progression in the government that consistently oppresses the black community, and questions if life is worth it. Being poor and black on top of that is a struggle here in America so as a result he has to take what he can get even if it means committing theft. But the cops could care less about him because the color of his skin, and not to mention how the LADP are corrupt. The cops also help distribute drugs and guns into the black urban communities to slowly kill off the black population. Tupac then makes reference to Huey P. Newton saying it’s time to fight back. He is tired of the corrupt government and wants to make a change. Then he speaks on the attitude within the black community due to the oppression. Tupac believes that in order to fight back black brothers and sister have to learn to love one another instead of being strangers.

“Words of Wisdom” by Tupac is another song that speaks out against oppression and the corrupt American government. This song is filled with knowledge and wisdom, along with the message of Black Nationalism. Tupac calls out America saying that he is America’s nightmare! He talks about the history of blacks in America and how we were kept from wealth and other privileges in an attempt to make blacks feel inferior when in fact they are superior. Blacks are being wiped out of the population due to drugs, and gun violence and Tupac wants to fight back! Blacks live in a country and follow laws and society codes to a nation that has always been neglecting of blacks! Blacks have been kept from their history, lied to, and deceived. It’s important to speak out and fight against the inequality and injustice of the American government.

“This is definitely words of wisdom AMERIKA, AMERIKA, AMERIK-K- KA

I charge you with the crime of rape, murder, and assault For suppressing and punishing my people I charge you with robery for robbing me of my history I charge you with false imprisonment for keeping me

Trapped in the projects And the jury finds you guilty on all accounts And you are to serve the consequences of your evil schemes Prosecutor, do you have any more evidence?” Tupac goes on further explaining how in order to fight back and conquer the enemy, blacks must educate themselves. Lastly in “White Man’z World” speaks further about the oppression and white America. Being black is this white man’s world is a struggle and constant battle for survival and to succeed. “Remember that, in this white man’s world, they can’t stop us We’ve been here all this time they ain’t took us out They can never take us out No matter what they say, about us bein extinct About us being endangered species, we ain’t NEVER gon’ leave this We ain’t never gon’ walk off this planet, unless Y’ALL choose to Use your brain, use your brain It ain’t them that’s killin us it’s US that’s killin us It ain’t them that’s knockin us off, it’s US that’s knockin us off I’m tellin you better watch it, or be a victim Be a victim, in this white man’s world.. born black, in this white man’s world, no doubt And it’s dedicated to my motherfuckin teachers Mutulu Shakur, Geronimo Pratt, Mumia Abu Jamal Sekou Odinga, all the real O.G.’s, we out” Here Tupac talks out to his black audience encouraging them to wake up and stop being victims of oppression. The violence that has taken place in the black community against each other is only killing the black population and this is what white America wants. Tupac stresses that it is up to “us” to not be the victim and to use “your” brain to end the vicious cycle of oppression that is killing blacks.

Like members of the Black Panther Party Tupac’s image was consistently bashed in the media. Tupac was perceived as a gangster and trouble maker. Tupac like member Huey P. Newton faced charges of false crimes. Huey P. Newton was accused of murder while Tupac was accused of rape. Tupac was a target for the media and police. Tupac also shared the rebellious attitude of the Black Panthers. Tupac wore berets, BPP pins and necklaces, and made a statement without even speaking like the BPP. Tupac Amaru Shakur was one of the greatest rappers and pop culture icons to have graced this earth. He was a rapper that spoke out against the oppression of the black community, the corrupt ways of the American government, and spoke about fighting back. Through his persona and lyrical content it is evident that Tupac is influenced by the Black Panther Party because of his childhood, and shares the same beliefs as the Black Nationalism system.

Source:

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Rap Genius, “2Pac – Words of Wisdom Lyrics .” Last modified 2013. Accessed April 10, 2013. http://rapgenius.com/2pac-words-of-wisdom-lyrics
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