Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tupac Shakur -- "Brenda's Got A Baby" (1991)

She's 12 years old 
And she's having a baby
In love with a molester, 
Who's sexin' her crazy . . .
He left her 
And she had the baby solo
She had it on the bathroom floor
And didn't know
She didn't know what to throw away
And what to keep

Tupac Shakur was only 20 years old when he released "Brenda's Got A Baby," the first single off the 2Pacalypse Now album in 1991.  Less than five years later, he was murdered in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas after attending a Mike Tyson fight.

Tupac (or 2Pac, if you prefer) was a very talented rapper, but has attained a cult status that far transcends the music he left behind.  He is the James Dean of hip-hop.

James Dean
Tupac didn't have the stereotypical rapper's upbringing -- he didn't grow up in the projects, and he wasn't pushing drugs when he was 14.  

His parents were active members of the Black Panther Party in New York, and he was born just a month after his mother was acquitted of federal conspiracy charges.  (He was named after the leader of an indigenous revolt against the Spanish that took place in Peru in 1780.)  His stepfather landed on the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" list for his role in the robbery of a Brink's truck in which a guard and two policemen were killed.

When his family moved to Baltimore, Tupac enrolled in the Baltimore School for the Arts, where he appeared in several Shakespearean productions and danced in The Nutcracker.  A few years later, the Shakurs moved to Marin County, California, where Tupac hooked up with a Bay Area rap group, Digital Underground.

J. Lo and P. Diddy
Most of the songs on his first solo album explored various social issues that were of particular relevance to the African-American community -- poverty, police brutality, and (in the case of "Brenda's Got A Baby") teenage pregnancy.

Tupac's later albums were characterized by more aggressive and violent themes.  Some of the songs from those albums are little more than profanity-filled screeds that threaten Tupac's enemies -- mostly East Coast rappers like The Notorious B.I.G. and Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs -- with all sorts of mayhem.  Those songs are so far over the top that you have to wonder about Tupac's mental health.

Tupac Shakur
We'll get into Tupac Shakur's later music a little more deeply in future "Hip Hop 101" lectures, but let's focus now on the song that first brought him to the attention of the rap world, "Brenda's Got A Baby."

As told by Tupac, Brenda's story is about as sordid a story as you'll ever hear.  You may think the lines quoted above are bad, but just wait until you hear what happens next.  

"Brenda's Got A Baby" is not a work of art -- as noted above, Tupac was only 20 when he recorded this track, and it's about subtle as a nuclear bomb.  Brenda had about as bad a life as it's possible to have, and Tupac wants to make sure you get the picture -- he really rubs the listener's nose in it, if you know what I mean. 

Here's "Brenda's Got A Baby":

Here's a link you can use to order this song from Amazon:

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