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Tupac's 'Dear Mama' Endures: As Rap Artists Detail Complex Relationships With Their Mothers
Many artists have devoted lyrics to describing the complex relationships they have with their female parent.
By: The Conversation
In hip-hop music, it sometimes seems as if songs to and about mothers are common enough that audiences might take them for granted.
As someone who studies hip-hop and how it shapes and is shaped by society and culture, I don't believe rap has ever abandoned the idea that a song for your mother or mother figure is expected of any artist.
The past few years have seen many notable contributions to this genre. Two of my favorites are 7xvethegenius's 2019 song "Black Soul," on which she talks about the death of her grandmother and not wanting to let her mother down, and Tierra Whack's 2021 "Cutting Onions," which is about mourning the loss of her grandmother.
Of the long list of lyrical tributes to mothers that rap artists have recorded over the past 50 years, perhaps none has had as an enduring impact as Tupac Shakur's "Dear Mama." The song peaked at No. 9 on Billboard's Hot 100 in 1995 and has since generated more than 257 million streams on Spotify. For comparison, Kanye West's "Hey Mama" had only a fraction of that at 85 million streams on Spotify.
The popularity of the "Dear Mama" song will undoubtedly continue to grow now that it shares the same title as an FX docuseries about Tupac and his mother, Afeni Shakur, directed by Allen Hughes, the co-director of "Menace II Society" and "Dead Presidents" with his twin brother, Albert.
The director also had a violent history with the rapper, which resulted in Tupac serving 15 days in jail for assault in 1994.
Contentious relationships may be a hallmark of Tupac's brief and prolific career. "Dear Mama," the documentary series, narrates the ins and outs of the relationship he had with his mother. The docuseries deals with, among other things, Afeni's radical politics, her involvement with the Black Panther Party and the influence her politics had on Tupac's life and his music. "Dear Mama," the song, was released in 1995, the year before the rapper was murdered in Las Vegas.