Music Analysis

Posted in Uncategorized at 9:05 pm by nicole

2 PAC – Tupac Shakur – Keep Ya Head Up
“Keep Ya Head Up”–TUPAC

In a time where gangsta rap flooded the hip hop scene and East coast versus West coast rappers competed for the top spot on music charts, Tupac took a risk in releasing the song “Keep Ya Head Up which first appeared on his 1993 album, Strictly for my N.I.G.G.A.Z.” and later appeared, after his death in 1998, on his Greatest Hits compilation. (“Nationmaster.com”) The beat and chorus of the song are both samples. The beat was borrowed from a 70’s soul and funk band, Zapp & Roger. “Be Alright” was known as the band’s one-hit wonder. The chorus of the song is borrowed from the song “O-o-h Child” from the 1970’s Chicago soul band, The Five Stairsteps. (“Keep Ya Head Up”) “Keep Ya Head Up” shows a softer side of Tupac and it has been referred to as his love letter to black women. “Many consider it to be one of the deepest rap songs ever made and is often referenced by other artists in their work, building Shakur’s persona as a very conscious and influential rapper.” (“Nationmaster.com”) Tupac’s spoken dedication in the opening line layers the dynamic musical ensemble of keyboard, flute, guitar, and percussion. Following the lively introduction of staccato articulation, two distinctive downbeats transition to more of a legato sound. The change in articulation creates a different beat which establishes the more serious mood for the rest of the song. It’s interesting because the lyrical deliverance by Tupac is almost like he’s singing, instead of fast paced, hard hitting rap. His flow is gentle and the passion in his voice seems sincere. It feels like he’s really trying to communicate to his audience and spread a positive message. Throughout the verse’s Tupac’s rhymes are layered over vocal adlibs and rifts which are reminiscent to the original tracks the songs were borrowed from. The softness in the singer’s voice feels like a distant echo in the background re-questioning the issues Tupac’s rapping about. The layer of singing adds soulfulness to the track in between changeovers of verse to chorus. As the chorus starts the singing is still soft and compassionate. I feel as though the vocals aren’t necessarily flawless which give it an authentic and unedited feeling. The vocal deliverance is almost spiritual, it feels like a plea or a prayer for a change/ for a better life.

This song is significant in history because in a time where rappers were referring to women as “bitches, hoes and sluts,” Tupac praises women. He offers symphony and support to his “sisters.“ Tupac’s verses’ shed light on the unfortunate reality of female disrespect, and criticize the men who degrade them.

1st Verse:
Some say the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice
I say the darker the flesh then the deeper the roots
I give a holler to my sisters on welfare
Tupac cares, if don’t nobody else care
And uhh, I know they like to beat ya down a lot
When you come around the block brothas clown a lot
But please don’t cry, dry your eyes, never let up
Forgive but don’t forget, girl keep your head up
And when he tells you you ain’t nuttin don’t believe him
And if he can’t learn to love you you should leave him
Cause sista you don’t need him
And I ain’t tryin to gas ya up, I just call em how I see em
You know it makes me unhappy (what’s that)
When brothas make babies, and leave a young mother to be a pappy
And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
I wonder why we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?
I think it’s time to kill for our women
Time to heal our women, be real to our women
And if we don’t we’ll have a race of babies
That will hate the ladies, that make the babies
And since a man can’t make one
He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one
So will the real men get up
I know you’re fed up ladies, but keep your head up

Keep ya head up, oooo child things are gonna get easier
ooooo child things’ll
get brighter [2x]

Tupac addresses both women and men in this first verse. His first point is to empower woman and let them know that they should be treated with respect. When they’re able to realize this they need to get out of any situation where a man is mistreating them. Once they’ve realized they’re worth more they’ll recognize their capable and strong enough to do anything on there own (like raise a child) without a man, especially one who disrespects them. Men are also addressed in the song as he encourages them to change they’re ways. Issues such as abortion, welfare, single parenting and rape are brought up in this verse. These are all heavy issues that directly affect women ultimately because of men, and certainly cause hardships in there lives. He questions how men could treat women so badly when they all came from a women. Tupac foresees a cycle of disrespect being passed on from generation to generation. This verse pioneers Tupac as somewhat of a social activist exposing the issues and promoting a change. He asks the real men to step up and support the movement. And until the changes occur he’s encouraging woman to keep on living life, not let men bring them down, and to simply echo the chorus, keep there heads up.

2nd Verse:
Aiyyo, I remember Marvin Gaye, used to sing ta me
He had me feelin like black was tha thing to be
And suddenly tha ghetto didn’t seem so tough
And though we had it rough, we always had enough
I huffed and puffed about my curfew and broke the rules
Ran with the local crew, and had a smoke or two
And I realize momma really paid the price
She nearly gave her life, to raise me right
And all I had ta give her was my pipe dream
Of how I’d rock the mic, and make it to tha bright screen
I’m tryin to make a dollar out of fifteen cents
It’s hard to be legit and still pay tha rent
And in the end it seems I’m headin for tha pen
I try and find my friends, but they’re blowin in the wind
Last night my buddy lost his whole family
It’s gonna take the man in me to conquer this insanity
It seems tha rain’ll never let up
I try to keep my head up, and still keep from gettin wet up
You know it’s funny when it rains it pours
They got money for wars, but can’t feed the poor
Say there ain’t no hope for the youth and the truth is
it ain’t no hope for tha future
And then they wonder why we crazy
I blame my mother, for turning my brother into a crack baby
We ain’t meant to survive, cause it’s a setup
And even though you’re fed up
Huh, ya got to keep your head up

The second verse seems to be a reflection of Tupac’s life, and the struggles he’s gone through (and were going through at the time). Topics of race, social division, drugs, and violence are touched upon in these lyrics. He speaks to African American’s about being proud to be black, yet realizing all the adversity that follows him everyday simply because of the color of his skin. He also speaks to family’s, particularly mothers and even more so single mothers. Tupac was raised by his mother after his parents separated before he was born. Frequently the family was at poverty level. (Rovi) However, he still shows appreciation towards his mother for everything she did for him and his family. He realizes that it may have not been much but it was always enough, which is more than other people and families out there with nothing. He also directly speaks again about his life when addressing the internal struggle inside of him. He had desires to come up from where he came from and make it big. But, he also couldn’t avoid the negative influences surrounding him in his community. Tupac sees hoplessness in the future if negativity is still capitalized upon, and until they’re can be a change those who are unfortunate must to stay positive and keep there heads up.

3rd Verse:
To all the ladies havin babies on they own
I know it’s kinda rough and you’re feelin all alone
Daddy’s long gone and he left you by ya lonesome
Thank the Lord for my kids, even if nobody else want em
Cause I think we can make it, in fact, I’m sure
And if you fall, stand tall and comeback for more
Cause ain’t nuttin worse than when your son
wants to kno why his daddy don’t love him no mo’
You can’t complain you was dealt this
hell of a hand without a man, feelin helpless
Because there’s too many things for you to deal with
Dying inside, but outside you’re looking fearless
While da tears, is rollin down your cheeks
Ya steady hopin things don’t fall down this week
Cause if it did, you couldn’t take it, and don’t blame me
I was given this world I didn’t make it
And now my son’s getten older and older and cold
From havin the world on his shoulders
While the rich kids is drivin Benz
I’m still tryin to hold on to my survivin friends
And it’s crazy, it seems it’ll never let up, but
please… you got to keep your head up

This third verse again addresses women and the lyrics help them to heal. At the end of the day despite facing incredible odds he encourages women to stand tall and be strong for their entire family. Things might gradually get better or progressively get worse as the days advance, but he offers hope to women declaring that they can and will get through everything as long as they keep there heads up.

1. NationMaster.com. Nationmaster.com, 2003-5. Web. 3 Oct 2010. .

2.Rovi, Stephen Thomas Erlewine. “Tupac.” Mtv.com. MTV Networks, n.d. Web. 3 Oct 2010. .

3.”Wikipedia.” Keep Ya Head Up. Wikipedia, September 24, 2010. Web. 3 Oct 2010. .

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  1.    theblog said,

    October 17, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    Yes this is what im talking about right here Tupac is one of the greats. A lot of people are quick to judge a person because of the way he looks but 2pac makes sense. His music is way deeper then some people may think. He always has a statement and if everyone really listens we all can hear the message he is giving us. Tupac is smart because like you pointed out he shed light on females being degraded by other rappers and such. While everyone else is degrading women tupac is making them feel good by showing them respect. One reason i feel he did this is as a marketing plan. Lets make something for the ladies so they love him while everyone is calling women names and what not. Then tupac sheds light on the struggle which is why everyone loves him because people struggling is as hard as life can get sometimes. For most in that situation when you hear someone who is looked up to like Tupac speak on it, it also gives those people hope. If Tupac can make it out of the struggle anyone can.

    However Biggie is still better. lol

  2.    Laura said,

    October 20, 2010 at 9:13 am

    Good analysis. Honestly I’ve never listened to Tupac before but I always believed that his songs were about killings, drugs, and being tough. This song obviously shows a complete opposite and nicer side to him. I thought the lyrics were great mostly because he is writing something towards women that is not degrading. Very few rap song nowadays leave this kind of message so I thought it was refreshing to hear this from Tupac. Good job.

  3.    Amy Herzog said,

    October 24, 2010 at 9:29 pm

    I’d like to send you a giant thank you for writing so beautifully about FLOW! And for looking carefully at the way in which Tupac delivers his lines in relation to the music. This is a very complex production and you have some insightful thoughts about how the call and response and the layering of tracks adds to the overriding message. I really enjoyed reading this!

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    Thanks for this. You made it very easy to understand, I’m in college and had to analyze two of his poems. Even though this is a song it’s a poem too. You really helped me get and understanding of this poem. Now I can write my paper and get my own understanding. I can see his struggle and my sister out there that maybe fill like this. This is deep!

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