exploring tupac shakur s dear mama
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Exploring Tupac Shakur’s “Dear Mama”

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Exploring Tupac Shakur’s “Dear Mama”. By Sean Hanel. Song written to his mother, Afeni Shakur, as a way of forgiving her for the pain she caused through her addiction.

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Song written to his mother, Afeni Shakur, as a way of forgiving her for the pain she caused through her addiction.
  • Writes it to show that he understands all that his mother has done for him. Tupac knows that it was not easy for Afeni to raise two kids with no support (“You are Appreciated…”)

Why is this important to our HEL Class???


The importance of Hip-Hop on English

  • Toni Morrison Explains,
    • “First of all, they’re changing the language, although nobody admits it, but that’s where the energy comes from…It is the necessity for young people to talk to one another in language that is not the fake language of the press.”
  • Michael Eric Dyson, a professor at University of Pennsylvania and author of over 10 books, including “Holla if you Hear Me : searching for Tupac Shakur”, has this to say about Hip-Hop/Rap:
    • “Given its universal popularity and its troubling effects, hip-hop is a vital cultural language that we had all better learn. To ignore its genius, to romanticize its deficits, or to bash it with undiscerning generalities is to risk the opportunity to engage our children about perhaps the most important cultural force in their lives.”
the word mama
The WordMama
  • Comes from Zulu umama and Xhosa umama mother
  • The OED gives such definitions as,
    • A respectful title for a woman, preceding a name
      • Ex. “The first lady of jazz, Mama Ella”
    • A respectful or familiar form of address to:
      • Any adult woman (“Nice and easy, mama”)
      • One’s Own Mother (as used by Tupac in “Dear Mama”)
    • A mother; a middle-aged black woman.
      • “Outside there are several aged mamas selling the same wares from the old-style stalls.”
other connotations of mama
Other Connotations ofMama
  • According to the OED,
    • “The status of the word mama was always the same as that of Papa. In the 18th century, ma’mma was used by the higher classes, and among them to have been freely used not only by children but by adults of both sexes.” Today, it has become archaic in Britain, although it is used by children. It has now found widespread use in America.
  • Other common uses are:
    • Slang. A wife, a girlfriend; a sexually attractive woman; a promiscuous woman.
      • Ex. Black Eyed Peas song, “Hey Mama”
    • Slang. A feminine partner in a homosexual relationship.
      • “Mama, a lesbian of the feminine type, especially one living or consorting with a papa or daddy.”
beef it s what s for dinner
Beef…It’s what’s for dinner
  • The flesh of an ox, bull, or cow, used as food. Often preceded by words indicating the exact part of the animal, e.g. sirloin, ribs of beef, etc.
oh we got beef master p
“Oh, we got Beef?” –Master P
  • The OED does not address the slang use of the word beef, however it is commonly used to indicate a problem between two people or groups.
    • The most infamous “beef” in rap was between the East and West coast rap scenes. This stemmed from an incident in which Tupac was shot 5 times in a New York recording studio (Bad Boy Records). This incident started a “beef” between Tupac and such rappers as Notorious BIG, Sean “Puffy” Combs (founder of Bad Boy Records), and Jay-Z

Here is a picture of a DVD entitled “BEEF”. Apparently it Narrates the East Coast/West Coast rap feud that took place in the late 1990’s

the definition of crack
The Definition of “Crack”
  • OED says,
    • “An imitation of the sharp sound caused by the sudden breaking of anything hard”
      • “A sudden sharp and loud noise as of something breaking or bursting; e.g. the crack of a rifle, a whip, of breaking ice, bones, etc.”
        • Ex. “Work \'til we break our back and you hear the crack of the bone” – Rapper Talib Kweli in his song “Get By”
    • “A break in which the parts still remain in contact; a partial fracture.”
    • “An opening between floor-boards or in a floor”
the other kind of crack
The other kind of Crack
  • Here we find the 20th definition of crack, the last one hidden at the bottom of the OED page,
    • A potent, crystalline form of cocaine made by heating a mixture of it with baking powder and water until it is hard, and breaking it into small pieces which are inhaled or smoked for their stimulating effect. (slang origin).
      • “The cocaine freebase, the purest and most dangerous form of coke, goes by a number of street names crack, rock, pasta, basa and is smoked in a pipe rather than snorted.” –San Francisco Chronicle, December 6, 1985.
  • Results from the OED,
    • The word applied to a male being to express his relationship to others (male or female) as the child of the same parent or parents.
      • The son of the same parents. But often extended to include one who has either parent in common with another
    • Said affectionately of one regarded or treated as a brother; one who fills the place of a brother.
      • “Man to man, the world o\'er, Shall brothers be for a\' that” – Burns, 1795
tha otha brotha
Tha Otha Brotha
  • slang (orig. U.S.). Chiefly in African-American use: a (fellow) black man. Also in extended use: a fellow non-white man (used esp. as an expression of solidarity).
    • “Bein\' real don\'t appeal to the brother in you.” – 2pac in his song “Changes”
  • “Rufus, Brint, and Meekus were like brothers to me. And when I say brother, I don\'t mean, like, an actual brother, but I mean it like the way black people use it. Which is more meaningful I think.” – Derek Zoolander in the film, “Zoolander”

Thug - The Literal Meaning

  • The word “Thuggee” is a North Indian word. A British General named Sleeman made it his mission to eradicate thugs in India. The word most likely traveled to the US through his popular nonfiction account of India.
    • Originally referred to band of disciples of the goddess Kali who would attach themselves to merchant caravans, claiming some talent like cooking. They would then drug the merchants, and then strangle them with a handkerchief called a rumal and steal all of their goods.

THUG - How it is used Today

  • Today, Thug has a specific resonance in Black Culture.
    • “It sounds perfect in musical terms, it is better than gangster, which puts you too much in the lineage of the Mafia. This is an alternative kind of thug; it’s ‘our’ kind of thug. It’s a unique word; it is known and not known a the same time. It has flavor to it.” –Vijay Prashad, a cultural critic
    • Tupac gave the words THUG LIFE his own meaning by assigning it the acronym, The Hate UGave Little Infants F#cks Everyone. Tupac believes that the negative way children are raised and treated, will eventually come back to society in that negative way.
  • Finally, Tupac explains Thug Life in an Interview for MTV,
    • “It’s not thugging like I’m robbing people, ‘cause that’s not what I’m doing, I mean like I’m not scared to say how I feel. Part of being [a thug] is to stand up for your responsibilities and say this is what I do even though I know people are going to hate me…I want to be real with myself”