Tupac was born in Manhattan and grew up there and in Baltimore before moving to California at the age of 17. It’s somewhat strange that Tupac, the poster child of the “West” in the “West-coast, East coast” hip-hop rivalry actually spent most of his formative years on the East coast.
His family was not particularly religious and didn’t subscribe to any official doctrine or denomination, though many of Tupac’s lyrics point to a strong Christian tradition, such as:
When I was alone, and had nothing. I asked for a friend to help me bear the pain. No one came, except God. When I needed a breath to rise from my sleep. No one could help me except God. When all I saw was sadness, and I needed answers, no one heard me, except God. So when I’m asked who I give my unconditional love to? I look for no other name, except God.1
There are many more monotheistic references in Tupac’s music. But when asked his religious views, Tupac was very critical of organized Christianity. He said:
I think some cool motherfucker sat down a long time ago and said let’s figure out a way to control motherfuckers. That’s what they came up with-the bible.2
A checkered political past
Tupac has a very interesting political past. His mother and aunt were active and militant members of the Black Panthers, a “special interest” group literally fighting less for black equality and more for black revenge. His mother was tried and acquitted of over 150 counts of “Conspiracy against the United States government and New York landmarks.”3
While living in Baltimore as a teenager, Shakur joined the Baltimore Young Communist League and was apparently dating the daughter of the head of the Baltimore chapter of the Communist Party.4
This makes sense when listening to his rant about wealth redistribution. He says:
Everybody needs a little help on their way to be self-reliant…there’s no way [someone] should have a million-thousand-truple-billion dollars…these people have planes and there are people with no houses, apartments, shacks, drawers, pants…It’s not right.5
It seems he stuck to his communist roots.
But beneath the tough exterior, the gang warrior, the thug, it feels like Tupac was a sensitive soul with a heart of gold. His songs like “Changes” point to a man truly concerned with the plight of the poor and underprivileged. If he had lived, we might imagine him leading a revolution against vested interests in America, maybe he would have been an occupier or even a revolutionary.