Subject Material

Changes - Tupac

Published: 21.04.2010, Updated: 03.03.2017
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"Change" and "Yes, You Can!" were some of the most striking slogans in Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign. What do you think inspired him to choose these slogans?

Tupac ShakurOne of the last pictures of Tupac Shakur. Here with actor Mikcey Rourke "Changes" is a hip hop song by the late Tupac Shakur originally recorded between 1995-96. It is one of his most notable and popular songs. It was released posthumously on his album, Greatest Hits. In the lyrics he pays tribute to Huey P. Newton, one of the founders of the Black Panthers (an African-American organization to promote Black Power and self-defence) who was killed in 1989.

Tupac Shakur was born in 1971. His mother, Afeni Shakur, was an active member of the Black Panther Party in the late 1960s and she was imprisoned for conspiring to instigate a race war. Tupac was raised in Harlem, New York. At age fifteen he became interested in rap and started writing lyrics. By the time he was twenty, he had been arrested eight times. He often claimed that he expected to “die by the sword” before he turned thirty. In 1994 he survived five gun shots by thieves who made off with his jewellery. However, two years later at the peak of his musical career, he was killed in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas.


To listen to Tupac's performance search for Tupac Changes or 2pac Changes on YouTube or use music applications such as Spotify or Wimp.

Find the lyrics on this link: Tupac - Changes (lyrics)

Comprehension

  1. What does he ask himself when he wakes up in the morning?
  2. How do the police regard blacks in this song?
  3. What generally happens when the children are handed drugs?
  4. In which context is Huey P. Newton mentioned?
  5. What could blacks do to change their destiny?
  6. Why can’t things be like they used to be when they were kids?
  7. How does he explain racism?
  8. When is the only time blacks and whites are OK?
  9. Why isn’t the USA ready for a black president?
  10. Why do people turn to the “dope game"?
  11. What kind of war does he think that the authorities should focus on?

Compare

  1. In “In the Ghetto,” Elvis sang about the hungry little child in the Chicago ghetto who would need “a helping hand” to prevent him from ending up with “a gun in his hand.” Find the lyrics on the web and watch a clip on YouTube, keywords: Elvis In the Ghetto.
  2. In many ways Tupac and Elvis convey the same message, but what is the difference?
    Compare Nas' “ Yes We Can” with Tupac’s “Changes”. What do the songs have in common?

Discuss

  1. Why do you think Tupac states: “We ain’t ready to see a black President..”? Who was elected President in 2008. How was this possible?
  2. Find YouTube clips using these key words: Barack Obama, 2pac, Changes and Yes We Can. Discuss the mood and atmosphere in the clips you find. Is there optimism, anger etc.

Research

“…the penitentiary’s packed, and it’s filled with blacks…”. Is Tupac right about this? Check statistics:

  1. How many blacks are imprisoned? (Some key search words: race and prison, incarceration by race.)
  2. It is often maintained that there are more black teens in prisons than in American colleges. Is this correct?

Literary Analysis

  1. How do you interpret the mood in the song? Is Tupac optimistic about the future for blacks in the USA?
  2. Use the Poetry Vocabulary List and find examples of:
    • assonance
    • alliteration
    • allusion
    • metaphors
    • contrasts
    • rhyme
    • repetitions
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