Staying Strong Essay, Research Paper
Although a lot of today?s music deals with problems in society, hip-hop stands ahead of all other forms of music in dealing with social problems. Predominantly black, hip-hop music deals with issues and problems facing the black youth mostly in the inner cities. More commonly known as rap music, artists such as the Notorious B.I.G., Bone Thugs N Harmony, and 2Pac have lead rap music into dealing with social issues. These artists rap about welfare, degradation of women, gang violence, poverty, and the lack of respect that blacks in the ghetto environment experience. 2Pac, although now dead, had the most successful (and possibly longest running) career in today?s mainstream rap music. This could be due in part to his constant attention toward the urban youth. ?Hold On, Be Strong? from 2Pac?s 1997 release ?R U Still Down? is a fine example of life in the ghetto and the types of problems that people in that environment deal with on a daily basis.
?Hold on, Be Strong? is the thesis of this song. 2Pac is trying to get his point across that people need to endure the hard times, the good times will follow soon enough. This song is all about problems in the ghetto and inner cities. These problems include gang violence, shootings, female-headed households, and liquor and drug abuse.
A reason for 2Pac?s success as a rapper stems from the fact that 2Pac was a ghetto youth. He endured the problems that he raps about. 2Pac isn?t just some artist out there telling stories that have been passed down or taught to him, he actually lived what he talks about. He has personal experience in what he raps about and I feel that his songs and lyrics are more powerful because of that.
The first verse of this song deals with a couple problems that the ghetto youth face. Lines one and two, ?I never had much, ran with a bad bunch?, ?Little skinny kid sneakin? weed in my bag lunch?. Poverty and drugs are major problems in inner cities. Friends, even if they are a bad influence, are vital to anyone?s life. Hanging out with a ?bad bunch? and sneaking weed into his school lunch was common to 2Pac?s life and probably that of other poor black youths. With poverty comes a lack of hope and future. The person simply has nothing to use to better himself. Even though his friends might have been a bad influence or troublemakers, 2Pac and his friends made it through the rough ghetto life day by day. The drugs were just a way to entertain themselves when there was nothing else to do. How much choice does one have in choosing their friends or activities in a lifestyle filled with violence and this type of typical behavior? These kids didn?t know of any different lifestyle, this was their normal life in the ghetto.
Another line in the first stanza states ?..I was hopeless from the start?. 2Pac felt that by being born poor into a ghetto he had no future. His life was predetermined to be nothing. I think that this is another common theme among urban youths. The resources to be successful and actual emerge from the ghetto into someone with an actual career simply do not exist. The government gives money to the poor and needy, but does the trivial amount given help a kid go to college or leave his home environment? Even if the government did give away more money, why would these kids want to leave the ghetto? This is a lifestyle these kids have been born into. They know nothing else, no other way to live.
Violence in the ghetto is a major problem in America today. Shootings and various other forms of gang violence appear, from what the media tells us, to be rampant in inner city ghettos. Line 4 of verse 1, ?And drive-bys robbed my homies of their young lives?. It?s pretty pathetic to me that young kids born into poor cities have to witness their friends being shot. Obviously this made enough of an impact on 2Pac to remember it enough to rap about. Although it?s unknown how many times 2Pac witnessed this type of crime, it is a problem among urban youths. Homicide is the number one cause of death for young, black, inner city males. This is another powerful statement in a song about hope and being strong. This is a buildup of what goes on in the inner-cities and it must be brought to light no matter how depressing it is.
Directly after his line about seeing his friends killed, 2Pac says, ?I never did cry..?. Not crying even when he witnesses his own friend?s death is a powerful statement about the buffers that 2Pac had for his friends and the environment around him. A shooting here in Charleston would probably make front-page news, especially if a student was involved. Students might even gather in his memory and all mourn together. The media would question why such a senseless act occurred and what could be done to prevent it in the future. Here we have lyrics from a song that blatantly come out and talk about drive-by shootings and no one even cries.
What does this say about our society today? Why is a murder or shooting in Charleston such a big deal and in the inner cities it?s just some sort of everyday thing? It doesn?t even matter enough to the people in that environment to cry about. A crime is a crime; a murder is a murder. Sure, the inner cities do have a high crime rate and this type of thing does happen fore frequently, but the people in that environment are people too. Poor, urban youth have the same thoughts and feelings of wealthy farm-boys and college students. Our society has become so callused to this type of activity that no one even bothers to really pay attention or make a difference. The people living in ghettos realize this and have adopted their lives to maintain their sanity. They put shields around themselves to guard out all of the horrible activity that they might experience on a daily basis. I feel that it is a very important message when in a song that was written by a poor, black, urban male deals with death and lack of mourning like it were just ?no big deal?.
This is racism at it?s worst. Hiding away the injustices to these people and pretending it just doesn?t happen is worse to me than beating a man because of race. The rationalization behind this is that society accepts this type of behavior. Most of normal societal America knows that it is wrong to beat someone because of his race. What most Americans don?t think is wrong is the daily oppression of poor, urban blacks. That in itself is a major problem in our society. Pretending a problem doesn?t exist won?t make it go away. Ignorance is not bliss, and ignorance is the cause of our racism in discarding ghetto problems as a ?poor, black problem?.
Moving into the second verse of this song, it expresses problems like the first one, but is also shows the better half of ghetto life. The first couple lines do deal again with ghetto violence, but the good times are revealed in the end. I?d like to concentrate first on the negative before we move to the positive aspects of this song, as I feel they are more powerful statements about problems in society.
?There?s, never a good day, cause in my hood they let they AK?s pump strays where the kids play?. This is a perfect example of the harsh, reckless violence in poor inner cities. A couple of days ago two teenagers killed fifteen teens in a wealthy, predominantly white high school. How many poor black children are killed every year from random violence or as just innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire? We never hear about those types of things on the news. No one really cares if poor, black children die as a result of urban violence. To me this is oppression again, not exposing problems because they?re too harsh in order to protect the public denies these people of the help and care that society would give if informed of the daily atrocities in inner cities
The first half of the entire second verse dealt with death in the ghetto. The second half shows the lighter side. 2Pac reminisces about good times in the line, ?Remember how it was, the picnics and the parties in the projects, small time drinkin? getting high with them armies?. Sounds pretty dark to us, drinking and doing drugs, but this is how these people entertain themselves in their leisure time. They can?t afford to watch the football game on their 50-inch TV with the surround sound blaring the announcer?s calls. An afternoon spent at the park really isn?t very feasible either; drugs and alcohol are leisure activities. This could be dismissed again as a poor, black problem, but when the city allows a liquor store on every street corner what are these people supposed to do? Drugs and liquor are so easy to get and cheap, why not do them? I also do not feel that liquor and drugs are used as an ?escape? for these people. They use them for entertainment. 2Pac is using drugs and alcohol in thinking back about the good times, not the times he wished he wasn?t in the ghetto.
After all this exposure of violence and drug and alcohol abuse, the ghetto life seems pretty hopeless for poor blacks. What this song wants to expose is that there is hope; ?Hold On, Be Strong?. 2Pac is giving an uplifting message to ghetto youth that even though times are tough, that people will try and push you out of their minds, you can still be something. Your future is not predetermined; you can do anything that you want. The interlude of this song deals with this. 2Pac talks about standing up to those who?ll knock you down, things always get better and ?the game don?t stop?.
From what we?ve learned in class, I don?t feel that things will change anytime soon for the poor, black, urban youth. Someone will always be prejudice; someone will always blame the ghetto on the people living there. The truth is these people don?t want to live there, they were born into that environment so they have adapted to live in it. What we as society need to do is stop hiding behind the cover that the ghetto destroys itself, our lack of support and help destroys the ghetto. Our blocking out of ghetto problems only makes them worse. As stated earlier, ignorance is not bliss, society needs to face the problems it helped create by oppressing blacks and judging them, or denying jobs because of race. America put the black youth in the ghetto; we cannot stand by and let ourselves believe they put themselves there.
Despite all of the negativity, this is still a good song about hope. In my opinion 2Pac is right, life goes on. Bad times will come and go, as will the good. Just roll with life, believe in yourself, and don?t allow yourself to be blocked out of people?s minds. Hold on to life, take care of yourself, and most importantly be strong. Things will be better sometime down the road.