Dear Mama

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"Dear Mama"
Single by 2Pac
from the album Me Against the World
Released February 21, 1995
Format
Recorded July 1994
Genre Hip hop
Length 4:39
Label Interscope
Writer(s) Tupac Shakur
Producer(s)
  • Tony Pizarro
  • DF Master Tee (co-producer)
  • Moses (co-producer)
2Pac singles chronology
"Cradle to the Grave"
(1994)
"Dear Mama"
(1995)
"So Many Tears"
(1995)
Music video
"Dear Mama" on YouTube

"Dear Mama" is a song by American hip hop recording artist 2Pac, released on February 21, 1995 as the lead single from his third studio album, Me Against the World (1995). The song is a tribute to his mother, Afeni Shakur. In the song, Shakur details his childhood poverty and his mother's addiction to crack cocaine, but argues that his love and deep respect for his mother supersede bad memories. The song topped the Billboard Hot Rap Singles chart for five weeks and also peaked at number nine on the Billboard Hot 100. The single was certified Platinum by the RIAA on July 13, 1995.

"Dear Mama" has been consistently ranked among the best of its genre, appearing on numerous "greatest" lists. In 2010, the song was added to the National Recording Registry in the Library of Congress, who deemed it a work that is "culturally, historically, or aesthetically important, and/or inform or reflect life in the United States." In a press release, the organization called the song "a moving and eloquent homage to both the murdered rapper's own mother and all mothers struggling to maintain a family in the face of addiction, poverty and societal indifference."

Background[edit]

The song is a tribute to Shakur's mother, Afeni Shakur. She and her husband were active members of the Black Panther Party in New York in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Shakur was born a month after his mother was acquitted of more than 150 charges of "Conspiracy against the United States government and New York landmarks" in the New York "Panther 21" court case.[1] She was often absent during his childhood in favor of being an activist, and also during his adolescence when she became addicted to crack cocaine.[2] Shakur was kicked out by Afeni at age 17, and they had little contact for many years. Having "lost all respect" for his mother, he subsequently moved into a vacant apartment with friends and began writing poetry and rap lyrics.[3] In 1990, realizing her habit was out-of-control,[3] she enrolled in a 12-step program at a drug and alcohol treatment center in Norwalk, Connecticut. After completion, she reconciled with her son, who was at this point a successful recording artist.[4]

Record producer Tony Pizarro, explained that

The song was written shortly before Shakur served a prison term.[6] Upon completion of the track, Shakur phoned longtime friend Jada Pinkett-Smith, remarking, "I wrote this song about our mothers and I want you to hear it."[7] Pinkett-Smith's mother too had struggled with drug addiction, and their experiences growing up with this as children led to their friendship. She later remarked that the song gave her a "rush of emotions" upon her first listen.[7] Johnny J, one of the rapper's producers, noted that "The emotional, the sad songs, were his personal favorites."[8] Shakur mentioned the song and his intentions behind it in a 1995 interview with the Los Angeles Times: "I'm the kind of guy who is moved by a song like Don McLean's "Vincent," that one about Van Gogh. The lyric on that song is so touching. That's how I want to make my songs feel. Take "Dear Mama" — I aimed that one straight for my homies' heartstrings."[9] When questioned on possible misogyny in his lyrics, Shakur defended his music, noting that he worked in the studio with women and played his songs for women pre-release, remarking, "Why do you think I wrote "Dear Mama"? I wrote it for my mama because I love her and I felt I owed her something deep."[9]

Lyric Content & Message[edit]

In "Dear Mama," Shakur praises his mother's courage, arguing that many mothers share this trait, and also describes the "highs and lows" of her past.[4] In a cultural and historical context, "Dear Mama" is part of a long line of hip-hop songs in which male rappers state their reverence for their mothers, not unlike "Hey Mama" (2005) by Kanye West. Statistics show that a disproportionate number of African-American households are headed by single mothers, and Hess asserts that their bravery and role in their children's lives leads to their status as an "eternal symbol of love" in their offspring's eyes.[10] Mickey Hess, author of Is Hip Hop Dead?: The Past, Present, and Future of America's Most Wanted Music, asserts that his mother's appearance in Shakur's music works is designed to establish credibility with listeners. In this sense, he "connects himself to black radical history through his mother's affiliation with the Black Panthers," and explains that his music is autobiographical, illustrating that 2Pac (the stage performer) and Tupac Shakur (the person) are one and the same.[2] In addition, Shakur recorded the tune as he knew he was not the only person to grow up with a parent struggling with drug addiction.[11]

The song's most famous lyric is one in which Shakur "declares his love for Afeni as well as his disappointment in her": "And even as a crack fiend, mama, you always was a black queen, mama."[3] Michael Eric Dyson, author of Holler If You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur, writes that this line speaks to Shakur's maturity: "[It] allows him to value his mother's love even as he names her affliction. His refusal to lie as he praises her is all too revealing."[11] In the song, Shakur also takes aim at the lack of a father figure in his life: "No love from my daddy cause the coward wasn't there / He passed away and I didn't cry, cause my anger wouldn't let me feel for a stranger." The line, according to Black Fathers: An Invisible Presence in America, "seemed to resonate with a generation of Black males who felt estranged from their fathers."[12] Shakur also describes "being kicked out of his home at 17, selling crack rock with thugs who offered paternalistic support, hugging his mother from behind bars."[6] "Dear Mama" samples the songs "Sadie" (1974) by The Spinners, and "In All My Wildest Dreams" (1978) by Joe Sample.[13]

According to The Philadelphia Tribune's George Yancy, the slowness of the beat creates in the listener a mood of reflective reminiscence.[14] Tupac begins by creating a context where his mother was simply taken for granted against the backdrop of his rather mischievous behavior.[14] He says, "Suspended from school, scared to go home, I was a fool with the big boys breaking all the rules." He then reflects on how he no doubt blamed the wrong person: "I shed tears with my baby sister. Over the years we were poorer than the other little kids. And even though we had different daddies, the same drama, when things went wrong, we blamed mama. I reminisce on the stress I caused..."[14] George Yancy explains "Tupac Shakur has truly provided us with a Black matriarchal praise song. It penetrates to the heart of how many of us perceive our Black mothers. It pulls us into the center of Tupac's own individual sonmother symbiotic relationship and yet it speaks to our own often dormant memories of just how wonderful our mothers have been. Thus, listening to Tupac's "Dear Mama" tends to revitalize an appreciative attitude for one's dear mother. The cut itself is transformative; it forces us to literally see our mothers differently, to understand our mothers differently, and to appreciate our mothers more."[14]

Release and reception[edit]

The song topped the Billboard Hot Rap Singles chart for five weeks and peaked at number 9 on the Hot 100. It also topped the Hot Dance Music Maxi-Singles sales chart for 4 weeks. The single was certified Platinum by the RIAA on July 13, 1995.[15]

The Los Angeles Times praised the tune, writing, "The song attests to Shakur's gift at crystallizing complex emotions in simple stark images."[6] Rolling Stone called the song "a heartfelt, sometimes harsh dedication of love for his mother that deals with the trials and tribulations each has put the other through."[16] In his dean's list for the Pazz & Jop critics poll, Robert Christgau named "Dear Mama" the eighth best single of 1995.[17]

Music video[edit]

The video features an appearance by Afeni Shakur, who re-enacts her reconciliation with a look a like of her son.[2]

Legacy[edit]

The song is often considered Shakur's most "emotionally resonant" song.[6] Rolling Stone placed "Dear Mama" at number 18 on its 2012 list of The 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time, writing, "The song is the ne plus ultra of hip-hop odes to Mom."[8] The song was also ranked number four on About.com's "Top 100 Rap Songs" list.[18] Carrie Golus of USA Today opined that "Dear Mama" was the sole reason for the double-platinum certifications of Me Against the World.[3] Golus also argues that the song revealed a softer side of the rapper, leading to increased recognition, especially among female fans.[3] Following the rapper's death, his mother mentioned the song in a People article: "Can I listen to it without crying? No. It gets worse every time. It gets harder, it really does. That song gets deeper and deeper."[19] LA Weekly placed the song 6 on their list The 20 Best Hip-Hop Songs in History.[20] Rate Your Music ranked the song at 7th on their list of The 200 Best Hip Hop Songs Of All Time.[21]

"Dear Mama" was one of 25 recordings selected for preservation at the National Recording Registry in the Library of Congress in 2010, making it the third hip hop song to do so, following tracks by Public Enemy and Grandmaster Flash.[6] The Library of Congress has called the song "a moving and eloquent homage to both the murdered rapper's own mother and all mothers struggling to maintain a family in the face of addiction, poverty and societal indifference."[22] On the subject of the inclusion, Afeni Shakur stated, "It could have been any song, but I'm honored they chose "Dear Mama" in particular. It is a song that spoke not just to me, but every mother that has been in that situation, and there have been millions of us. Tupac recognized our struggle, and he is still our hero."[6]

Influence[edit]

The song has impacted numerous rappers. Eminem stated that the song played constantly in his car in the year following its release.[23] ""Dear Mama" was one of Tupac's songs that influence me the most; it was one of the most heartfelt songs I've ever heard in hip-hop,” said Common.[7] “It also showed that you could be a real cat but still express compassionate love […] The music sounded beautiful. It showed courage."[7] Kendrick Lamar noted that the song profoundly impacted his life, writing, "I can really go back and appreciate the value of vulnerability and being able to express yourself and not being scared to express yourself."[24]

Track listing[edit]

12", cassette, CD, maxi[25]
  1. "Dear Mama" (LP Version) — 4:41
  2. "Dear Mama" (Instrumental) — 5:21
  3. "Bury Me a G" — 4:59
  4. "Dear Mama" (Moe Z. Mix) — 5:09
  5. "Dear Mama" (Instrumental Moe Z. Mix) — 5:09
  6. "Old School" (LP Version) — 4:59

Credits and personnel[edit]

Chart positions[edit]

Preceded by
"Big Poppa" / "Warning" by The Notorious B.I.G.
Billboard Hot Rap Songs number-one single
March 11, 1995 – April 29, 1995
Succeeded by
"I'll Be There for You/You're All I Need to Get By" by Method Man featuring Mary J. Blige

References[edit]

  1. ^ Scott, Cathy (2002). The Killing of Tupac Shakur. Huntington Press. ISBN 978-0929712208. 
  2. ^ a b c Hess, Mickey. Is Hip Hop Dead?: The Past, Present, and Future of America's Most Wanted Music. Westport: Praeger, 208 pp. First edition, 2007.
  3. ^ a b c d e Golus, Carrie. USA Today Lifeline Biographies: Tupac Shakur – Hip-Hop Idol. Minneapolis: Twenty-First Century Books, 112 pp. First edition, 2010.
  4. ^ a b Mills, Clifford W. Hip-Hop Stars: Tupac Shakur. New York: Checkmark Books, 104 pp. First edition, 2007.
  5. ^ Jake Brown (2005). Tupac Shakur: 2Pac in the Studio (The Studio Years (1989-1996). Amber Books. p. 31. ISBN 0-9767735-0-3. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f Jeff Weiss (June 25, 2010). "2Pac's 'Dear Mama' selected for inclusion in Library of Congress' national recording registry". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 4, 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c d Monjauze, Molly, Cox, Gloria, Robinson, Staci. Tupac Remembered: Bearing Witness to a Life and Legacy. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 168 pp. First edition, 2008.
  8. ^ a b "The 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone (New York City: Wenner Media LLC). December 5, 2012. ISSN 0035-791X. Retrieved August 4, 2014. 
  9. ^ a b Chuck Philips (October 25, 1995). "Tupac Shakur: 'I am not a gangster'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 4, 2014. 
  10. ^ Hess, Mickey. Icons of Hip Hop: An Encyclopedia of the Movement, Music, and Culture, Volume 2. Westport: Greenwood, 688 pp. First edition, 2007.
  11. ^ a b McQuillar, Tayannah Lee, Johnson, Fred L.. Tupac Shakur: The Life and Times of an American Icon. Cambridge: Da Capo Press, 288 pp. First edition, 2010.
  12. ^ Connor, Michael E., White, Joseph. Black Fathers: An Invisible Presence in America. London: Routledge, p. 114. First edition, 2006.
  13. ^ "2Pac's Sample-Based Music". WhoSampled. Retrieved 2010-11-14. 
  14. ^ a b c d George Yancy (18 April 1995). "Tupac Shakur's 'Dear Mama' strikes a cord in all black children". Philadelphia Tribune. 
  15. ^ "RIAA Gold & Platinum Searchable Database - Platinum Singles". Riaa.com. Retrieved 2009-07-03.  Click "Advanced [+]", then click "Single Name" and write Dear Mama, and then click "Search".
  16. ^ Coker, Cheo H. (March 10, 1995). "2Pac: Me Against The World". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on December 23, 2007. Retrieved February 2, 2008. 
  17. ^ Christgau, Robert (1996). "Pazz & Jop 1995: Dean's List". The Village Voice (February 25) (New York). Retrieved September 13, 2014. 
  18. ^ Adaso, Henry. "About.com: Rap/Hip-Hop: 100 Greatest Rap Songs". About.com. Retrieved 2008-02-17. 
  19. ^ Peter Castro (December 1, 1997). All Eyes on Her 48 (22). People. Retrieved August 4, 2014. 
  20. ^ http://www.laweekly.com/westcoastsound/2014/08/11/the-20-best-hip-hop-songs-in-history?page=5
  21. ^ http://rateyourmusic.com/list/MrXX91/the_200_best_hip_hop_songs_of_all_time/8/
  22. ^ Daniel Kreps (June 23, 2010). "R.E.M., Tupac Inducted Into Library of Congress Registry". Rolling Stone (New York City: Wenner Media LLC). ISSN 0035-791X. Retrieved August 4, 2014. 
  23. ^ Shaheem Reid. "Eminem: Reconstructing Tupac". MTV News. Retrieved August 4, 2014. 
  24. ^ Danielle Harling (November 23, 2012). "Kendrick Lamar Speaks On Tupac's "Dear Mama," Says He Appreciated Tupac's Vulnerability". HipHopDX. Retrieved August 4, 2014. 
  25. ^ "Dear Mama (US Single #1) at Allmusic". Allmusic. Retrieved 2009-04-17. 
  26. ^ "Australian-charts.com – 2Pac – Dear Mama". ARIA Top 50 Singles. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  27. ^ "Die ganze Musik im Internet: Charts, News, Neuerscheinungen, Tickets, Genres, Genresuche, Genrelexikon, Künstler-Suche, Musik-Suche, Track-Suche, Ticket-Suche – musicline.de" (in German). Media Control Charts. PhonoNet GmbH. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  28. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – 2Pac – Dear Mama" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  29. ^ "Charts.org.nz – 2Pac – Dear Mama". Top 40 Singles. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  30. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – 2Pac – Dear Mama". Singles Top 60. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  31. ^ "2Pac – Dear Mama – swisscharts.com". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  32. ^ "2Pac Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Hot Dance/Electronic Songs for 2Pac. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  33. ^ a b "2Pac Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Hot 100 for 2Pac. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  34. ^ a b "2Pac Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs for 2Pac. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  35. ^ "2Pac Chart History". Billboard. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved January 18, 2014. 
  36. ^ "2Pac Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Radio Songs for 2Pac. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  37. ^ "2Pac Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Hot Rap Songs for 2Pac. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  38. ^ "2Pac Album & Song Chart History" Billboard Rhythmic Songs for 2Pac. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  39. ^ "Archive Chart" UK Singles Chart. Retrieved August 4, 2014.
  40. ^ "American single certifications – 2 Pac – Dear Mama". Recording Industry Association of America.  If necessary, click Advanced, then click Format, then select Single, then click SEARCH

External links[edit]