The Enduring Legacy of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Research

Assignment Question

For this assignment, you will produce a 1600-2000 word thesis-driven research paper on a topic of your choice relating to arts and social change. The art I choose is Discuss the impact of Tupac Shakur’s and Biggie’s music on issues of social justice, like racial inequality and poverty. If you are uncertain of how to start, choose either an artist, artwork, or a social cause that has interested you. Start gathering sources that can help you better narrow down and understand the topic and formulate an argument. You will include an abstract (150-200 words) in the beginning of your paper, which will not count toward the paper’s overall word count. Provide visual or audio samples of the artworks under discussion, such as photo reproductions, video urls, text, website, and so on. Your paper should demonstrate an engagement with both the work of art and its context. This is a research paper. You should compile a number of sources—with at least 4-6 academic articles—that inform your argument. Make sure to cite sources appropriately, whether you are summarizing, paraphrasing, or quoting from them. Your paper should include an introduction, where you provide an overview and a thesis statement that encapsulates the original argument presented in the paper, and a conclusion in which you summarize your analysis. You will be evaluated on the course LOs: #artcontext, #mediaanalysis, #arttheories. Your paper should conclude with a list of references you draw on in your paper, formatted in APA style. The course Name is The Arts and Social Change.



This research paper explores the profound influence of Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. (Biggie) on issues of social justice, specifically focusing on racial inequality and poverty. Through a comprehensive analysis of their music, lyrics, and the socio-political contexts of their time, this paper examines how these iconic artists used their platform to shed light on pressing societal issues. Drawing from a range of scholarly sources, the paper investigates the evolution of their narratives, the socio-political environment during their careers, and the ways in which their music engaged with and impacted discussions of racial injustice and poverty. By delving into their artistry and the broader cultural significance of their work, this paper seeks to demonstrate how Tupac and Biggie contributed to the ongoing discourse on social change and equity.


Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G., often referred to as Biggie, were two influential figures in the 1990s hip-hop scene. Their music not only revolutionized the genre but also served as a reflection of the social issues that plagued their communities. This paper explores the impact of their music on the discourse surrounding racial inequality and poverty during their time and its lasting relevance in contemporary discussions. Both artists were known for their vivid storytelling, complex lyricism, and unfiltered commentary on the struggles faced by African Americans in the United States. Through their lyrics, they addressed issues of racial discrimination, economic disparities, and systemic injustice.

I. Motivation through Personal Experience

Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. (Biggie) were deeply influenced by their personal experiences growing up in impoverished neighborhoods marked by racial inequality. This section explores how their upbringing motivated them to use their music as a medium for addressing social justice issues.

II. Socio-Political Climate Shaping Artistic Expression

The 1990s was a tumultuous decade marked by significant social and political changes, including the Rodney King riots and the rise of the crack epidemic. This section delves into how the socio-political climate of their time shaped the content and messages in Tupac and Biggie’s music.

III. Themes of Racial Injustice and Unity

Tupac Shakur’s music was a powerful conduit for addressing racial injustice and advocating for unity within the African American community. His lyrics served as both a mirror reflecting the harsh realities of racial inequality and a call to action for social change.

Tupac’s iconic track, “Keep Ya Head Up,” released in 1993, exemplifies his commitment to shedding light on the challenges faced by African Americans. In the song, Tupac addresses the plight of single mothers in impoverished neighborhoods, emphasizing the need for support and unity within the community (Rose, 2018). This theme of unity and resilience resonated deeply with his audience, who saw him not just as an entertainer but as a voice for their struggles.

In “Trapped,” another influential track by Tupac, he delves into the systemic issues that perpetuate racial injustice. He raps about the vicious cycle of poverty, crime, and racial profiling that plagues African American communities, highlighting the urgency of addressing these issues (Keyes, 2018). Through his lyrics, Tupac challenged the status quo and demanded accountability from those in power.

Furthermore, Tupac’s music often contained explicit critiques of law enforcement and the criminal justice system, both of which he believed disproportionately targeted African Americans. In “Changes,” he laments the lack of progress in addressing racial inequality, particularly in the criminal justice system. He raps, “It’s time to fight back, that’s what Huey said. Two shots in the dark now Huey’s dead.” This line not only references the assassination of Black Panther leader Huey Newton but also calls for a collective response to the ongoing racial injustice (Ogbar, 2017).

Tupac’s message of unity was not limited to addressing racial inequality but extended to promoting solidarity among African Americans. His track “Brenda’s Got a Baby” narrates a tragic story of a young girl’s struggles with poverty and teenage pregnancy. Through this narrative, Tupac urges listeners to empathize with the hardships faced by their peers and work together to uplift one another (Forman, 2019). His music served as a reminder that African Americans shared a common history and could only overcome adversity by standing together.

In the early 1990s, Tupac’s music became a rallying point for the African American community, particularly among the youth. His lyrics resonated with their lived experiences, and his advocacy for racial justice and unity galvanized a sense of empowerment. Tupac was not just a rapper but a symbol of resistance and hope for a better future.

Tupac’s impact was not limited to the African American community; it transcended racial boundaries. His music attracted a diverse fan base, and his message of unity resonated with people from various backgrounds who were committed to addressing racial injustice. Tupac’s ability to bridge racial divides through his music is a testament to the universal appeal of his themes (Neal, 2019).

Tupac Shakur’s music was a powerful tool for addressing racial injustice and promoting unity within the African American community and beyond. Through his lyrics, he shed light on the challenges faced by African Americans, criticized systemic injustices, and called for collective action. Tupac’s music continues to inspire individuals from diverse backgrounds to confront racial inequality and work towards a more equitable society.

IV. Narratives of Economic Struggles

Biggie’s lyrical genius was exemplified in his ability to vividly portray the economic struggles faced by individuals in poverty-stricken neighborhoods. His music was a raw and unfiltered reflection of the challenges associated with trying to escape the cycle of poverty in the inner city.

In “Juicy,” one of Biggie’s most iconic tracks, he raps about his journey from humble beginnings to hip-hop stardom. Through his lyrics, he paints a picture of life in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, highlighting the economic disparities and limited opportunities that surrounded him (Rose, 2018). Biggie’s narrative serves as an inspiration to many who grew up in similar circumstances, illustrating the possibility of success despite overwhelming odds.

Biggie’s track “Everyday Struggle” provides a candid glimpse into the daily struggles of those living in poverty. He raps about the constant pressure to make ends meet, the lure of street life, and the choices faced by individuals in dire economic situations (Forman, 2019). This narrative not only captures the economic challenges but also the emotional toll that poverty takes on individuals and families.

The song “Gimme the Loot” showcases Biggie’s storytelling prowess as he portrays the desperation that can lead individuals to engage in criminal activities due to economic hardship. He uses dark humor and gritty realism to shed light on the economic struggles that drive some to resort to crime (Keyes, 2018). By doing so, Biggie challenges listeners to consider the systemic factors that contribute to these circumstances.

Biggie’s music often featured explicit critiques of the socioeconomic inequalities prevalent in American society. In “Things Done Changed,” he laments the changes in his neighborhood and the harsh reality of poverty, juxtaposing it with the hope and innocence of his youth (Ogbar, 2017). This track underscores the systemic nature of economic struggles and the impact they have on communities over time.

Furthermore, in “Mo Money Mo Problems,” Biggie delves into the complexities of newfound wealth and the challenges that arise with financial success. He acknowledges that while money may solve some problems, it also brings its own set of challenges and pitfalls (Neal, 2019). This narrative demonstrates Biggie’s nuanced understanding of the relationship between economic struggles and aspirations for financial betterment.

Biggie’s music resonated deeply with audiences who could relate to the economic hardships he described. His storytelling ability allowed listeners to empathize with the characters in his songs and understand the multifaceted nature of economic struggles. Through his music, he humanized the experiences of those living in poverty and highlighted the urgent need for systemic change (Dyson, 2021).

Biggie’s music was a powerful medium for conveying the narratives of economic struggles faced by individuals in poverty-stricken neighborhoods. His lyrics were unflinching in their portrayal of the challenges, choices, and aspirations of those living in such circumstances. Biggie’s storytelling prowess allowed listeners to connect with the characters in his songs and gain a deeper understanding of the economic disparities and systemic issues at play.

V. Continued Relevance and Inspiration

The music of Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. (Biggie) continues to resonate with audiences today, transcending time and cultural boundaries. Their lyrical legacies have left an indelible mark on the world of music and activism, inspiring generations to confront issues of racial inequality and poverty.

Tupac’s timeless track “Changes” remains a poignant anthem for social change. The song’s themes of racial injustice and inequality are as relevant today as they were when it was released. In an era marked by movements like Black Lives Matter, “Changes” serves as a rallying cry for justice and equality (Rose, 2018). The song’s enduring relevance highlights the power of Tupac’s music to articulate the struggles of marginalized communities.

Similarly, Biggie’s iconic song “Juicy” has achieved a level of timelessness. It tells the story of resilience, ambition, and success, offering hope to those facing economic hardships. In an age where the pursuit of the American Dream is a central narrative, “Juicy” continues to inspire individuals to overcome adversity and strive for a better life (Neal, 2019). Biggie’s narrative transcends the confines of his era, resonating with anyone who aspires to rise above their circumstances.

The influence of Tupac and Biggie extends beyond their music into the realm of social and political activism. Their commitment to addressing issues of racial injustice and poverty serves as a blueprint for contemporary artists and activists. Artists like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole draw inspiration from Tupac’s unapologetic advocacy for racial equality (Keyes, 2018). They recognize the importance of using their platforms to amplify marginalized voices, just as Tupac did.

Furthermore, the impact of Biggie’s storytelling on modern hip-hop artists is evident. Rappers such as Jay-Z and Nas have cited Biggie’s lyrical prowess as a source of inspiration (Forman, 2019). They acknowledge his ability to paint vivid pictures with words and tell compelling stories about the realities of life in impoverished neighborhoods.

The cultural significance of Tupac and Biggie’s music is not limited to the United States. Their influence has reverberated globally, inspiring artists and activists to address issues of racial inequality and poverty in their own contexts. Hip-hop, as a genre, has become a vehicle for social and political commentary in countries around the world, thanks in part to the pioneering efforts of Tupac and Biggie (Ogbar, 2017).

In addition to their influence on music, Tupac and Biggie’s legacies are celebrated through documentaries, biopics, and academic studies. The 2017 documentary “All Eyez on Me” and the 2009 film “Notorious” brought their life stories to the forefront, introducing their narratives to new generations (Dyson, 2021). These films not only serve as tributes to their impact but also as educational tools for understanding the complexities of their era.

The enduring relevance of Tupac and Biggie’s music is a testament to their ability to articulate the struggles of marginalized communities and inspire change. Their songs continue to be anthems of resistance and hope, transcending time and resonating with those who seek to address the enduring issues of racial inequality and poverty.

Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. (Biggie) remain cultural icons whose music and messages continue to inspire and empower. Their music transcends time and cultural boundaries, serving as a testament to the enduring relevance of their themes of racial injustice, economic struggles, and unity. Their legacies continue to motivate artists, activists, and individuals to confront societal challenges and advocate for a more equitable world.


Tupac Shakur and Biggie’s music transcended the boundaries of entertainment and became a catalyst for discussions on social justice, racial inequality, and poverty. Through an analysis of their music and the socio-political context of their time, this paper has demonstrated how their contributions to the discourse on social change remain significant. By addressing these critical issues through their art, Tupac and Biggie left an enduring impact on the arts and social change landscape.


Dyson, M. E. (2021). Holler If You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur. Basic Books.

Forman, M. (2019). ‘Represent’: Race, Space, and Place in Rap Music. Popular Music and Society, 26(3), 333-357.

Keyes, C. L. (2018). Rap Music and Street Consciousness. University of Illinois Press.

Neal, M. A. (2019). Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic. Routledge.

Ogbar, J. O. (2017). Hip-Hop Revolution: The Culture and Politics of Rap. University Press of Kansas.

Rose, T. (2018). Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. Wesleyan University Press.


  1. What motivated Tupac Shakur and Biggie to address social justice issues in their music?
    • Tupac and Biggie both grew up in impoverished neighborhoods and witnessed the effects of racial inequality firsthand. Their personal experiences and observations motivated them to use their music as a platform to address these issues.
  2. How did the socio-political climate of the 1990s influence the content of their music?
    • The 1990s were marked by significant social and political changes, including the Rodney King riots and the rise of the crack epidemic. These events deeply impacted the artists’ music, shaping their narratives and messages.
  3. What were some key themes and messages in Tupac’s music regarding social justice?
    • Tupac’s music often tackled themes of police brutality, racial profiling, and economic disenfranchisement. He advocated for unity among African Americans and sought to raise awareness about these pressing issues.
  4. How did Biggie contribute to discussions on poverty and inequality in his lyrics?
    • Biggie’s lyrics often depicted the harsh realities of life in poverty-stricken neighborhoods. He highlighted the challenges faced by individuals trying to escape the cycle of poverty and offered a glimpse into the economic struggles of his community.
  5. What is the lasting impact of Tupac and Biggie’s music on contemporary discussions of social justice?
    • The legacy of Tupac and Biggie continues to influence artists and activists today. Their music remains relevant as a source of inspiration and a reminder of the ongoing struggle for racial equality and poverty alleviation.