Tag Archives: Tupac Shakur

Album of the Week: “2Pacalypse Now” by Tupac Shakur

2Pacalypse+Now

Tupac Shakur
2Pacalypse Now
Interscope, 1991

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Casting Call: If Famous Star Wars Jedi Were Replaced With Figures in Hip-Hop

By: Daniel Hodgman

Star Wars Episode 7 is happening. In fact, a whole new trilogy of Star Wars movies is in the works. Are you ready?

Although Star Wars hasn’t seen a bright light since Return of the Jedi, it is undoubtedly one of the greatest names in pop culture. The film series has spawned a whole new expanded universe with books, shows, video games, short films and Wookiepedia, and even if you don’t like the series, millions on millions of people do.

One of the most interesting things about Star Wars has been that of the Jedi, the mysterious spiritual organization that studies the force. The whole lightsaber weapon thing is cool, and the ability to throw people without touching them is nice too, but the concept behind the Jedi keeping peace and justice in the galaxy has always fascinated me the most. Struck with a code of ethics, Jedi practice the force through passive meditation and a commitment to justice. The Jedi are in fact the greatest thing George Lucas has ever invented, sans Boba Fett.

So with that, Bonus Cut has decided to do a special Jedi hip-hop mash-up. In this scenario we recast some famous Jedi from the films, shows and video games and replace them with figures in hip-hop. Enjoy.

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The Ideas of the Panthers Live on in Hip-Hop (Part Two)

Note: this is part two of a four part series. You can read part one here.

By: Kelvin Criss

Analysis

“We gotta fight back’ that’s what Huey said” (Tupac, “Changes”)

Hip-hop has a strong focus on self-defense, not violence. The idea of protecting one’s community, much like the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense’s idea of police patrol and self-defense, is very clear in the lyrics of the music. Hip-hop often has notions of confronting police due to injustices against one’s community and protecting the community from foreign exploiters. This can be seen in countless songs such as Dead Prez’s song “Assassination.”

“Them belly full, my trigger finger got pulled/To cut the bull shots’ll warm your flesh like wool/These tools for survival make fools out of rivals/Fuck the Bible, get on your knees and praise my rifle/Your life is done there aint another place to run/Eat your own gun, scared because my people never known fun” (“Assassination”)

“Them belly full” conveys the same message as Tupac’s “Holler if You Hear Me” as far as police exploitation. “My trigger finger got pulled” has the same message of fighting back in order protect one’s community from further innocent blood being shed by the police. Immortal Technique’s “Fight Until the End” has a very similar message to Dead Prez and Tupac’s songs.

“Dem’ shoot at us/Turn around and deny it/People on the streets are dying/We must come together/Fight depression and pull de pressure/On de system that tries to diss us/Tries to hurt us, and tries to kill us/We don’t win, we fight again/We gon’ fight until the end, until the end/We fight until we win, until we win.” (“Fight Until the End”)

“Dem’ shoot at us, Turn around and deny it…Fight depression and pull de pressure, on de system that tries to diss us,” shows the violence that police use against those who are from the community; people are being shot in their neighborhoods for unknown reasons by the police departments. Dead Prez has a song entitled “I Have a Dream Too” which describes a group of Panther-like revolutionaries who are looking for a police officer who shot a boy. Later in the song, a woman sings about the incident of a young boy being shot by the police.

“Just when you thought it was safe/Police kill a little boy last night/They said it was a mistake/But that won’t bring back his life/His momma couldn’t believe/That it could happen to her/She prayed to God everyday/Guess it just wasn’t enough” (“I Have a Dream Too”)

These lyrics show the hardships that people in urban communities endure. As if poverty wasn’t bad enough, they have to deal with the police shooting their youth. In their song entitled “Far From Over,” Dead Prez state:  “Truth is like a 44 magnum in this business/I’m out to go Jonathan Jackson on you bitches.” This is a direct reference to George Jackson, a member of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, who was taken out of his trial by his younger brother, Jonathon Jackson and friends, who were armed with automatic weapons. Dead Prez say this to not only incite community action, but also to commemorate what the community had done. “You ain’t got the right to bear arms, huh?/Sometimes you might have to brandish a motherfuckin’ firearm.” This line from Immortal Technique’s “Lick Shot” describes the mentality the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense has. This belief is not exclusive to the Party, but rather is common belief amongst revolutionaries. In order to protect ones community, one must pick up arms to protect one’s neighborhood.

Public Enemy’s “Can’t Hold Us Back” is about protecting one’s community:

“We rep justice, equality and freedom now/Put fam first, man, woman and child/Never mild, keep it hostile ’til we raise/Where we say, what we mean and we mean what we say/It’s been a long time comin’ that we mob as one/Guerrilla Funk, Hard Truth nigga, that’s what’s up/No peace on the street ’til the justice come/From the ballot to the bullet, if it’s on, it’s on” (“Can’t Hold Us Back”)

This song both resonates the ideas of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and describes what the community needs. These lyrics not only mention the lust for “justice, equality and freedom,” but also that there will be, “No peace on the street ‘til the justice come[s].” All of these songs mirror the principles of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. In particular, how the members of the community are willing to stand up for their rights, pick up arms and fight, even die, to protect their community.

Keep up with Bonus Cut and its continual look on the ideas of the Black Panthers in hip-hop every week in this four part installment.

Works Cited

Dead Prez. Let’s Get Free. Rec. 1998-2000. Loud Records, 2000. CD.

Dead Prez. RBG: Revolutionary but Gangsta. Rec. Feb.-Mar. 2004. Sean Cane, Stic, 2004. CD.

Immortal Technique. Revolutionary Vol 1. Rec. 2000-2001. Viper Records, 2001. CD.

Immortal Technique. The 3rd World. Rec. June 2008. Bronze Nazareth, 2008. CD.

Public Enemy. Rebirth of a Nation. Rec. 7 Mar. 2006. Pari, 2006. CD.

Tupac Shakur. 2Pacalypse Now. Rec. June-September 1991. Atron Gregory, 1991. CD.

Tupac Shakur. Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. Rec. January-March 1993. Atron Gregory, 1993. CD.

Tupac Shakur. “Changes.” Rec. 1992. Changes. 1998. Song.

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The Ideas of the Panthers Live on in Hip-Hop (Part One)

Black Panther Party for Self-Defense

Note: this is the abridged version of a larger piece of work by the same name.

By: Kelvin Criss

“Black Power to black people, Brown Power to brown people, Yellow Power to yellow people, all Power to all People”- Huey P. Newton

Critical Literature Review

“How could Reagan live in a White House, which has a lot of rooms, and there be homelessness? And he’s talking about helping. I don’t believe that there is anyone that is going hungry in America simply by reason of denial or lack of ability to feed them. It is by people not knowing where or how to get this help. Why can’t he take people off the street and put them in his White House? Then he’ll have people from the streets to help him with his ideas. Not helpless! Homeless! Not helpless! They haven’t been homeless forever. They’ve done things in society. The White House would be tainted because he doesn’t want to get dirty.” –Tupac Shakur, 1988 Interview

The Black Panther Party for Self Defense was created to not only protect the people from police brutality but to also work with the community to overcome social problems. The Black Panther Party for Self Defense organize community services such as the Free Breakfast for Children program, history classes open to the community and Free Health Clinics. The Black Panther Party for Self Defense’s greatest contribution was freeing the people. The Panthers freed the people from fearing the government, from being afraid to speak out against “their” government. Even though the Black Panther Party for Self Defense disbanded, it is clear that their ideas have not been left behind.

The Start of “Black Music” Affecting Politics

Africans have shaped much of today’s music. Rock n’ Roll originated from the music that African slaves made. It progressed to jazz music, which was highly influential to the victory of the allies during World War II. James L. Conyers Jr.’s Engines of the Black Power Movement: Essays on the Influence of Civil Rights Actions, Arts, and Islam contains a chapter entitled “Jazz Musicians in Europe 1919-1945,” which was written by Larry Ross. Ross explains that the German Luftwaffe (German Air Force) planes contained radios. Nazi fighter pilots would often listen to “African-American jazz musicians in their planes on the BBC radio station, and the anti-Nazi propaganda they heard undermined their resolve to fight against the allies.” The Nazi party banned all jazz records due to the musicians being black, however the German people used many techniques to smuggle the records in. Ross explains that, “during World War II to obtain African-American jazz recordings that had been banned by Goebbels, included putting Johann Sebastian Bach labels on Duke Ellington albums and selling them in local record shops.” This was certainly not the last time that “black music” would be used to undermine the “enemy.” However later in the century the enemy would shift from a foreign power to a domestic power.

The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense’s Impact on Tupac Shakur

Michael Eric Dyson’s Holler If You Hear Me discusses in great depth not only Tupac’s childhood but also his mother, Afeni Shakur, as both a “black revolutionary” and as an “addicted mother.” Elmer “Geronimo” Pratt said Tupac was, “born into the movement.” He explains the hardships of being deprived of a “stable home in his adolescence,” how it shaped his view of himself as a maturing teen and how his art “reflected the existential agonies he encountered as a result of her troubles.” Being a “second-generation Black Panther, Tupac was constantly approached at school by the FBI seeking the whereabouts of his stepfather Mutulu Shakur.” Afeni Shakur was not the only Black Panther that Tupac met; much of his family were Panthers as well. However, Afeni said that Tupac, “really didn’t have a lot of respect for [the other members of the Panthers]…Because he was a child who was there. He knew what they did and what they didn’t do. I never lied to my kids…for better or for worse.” Tupac resented that, “Many male Panthers chose, or were forced, to leave behind children and women. The government’s repressive techniques destroyed many activist black families.” Essentially, Tupac blamed the Black Panthers themselves for choosing to be activists, which led the FBI and other government agencies to destroy their family.

Dyson went so far to say that, “Tupac’s career was best imagined in strictly political terms: Rapping was race war by other means.” Dyson also goes on to say that, “but even as he [Tupac] exchanged revolutionary self-seriousness for the Thug Life, he never embraced the notion that the Panthers were emblematic of political self-destruction. To be sure, Tupac saw Thug Life extending Panther beliefs in self-defense and class rebellion.” After Tupac moved to California, he quickly got mixed in with gangs and began to, “live the life he rapped” about. Afeni believed that this was because, “in Tupac’s eyes, ‘not only was [the] revolution not paying the bills, but it was causing a great deal of disaster for me’” and this led to Tupac’s capitalistic philosophy. Eventually, “Tupac appeared to forgo the traditional meanings of revolution in favor of the thorny ambivalence of thug culture,” which is why you can see distinctions and similarities between Thug Life and the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense’s ideology. “On the one hand, the thug embraced the same secular teleology that ran through revolutionary rhetoric: Flipping the economic order was the reason for social rebellion. Thugs are a product of unequal social relations” (p.64).

Dyson successfully and fully explains Tupac’s revolutionary roots. He shows the connection between his revolutionary family and his mother’s drug addiction. This addiction is the part of his life that leads him towards Thug Life.

Connections Between Tupac’s Lyrics and the Ideas of the Black Panther Party

Tayannah Lee McQuillar and Fred L. Johnson III, PhD wrote Tupac Shakur: The Life and Times of an American Icon, which shows how the ideas of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense’s ideas are reflected in Tupac’s music. It is deeper than just the lyrics of his song, but the whole Thug Life “movement.”

McQuillar and Johnson III talk about Tupac’s first solo album Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z., which Source magazine declared to be, “a combination of ‘60s black political thought and ‘90s urban reality.” When asked about the album, Tupac said, “I rap about fighting back.” The song “Holla If Ya Hear Me” excoriated sellouts and told Vice President Dan Quayle that Tupac wouldn’t be silenced, and urged black men to “pump your fists if you’re pissed.” The authors of the book discuss how “Keep Ya Head Up” is in support of welfare mothers that the media named “welfare queens.” Tupac “mostly communicated that women didn’t have to accept abuse or ill treatment just because they were poor.” His next albums would be just as meaningful as this one.

Chapter 25 of McQuillar and Johnson III’s book, entitled “A Shooting In Atlanta,” describes Tupac’s arrest for shooting two off-duty police officers. Tupac saw, “two white men harassing a black motorist at an intersection.” Tupac noted that, “the old southern rules were in full play.” Maurice Harding (Mutulu’s birth son from his original marriage) was in the car behind Tupac’s and said that Tupac asked the officers if there was a problem. In return, they advised him to get back into his vehicle, which he did. The officers then, “smashed the window with one of the guns they had” from the harassed motorist. It was then that Tupac got out of his car and, “dropped to one knee and he shot them both in their butts.” This is a prime example of Panther ideology, protecting the community, and patrolling the police.

Keep up with Bonus Cut and its continual look on the ideas of the Black Panthers in hip-hop every week in this four part installment.

Work Cited

Conyers, James L. Engines of the Black Power Movement: Essays on the Influence of Civil Rights Actions, Arts, and Islam. Jefferson, NC: McFarland &, 2006. Print.

Dyson, Michael Eric. Between God and Gangsta Rap: Bearing Witness to Black Culture. New York: Oxford University, 1996. Print.

Dyson, Michael Eric. Holler If You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur. New York: Basic Civitas, 2001. Print.

McQuillar, Tayannah Lee, and Freddie Lee. Johnson. Tupac Shakur: the Life and times of an American Icon. Cambridge, MA: Da Capo, 2010. Print.

Tupac Shakur. 2Pacalypse Now. Rec. June-September 1991. Atron Gregory, 1991. CD.

Tupac Shakur. Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. Rec. January-March 1993. Atron Gregory, 1993. CD.

Tupac Shakur. “Changes.” Rec. 1992. Changes. 1998. Song.

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Hip-Hop and Its Influence: An Interview With David Kirkland (Part Two)

By: Gus Navarro

This is the second half of a two-part interview with Dr. David E. Kirkland about hip-hop and its educational impact. Dr. Kirkland is a professor at Michigan State University and one of the coordinators of ULITT and directors of CAITLAH. In this part of the interview, Dr. Kirkland comments on the transformative power of hip-hop education. For additional context, check out the first half part of this interview which can be found here.

Excerpts taken from an interview with Dr. David E. Kirkland on February 26 th, 2013…

GN: In what ways does hip-hop manifest itself in education and educational circles?

DK: Right, so let me just say there are two things in education. You can talk about hip-hop in education. Some of us have talked about hip-hop in education, ways to use hip-hop to teach other things. And so you can do that. We call it scaffolding or bridging. You can use Tupac in order to teach the classics if you will. You can use Tupac in order to teach literary devices and elements like chiasmus, consonants, and other types of rhetorical literary ideas or entities. You can use rap in order to create a mnemonic device to memorize mathematics, its been done. I call that hip-hop in education. But hip-hop education is the type of education or pedagogy that hip-hop is established in. Hip-hop teaches. It works in the tradition of the African Griot. It works in that oral tradition, it works in the oral tradition of the street press where individuals would come together and they would collect stories and they would collect histories. It works in Howard Zinn’s A People’s History in the sense that it has its own pedagogy, its own moment. So the cypher becomes this space where everyone is equal but at the same time in order to be elevated within that cypher, the cypher is trying you. Its like a cauldron, it invites you in, but it doesn’t let you remain the same, you have to put your energy out there; you have to be vulnerable. So, hip-hop education suggests a vulnerability, it has its own language, its language is rap. And rap isn’t just the science of rhyme; it’s the science of truth. So when we hear hip-hop artists talking about rap, the thing that makes rap significant isn’t just a rhyme, it’s that it gets close to truth. It’s saying things that people realize. This is hip-hop education. Hip-hop education is the element of pedagogy, the element of education that exists within the hip-hop idea. And it’s not necessarily the traditional education that we understand or know.

GN: So going off of that, can hip-hop education or hip-hop pedagogy exist in mainstream schools?

DK: I think hip-hop in education can exist in mainstream schools, but hip-hop education is a school in and of itself. I think schooling should and can be informed by hip-hop. We should do school more like we do hip-hop. We should have cyphers break out that invite people, we should break down the walls of schooling and construct education and the education imagination based on how people understand and live life today. And hip-hop gives us a glimpse into that. So if we think about education and how it’s constructed today we have to go back to history. We have to go back to post-industrial history where you had labor laws that prohibited youth from working. So we needed some repositories to place these kids so we constructed these entities and the architect of these entities were usually the architects of prisons and factories. We also had this really interesting agrarian culture; what to do in the winter? So we set up this thing where you go to school in the winter and in the summer you don’t. So the imagination around how we look at schooling today isn’t necessarily the most effective way to do school for now because it was based on a society and culture that is long past. So there is an argument to re-think education anyhow. But hip-hop gives us this third space, this site of really interesting creation, both pedagogical creation as well as performative creation coming together to inform the ways that people learn; the way that the mind is impressed upon. And I think that’s important.

GN: I think it is too and off of that, what do you do at Michigan State to carry these things out? Is it just in class or are there other programs that you’re involved in within MSU? And what is the approach to these programs?

DK: Well Michigan State University is a hegemonic space. It’s a fairly traditional space with really good people in it pushing against traditions. But there is one thing about dominant hegemony is that they have gravity to them. We can pull up, but we can only pull so long before the thing gets heavy and it falls back in its place. But I have done some things at Michigan State University within my classes because I think it’s important. This goes back to the question of why teach hip-hop? I don’t want to teach hip-hop because it engages youth, that’s important. I can give the youth candy, that will engage them too and it will hurt their teeth. I teach hip-hop because it’s smart to do so. We teach Shakespeare, we teach Dante, we teach all these other people I called “hip-hopgraphers.” We teach them because it’s smart to do so. If in the days of written technology we used print in order to transmit meaning and in the day of digital technology we use music, sound, and visual multi-modo moving imagery to do it. Why don’t we teach that? Why don’t we understand that as a new way of capturing our humanity? I teach it because it’s smart to teach hip-hop. I’m not going to wait until Tupac is dead a hundred years to say, “wow, lets reflect on this.” We need to reflect on it now. Because by reflecting on it, it gives us a way to understand ourselves in powerful and important ways and to re-shape the world that we live in, so that it can be more inviting and more beneficial to more people. So I say that to say, I teach it in my class because I have to, because its what makes us smart by studying and examining hip-hop today. I also created a set of interventions. One intervention is our Urban Literacies Institute for Transformative Teaching (ULITT). It is a hip-hop pedagogy retreat that I brought to Michigan State University. This year is our second year into that, and we’ve seen transformative results. I got an email today from a teacher that told me that one of her participants told her that the event changed her life. That she found healing as well as strategy through it and for me, that’s important. So I’m trying to open up spaces at Michigan State University. I don’t know how long those spaces will be open before the powers that be close them, but for as long as we can keep them open, we’re going keep them open.

GN: Thank you very much, I appreciate you sitting down with me and talking.

DK: Thank you.

It is important to reflect on the purpose of schooling and education. The public school system as we know it comes from the Technological Revolution of the early 19th century. Schools were modeled after factories that were essential to the United State’s economy. Kids get union breaks too, its just called recess. As students move through school they are indoctrinated into the “American Way” and are prepared to enter the work force by the end of their education. Having the skills to find a job is in no way a bad thing, but it may be time to approach this in a different way. With the continual push towards globalization our world cannot function without things such as computers, the Internet and smart phones. Nowadays there are so many ways in which we can express ourselves and connect with people. Using hip-hop as a worldview, as a way of reading the world and interacting with others allows teachers and students to collaborate and learn together. Hip-hop education gets away from the one-size fits all educational model of testing and standardization. Hip-hop education creates a space where students are encouraged to create and learn using multiple disciplines such as writing, music, film, photography, art and dance all while pushing students to develop the agency to navigate the complex society we live in. When we focus on testing, we are not supporting students to be curious and ask conceptual questions about their communities. If we want to use hip-hop education, we have to be willing to change how we do school and how we teach students. To build off Dr. Kirkland’s statement, he is not talking about using lyrics to teach the 50 states. That is hip-hop in education and super status quo. Instead, he is talking about using the worldview of hip-hop to teach students to be curious, critical, vulnerable and to use their experiential knowledge. As Dr. Kirkland explains, “In the days of written technology we used print in order to transmit meaning and in the day of digital technology we use music, sound, and visual multi-modo moving imagery to do it. Why don’t we teach that? Why don’t we understand that as a new way of capturing our humanity?” This is not a traditional model of education, but it is time that we at least consider what this could do for our students as they grow and learn about the world around them.

*You can check out Dr. Kirkland’s blog at davidekirkland.wordpress.com or follow him on Twitter: @davidekirkland.

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