Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature's law is wrong it
learned to walk without having feet.
Funny it seems,
but by keeping its dreams,
it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else ever cared.
- Tupac Shakur, THE ROSE THAT GREW FROM CONCRETE
Tupac, a brilliant storyteller, has always been able to paint the complexity of human emotion through his music. With lyrics that examine contemporary social issues, it’s no wonder his songs have outlasted generations of hip-hop artists. His defiant music not only serves as a symbol of activism against inequality but encapsulates feelings that are often hard to express – like grief, anger, and fear. Last year, I listened to a lot of Tupac’s music as catharsis for my own sadness, isolation, and anxiety in the midst of Covid and the BLM protests – a time culminating in the loss of a close mother figure to cancer. I found myself playing Tupac’s song, “Dear Mama,” on repeat and wondered how a young woman in the ‘90s would process similar events through music. I drew influences from my childhood neighborhood and relationships, finding a connection to my parents, like Nate, who are often fighting through their own grief and trauma. Dear Mama… is not only a homage to ‘90s hip-hop, it's my love letter to Los Angeles, parents, and the music that brings us together. It embodies Tupac’s idea that “role models today are not meant to be put on a pedestal... more like angels with broken wings.” We’re not perfect – we’re all just doing the best we can to get by.
- Charmaine Cleveland
Writer of Dear Mama…