My first impressions of this poem, “Changes” by Tupac Shakur, which was written in the 1990s, is that I thought it would be about change in segregation.  It makes me feel helpless, yet, at the same time, frustrated. A line that especially evokes the first feeling for me is “Give the crack to the kids who the hell cares.” The other feeling is angry because of the line “I see no changes all I see is racist faces.” This also arises when I read the line “Pull the trigger kill a nigga he’s a hero.” This shows how police brutality is a problem where they kill colored people and they are considered heros.

What’s happening in the poem is that Tupac is speaking about oppression of black people and police brutality. And he wants change in the black community by ending racism. What I know about the speaker is that he is the kind of person who is an angry activist.  This is suggested by “and still no changes can’t a brother get a little peace.” The speaker seems to be speaking to the police, and to the black community. I say this because he’s talking about police killing black people. The poem springs from a particular historical moment/culture  specifically, the LA riots in the 1990s. The poem revolves around several themes, including resistance and hate. If this poem were a question, the answer would be “police brutality is unfair.”

The title suggests that Tupac wants to make some changes in the black community .    

The poem’s form is a lyric narrative. This form is a vehicle for the content of the poem.  If the poem were a haiku, it would not guide me toward an understanding of the poem’s meaning.  because a narrative is a poem that tells a story and the lyrics are talking about his feelings and thoughts about reality.

A close reading of the poem’s seemingly contradictory stanza of “cause both black and white smoking crack tonight” reveals that they form a paradox. The reason this is a paradox because it shows how both races are doing the same crime but the blacks are the ones who end up dead or in jail.

When I first read this poem I thought it was only about police brutality but after reading it over and over there is more. For example, I learned about Huey Newton, who is mentioned in the 3rd stanza. According to the African American Registry, Huey was a young rebel he was affiliated with a gang and running the streets. In 1966 he and his friends started an activist organization called the Black Panthers. The Black Panthers believed that black people should arm themselves and that’s what Tupac is saying in his poem “Changes”. Tupac states in the poem Changes “As long as I stay black I gotta stay strapped.”Another thing I learned in this poem is that tupac talks about black on black crime he states in the poem “but now I’m back with the blacks givin it back to you.” Tupac is basically saying that now black people are killing or fighting with black people.

Tupac Shakur was born June 16, 1971. He was a hip hop artist who wrote songs about his life living recklessly by being in a gang and shooting at police. His themes in his work included violence against police, gang affiliated music, and talks about the oppression on black people. Tupac died on September 13, 1996 in Las Vegas. He was shot after a Mike Tyson fight and till this day none knows who killed Tupac.

The big question is why is there police brutality? The poem answers this question with the line “pull a trigger kill a nigga he’s a hero.” The hero in that stanza means the police. Another example that Tupac gives the reader is the 11th stanza where he says “the penitentiary’s packed, and it’s filled with blacks.”

According to Mosi Reeves of Rolling Stone magazine in an article about Tupac on Sept. 13, 2016, “His wayward, conflicting expressions of pride, militancy and gangster-ism resonates in a world where black men and women celebrate their heritage and collectively organize against a racist America, yet are also cautious to protect themselves from each other.” This shows how Tupac tries to be a political activist for black people and a gangster and how he tries to stop black on black crime. He uses the literary element of juxtaposition because he wants to show how black people fight for the same thing but end up not trusting one another.

Sydney Sweeney who wrote about Changes in the May 5, 2017 issue of Atwood Magazine said “Tupac’s Changes should be observed as one of hip hop’s most successful political statements, not because it’s especially radical in its words on racism, but because the track was accessible to those who needed it — people unconcerned with the politics challenged by unapologetic MCs.” I agree with Sweeney because when she used the word accessible it’s basically telling us that Tupac tried to put others in his shoes. He wanted them to understand how it felt to be hated or discriminated against through his music.

Changes by Tupac was a major success in America however it also made a big impact in other countries, for example the United Kingdom and other countries in Europe. Silvie Vale of Denmark, who writes for Words In A Bucket, said in 2016, “It is not an endeavor that can be done by one person, but by a collective fight and persistence.” It is interesting that someone who lives out of America understands what happens in America. This shows that Tupac became an international star and that it makes other countries worried about what’s happening in America so that they can speak on it and shape public opinion throughout the world.

When Vale talks about “collective fight and persistence” she is actually trying to get the world to end racism. Vale understands what Tupac is saying, which is to make everyone treated and looked at the same way. This is Tupac’s biggest message. From this poem being written in the 1990s and he and his work are still being talked on different websites some 20 years later, this just goes to show how Tupac became one of the greatest human beings to make a change in the world through his music. People from out of the country continue talking about him and the impact he had on the world.

Three years ago I had no awareness of Tupac but a close friend of mine introduced me and I fell in love with his music and his lyrics. I only listened to his popular music but when I got into this Power of Poetry class I chose to analyze this piece. From reading this poem over and over for the past three months I realized that Tupac’s music was so much more then gangster rap. He has a message for everyone in the world: “It’s time for us as a people to start makin’ some changes.”

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CC BY-SA 4.0 The Hustle by Erald is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

2 Comments
  1. Fatjon 6 months ago

    Dear Erald ,
    I liked how you explained about the oppression of black people and police brutality.
    One sentence that suprsed me was “The big question is why is there police brutality? The poem answers this question with the line “pull a trigger kill a nigga he’s a hero.” The hero in that stanza means the police”
    I liked how you explained the police brutality and your interpretation about the Tupac’s theory.

    Thank you for writing!!

  2. Jovana 6 months ago

    I like the reason you chose this poem, because you are discussing about the racism and bad threatening black people. I’ve read your poem and you pointed out everything important. One of your quotes that stands out for me is “…The poem springs from a particular historical moment/culture specifically, the LA riots in the 1990s. The poem revolves around several themes, including resistance and hate. If this poem were a question, the answer would be “police brutality is unfair.”

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