Tupac Shakur will forever remain an iconic figure in 90’s rap history. Though I’m not a fan of the antics and gangsta-rap culture that came with his persona, he undoubtedly displayed the ability to tell amazing stories with visual and honest lyrics. In today’s blog, I want to talk about one of my favorite songs Dear Mamma. It’s a timeless love song that sends me chills with every listen. A true example of coming to age, this song is a young man’s reflection on his life as he better understands himself and the events of the past.
The first thing I usually notice when listening is the smooth musical arrangement. Originally produced by Tony Pizarro, the songs’ piano and slow placed beat teleports me to a strange, yet familiar mental state. It’s the place you go to while waiting at a bus stop looking at two teenagers kissing, or sitting at your favorite park looking at kids playing soccer. You begin to think back to the time you were that teenager or that kid. Not thinking of anything in particular, but just thinking. To me, this song is the musical illustration of reminiscing. The bass line fills your ears with smooth and relaxing tunes. I can imagine Charles Jefferson (the bass player for the track) sitting in a chair swaying side to side as he strums each note.
The song is raw. In an interview Tupac did with Bill Bellamy on MTV, he talks about waking up in the early part of the morning and writing the song on the toilet. His mom apparently cried on the phone after he rapped it to her. This is a love song after all. It’s an honest song though. He openly expresses his love for his mother, while still acknowledging her flaws. The first verse paints a vivid picture of this. Growing up as a poor kid in the hood, he fell into the negative influences and circumstances of the environment. His mother had to deal with managing these influences, while still dealing with her own internal struggles. This had to be should a challenging experience for her. Now add the stress of a deadbeat father. Not much is know about this individual, but from the song, you can assume that here wasn’t a good relationship built between him and the rest of the family. Imagine being the child of a pathetic father. Imagine going to this person’s funeral and people coming up to you asking you why you’re void of any emotion. I can’t blame Tupac for this reaction. It’s hard to care about someone who clearly didn’t (or unable to) care about you.
Another moment from the second verse talks about resorting to selling drugs to survive. Although I don’t believe in resorting to such a destructive way of earning money, I do understand the logic. Being poor is hard. Being in survival mood is hard. Any path you find that relieves you from this torment, you take. Though it sounds silly at first glance, there’s truth in the satisfaction of a person being able to pay their rent.
My appreciation for this song goes past it’s amazing story telling. In a lot of ways, I am Tupac. I grew up with a single grandmother and my sister. A lot of times we were poorer than the other kids at school. I got in trouble and got whipped for it (never in serious trouble though). I had daddy issues. All of this is real for me. When I first heard this song, it made me sad. Not because of me reflecting on my own life, but because someone else went through a similar situation. It made me realize this garage was more common than I thought.
Though this song was birthed from spontaneity, there is much wisdom between the lines. Having experienced my own rough upbringing, I understand the strength of being able to face your past and see the strength within broken individuals. We all have our issues. Our parents are no different. They are individuals who are trying the best they can. The one’s that truly love us are willing to fight everyday and make sacrifices so that we may have a better opportunity at life. For some, this individual is their mother. For others, it maybe a grandparent. Blessing to you if you are a person that’s fortunate to have both loving parents. The wisdom I take from this song is to not lose sight of this sacrifice. Honor it. Respect it. Show your appreciation for it.
As thanksgiving is approaching, I hope some of you think about that and show your appreciation to the people who deserve it. Who knows, maybe it will inspire you to write a song about it.