15 Best Lyrics From Tupac
Sept. 13 marks 17 years since Tupac Shakur left this planet. One of the most prolific MCs that hip-hop has ever seen, the West Coast native’s early days of poetry were omnipresent in his music. His lyrics combined tongue-in-cheek bravado with cryptic lines predicting his early demise. ‘Pac’s catalog is intensely extensive, with posthumous releases still circulating to date.
In honor of Tupac’s life, The BoomBox has compiled some of his most famous lines. While he arguably has many, some are tightly woven into the fabric of hip-hop as some of the greatest rap quotables. Despite the fact that Tupac Shakur is no longer with us, his memory lives on through his words.
15. “Take the evil out the people they’ll be acting right/ ‘Cause both black and white are smokin’ crack tonight/ And only time we deal is when we kill each other/ It takes skill to be real, time to heal each other.”
The line that follows this peaceful message is “And although it seems heaven-sent, we ain’t ready to see a Black president.” If Tupac were alive today, he would see that the country finally saw a Black president with Barack Obama. Times have certainly changed since these lines were written.
14. “Now who’s to say if I was right or wrong?/ To live my life as an outlaw all along/ Remain strong in this planet full of playa haters/ They conversate, but Death Row full of demonstrators.”
(‘Until the End of Time’)
Many felt that once Tupac aligned himself with Death Row Records, it was the beginning of the end. While his tenure at Death Row was intense — and consequently violent — it shaped the “outlaw” persona he continuously carried throughout his music.
13. “When I talk about money all you see is the struggle/ When I tell you I’m livin’ large, you tell me it’s trouble.”
(‘I Ain’t Mad Atcha’)
Long before artists like Jay-Z and even Drake painted pictures of the trouble that fame brings, ‘Pac rhymed about the ups and downs of being in the public eye. He was vocal about his overt awareness of haters, who would sadly lead to his assassination.
12. “Dear mama, don’t cry, your baby boy’s doin’ good/ Tell the homies I’m in heaven and they ain’t got hoods/ Seen a show with Marvin Gaye last night, it had me shook/ Drinkin’ Peppermint Schnapps with Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke.”
As much as ‘Pac spoke about death, he also rhymed about the afterlife, particularly heaven. The religious undertones in his music were apparent, believing a heaven actually existed. Tupac spent many verses discussing what that heaven looked like and how he would fit in it.
11. “I heard a rumor I died, murdered in cold blood dramatized/ Pictures of me in my final stages, you know mama cried/ But that was all fiction, some coward got the story twisted.”
(‘Ain’t Hard 2 Find’)
Many felt Tupac predicted his own murder, as evidenced through lines like these. Others felt he faked his own death — referenced earlier through his fascination with Machiavelli. While the truth still remains a mystery, the messages are there, open-ended and still never deciphered.
10. “Even though you was a crack fiend mama, you always was a Black queen mama.”
Tupac had no qualms about expressing his love for his mother, Afeni Shakur, and the struggles she faced in raising him. Their relationship was close, as they — in a way — grew up together. Afeni continues to advocate her son’s legacy through the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation.
9. “All I need in this life of sin, is me and my girlfriend/ Down to ride to the bloody end, just me and my girlfriend.”
(‘Me and My Girlfriend’)
Tupac managed to stretch an entire metaphor about his love affair with a gun throughout an entire song. Nas would later take that similar route on his song ‘I Gave You Power,’ while Jay-Z and Beyonce would interpolate Tupac’s hook for their collab ”03 Bonnie and Clyde.’
8. “Out on bail fresh, outta jail, California dreamin’/ Soon as I stepped on the scene, I’m hearin’ hoochies screamin’.” (‘California Love’)
If the ladies loved cool James to the East, then Tupac was the LL of the West. Despite originally hailing from the East Coast, ‘Pac repped hard for Cali. He was the mouthpiece for an entire region, and during his reign, few touched him.
7. “Keep a vest for protection, from the barrel of a Smith & Wesson/ And all my n—-s in the pen, here we go again/ Ain’t nothin’ separatin’ us from a Mack-10.” (‘Nothing to Lose’)
Tupac’s mantra was two simple words: Thug Life. He carried this message to the very end. While this line first appeared on ‘Nothing to Lose,’ it made the greatest impact in the infamous freestyle between ‘Pac and Biggie, which was the last time the two shared a stage together.
6. “Fingertips on the hips as I dip, gotta get a tight grip, don’t slip/ Loose lips sink ships, it’s a trip/ I love the way she licks her lips, see me jockin’/ Put a little twist in her hips ’cause I’m watchin’”
(‘I Get Around’)
It wasn’t always serious in Tupac’s world. The man knew how to party and how to draw the ladies in with his aggressive charisma. His machismo was rarely off-putting and has set the tone for the swag of other rappers currently making radio rotation.
5. “I heard Brenda’s got a baby, but Brenda’s barely got a brain/ A damn shame, the girl can hardly spell her name.” (‘Brenda’s Got a Baby’)
When Tupac parted ways with Digital Underground, his entry into solo music began with discussing his environment. ‘Brenda’s Got a Baby’ talked of teen pregnancy and real issues happening around him. That level of heightened awareness and social commentary followed ‘Pac throughout his entire career.
4. “I see no changes, all I see is racist faces/ Misplaced hate makes disgrace for races.” (‘Changes’)
This line was originally part of ‘I Wonder If Heaven Got a Ghetto’ and retooled for the posthumous ‘Changes.’ ‘Pac spoke years ahead of his time and used music as his podium to voice his thoughts on race relations, infusing his views into his rhymes.
3. “Grab your glocks when you see Tupac/ Call the cops when you see Tupac/ Who shot me, but you punks didn’t finish/ Now you’re ’bout to feel the wrath of a menace.” (‘Hit Em Up’)
When Tupac was shot five times at Quad Studios in New York City, the blame was unfortunately placed upon the late Notorious B.I.G. and his crew. The lyrical product was ‘Hit Em Up,’ one of the most potent and vicious beef-related tracks in hip-hop history.
2. “I’m not a killa, but don’t push me/ Revenge is like the sweetest joy next to gettin’ p—-.” (‘Hail Mary’)
Tupac’s alias of Makaveli was a nod to Italian philosopher Machiavelli, who advised that faking one’s death was the ultimate way of tricking an enemy. Tupac would often craft lines about murder and revenge, but in a way that was calculated, much like his philosophical counterpart.
1. “They say the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice/ I say the darker the flesh, then the deeper the roots.” (‘Keep Ya Head Up’)
‘Keep Ya Head Up’ was one of Tupac’s most inspirational tracks, aimed to pay homage to Black women. While Tupac harbored many lyrical styles, his intense metaphors were one of his strongest attributes. ‘Pac rhymed in poetry, painting pictures with his words.