Staying Strong

“Staying Strong”

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.

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