2Pac’s “Changes” Lyrics Meaning

The “changes” Tupac is referring to in the title of this song are more ideological than actual. In other words, he is telling the target audience that “we got to start making changes”. And while at some points in the song Pac is addressing both “Black and White [people]”, for the most part this track is centered on the inner-city African-American experience and is explicitly intended for consumption by such an audience.

So whereas there is a myriad of topics discussed throughout the song, the two main issues it focuses on are racism and crime. As for racism, Tupac depicts African-Americans as the targets of an unjust law-enforcement system. Or as he puts it, “cops give a damn about a [expletive]”, meaning that they don’t care about Black people and more specifically are quick to kill them and in the process become “a hero”. Moreover he refers to ‘penitentiaries’ (i.e. prisons) as being “packed and… filled with Blacks”. And on a couple of occasions he alludes to the fact that African-American communities are flooded with drugs from external sources, which exacerbates criminal activity therein.

And that brings us to the second major theme of this track, which is crime. Indeed the rapper portrays himself as someone who has done illegal things in the past. However, in his own defense he states that he “never did a crime (he) ain’t have to do”. Or put differently, the fact that he grew up in poverty compelled him to do such things in order to make money. However, at the same time he is not trying to rationalize all of the criminal activities his peers are known to engage in. For instance, he disses those who sell illegal substances to kids, stating that they made their money “in a sleazy way”.


So overall we can conclude that this is a social commentary centered on the African-American community with a somewhat pessimistic outlook. Tupac depicts America as a country with many social ills, specifically in relation to his people. Indeed in terms of the aforementioned police brutality he anticipates one day having to shoot a cop himself in self-defense. 

And regarding street violence, he predicts one day being shot by “some buck that (he) roughed up way back” coming for vengeance “after all these years”. Strangely enough, this is how he actually died in 1996. And as the chorus states, “that’s just the way it is”. What this means is that despite his hope for positive “changes”, he is not overly-confident that such will actually transpire. And why? Simply because “that’s just the way it is”. In fact the only “change” he has borne witness to is how he and his peers have lost the innocence of childhood. And that is what the chorus (sung by Talent) actually alludes to when it states that “things will never be the same”. That is to say Tupac has seen things change for the worst and doesn’t anticipate them getting better.

But in that regard not all of Tupac’s prophecies have come true. For instance, he states that “we ain’t ready to see a Black president” even though such may be “heaven-sent”, which may be the most-memorable line of this entire song. And indeed back in 1992, when it was originally recorded, such a political reality in America was borderline unfathomable. However, if 2Pac had survived just until 2008, he would have eventually borne witness to Barack Obama being sworn in as President of the United States.

Release Date of “Changes”

“Changes” was originally recorded in 1992. The version of the song that was eventually released in 1998 was a revision of the 1992 original. The original is known to have featured samples of Run DMC and Ice Cube lyrics (which were replaced with Talent’s chorus) as well as a lot more profanity.

“Changes” was officially released by Amaru Entertainment, Death Row Records and Interscope Records on 13 October 1998.

Endorsement from the Vatican

Surprisingly to many, “Changes” was officially selected by the Vatican to be a part of their MySpace Music playlist.

Sampling of “The Way It Is” by Bruce Hornsby

“Changes” interpolates and samples a 1986 song entitled “The Way It Is” by Bruce Hornsby and the Range.

Hornsby himself stated that he was sent a copy of “Changes” by Tupac’s people and “really liked” the song as well as “the [royalty] checks” he received as a result.

Indeed Bruce Hornsby is credited as a co-writer of “Changes” along with Tupac Shakur and the track’s producer, Big D the Impossible.

Music Video of “Changes”

The music video to this 2Pac classic was directed by Chris Hafner. Since it was made after Tupac’s death, it featured snippets from some of his prior music videos as well as home-video footage and photographs. This visual went on to be nominated for two MTV Video Music Awards in 1999.

Who is “Huey” from “Changes”?

In this song Tupac namedrops “Huey” P. Newton, one of the founders of the iconic Black Panther Party (which Pac’s mother was also a part of). Newton was murdered in 1989 by an African-American gang member.

Lyrics of "Changes"

Commercial Success

“Changes” peaked at number 32 on the Billboard Hot 100 and number 3 on the UK Singles Chart. The song reached number 1 in the Netherlands, Norway and on the UK R&B chart in addition to breaking the top 10 in the following regions:

  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Denmark
  • Germany
  • New Zealand
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland

Adding to its success, “Changes” was nominated for a Grammy in 1999 in the Best Rap Solo Performance category. This made it the first song to accomplish this feat after the artist had already passed away.

Who really was Huey P. Newton and how did he die?

Huey Percy Newton was a renowned African-American revolutionary who together with Bobby Seale founded the Black Panther Party (1966-1982). The two created a ten-point program containing guidelines on how the African-American community could gain their freedom.

Newton was a co-founder of the Black Panther newspaper service which would soon become one of the most widely distributed African-American newspapers in the country. Under his leadership, his party initiated more than 60 community support programs such as food banks, clothing banks, medical clinics, legal advice seminars, housing cooperates, ambulance service, sickle cell anemia tests and prison busing for the families of inmates. One of the most famous programs was the Free Breakfast for Children program which provided food for thousands of poor children during the 1970s.

Huey was involved in a number of criminal activities and incarcerations. For example, he was convicted and sentenced for the death of police officer Frey. He was also accused of the murder of one Kathleen Smith as well as the 1974 murder of Betty Louise Van Patter.

Huey’s Death

Newton was shot and murdered on August 22, 1989 in California by a member of the Black Guerrilla Family. Tyrone Robinson was arrested a few days after as the main suspect having admitted to murdering Newton in self-defense. Robinson was in 1991 convicted of first-degree murder and received a 32-year to life prison sentence. He cited his motive was to advance his position in the prison and street gang, the Black Guerrilla Family.

1 Response

  1. Anonymous says:

    Need updating… from what I know, saying black is more appropriate but I will defer to anyone with and other preferences. Tupac was prophetic and only he could have seen the first black president. He also lived the reality that many in the US realized later. with George Floyd… this song is highlighting systematic racism will always be around us but continuing as Tupac did… problems exist and we need to continue changes. (Signed white guy)

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