“Dear Mama” by 2Pac
“Dear Mama” is a tribute to Tupac Shakur’s mother, Afeni Shakur (1947-2016). It is meant to acknowledge her irreplaceable impact on his life and sympathize with the particular struggle she went through as a single mother, particularly in a low-income setting. And via the use of his own personal recollections, Tupac intended for the track to serve as a piece honoring all mothers – but particularly African-Americans – who have faced similar situations.
The song begins with Tupac recounting being kicked out of the home, at 17-years of age, by his mother. At that time, they had “beef”, and he was angry to the point of never wanting to deal with her again. But afterwards he came back to his senses by realizing that no one could “take the place” of his mother.
And the track goes on to read like a memoir from his upbringing. Notable facts include his family growing up poorer than their neighbors as well as Pac getting mixed up with the wrong crowd and not having a father in his life. He also famously mentions the fact that she was once an addict during his youth. But what all of this boils down to is him expressing an unequivocal appreciation for the sacrifices she made in raising him and his sister.
In other words, despite knowing he can never truly recompense her, Tupac still wants to let his mother know how he feels by making a public professions of his love. And in the process of doing so he idolizes her as a symbol of commitment, courage and resilience. This resultantly made Afeni somewhat of a celebrity in her own right.
Tribute to Mothers in General
And the method that Tupac uses to put other likewise mothers into the equation is by making general statements within the narrative such as “it ain’t easy to raise a man”. That is his way of acknowledging that it is a particular challenge for a single mother to bring up a male child without the support of his father. Moreover Pac never mentions his mother’s name in the song. So he understood that other women and families were going through the exact same issues. And in that regard, he tries to encapsulate how all people like himself feel about their moms.
Release Date of “Dear Mama”
Atlantic Records, Interscope Records and Out Da Gutta Records released “Dear Mama” on 21 February 1995. It was the lead single from Tupac’s third album (Me Against the World).
The song, album and music video were released while Tupac was concurrently imprisoned, serving a four and-a-half year sentence for sexual assault.
As such, Pac himself was not in the video. However, Afeni Shakur did make an appearance, with model Tracii McGregor also being hired to portray her.
Commercial Success and Accolades
This song performed well in Tupac’s native United States, topping Billboard’s Hot Dance/Electronic Songs and Hot Rap Songs charts. It also reached number 9 on the Hot 100.
“Dear Mama” also charted in some European and Oceanian countries, most notably peaking at number 4 in New Zealand and number 84 on the UK Singles Chart.
And the track itself is considered to be a classic rap song. For instance, the US Library of Congress added it to its National Recording Registry in 2010. This basically means that they deem it worthy of preservation for all time. In fact it was the first rap song to earn this distinction from the United States government.
Moreover the three notebook pages upon which Tupac originally penned “Dear Mama” went on sale in 2017, a little over 20 years after Tupac’s death, at the price of $25,0000 per page.
Writing Credits for “Dear Mama”
Tupac had assistance writing “Dear Mama” in the form of the following songwriters:
- Bruce Hawes
- Joe Sample
- Charles Simmons
- Terrence Thomas
- Tony Pizarro (who also handled the track’s production duties)
FYI, Tupac Shakur wrote this narrative not only with his mother in mind but also that of his childhood friend, Hollywood actress Jada Pinkett-Smith, whose mom also battled drug addiction.