2Pac’s ‘Dear Mama’ selected for inclusion in Library of Congress’ national recording registry


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Though Mother’s Day was last month, the Library of Congress waited until this week to include the late Tupac Shakur’s “Dear Mama,” in its National Recording Registry. Often cited as 2Pac’s most emotionally resonant song, the tribute to his mother Afeni Shakur follows Public Enemy and Grandmaster Flash as the only hip-hop songs tapped for inclusion.

“Dear Mama,” written shortly before Shakur served a prison term, vividly renders the hardships of addiction and poverty that his mother endured in her efforts to raise him to adulthood. The song attests to Shakur’s gift at crystallizing complex emotions in simple stark images: being kicked out of his home at 17, selling crack rock with thugs who offered paternalistic support, hugging his mother from behind bars.


“I’m incredibly touched,” said Afeni Shakur in a prepared statement. “It could have been any song, but I’m honored they chose ‘Dear Mama’ in particular. It is a song that spoke not just to me, but every mother that has been in that situation, and there have been millions of us. Tupac recognized our struggle, and he is still our hero.”

The honor accorded “Dear Mama” reflects a growing revisionism towards Shakur’s legacy. While revered in both the streets and suburbs at the time to his death in 1996, Shakur’s brazen attitude often drew flack from cultural critics alienated by the violence and misogyny that some of his songs contained. Yet last December, “Changes” earned recognition as one of the Vatican’s “12 Favorite Songs.” While in September 2009, Atlanta University’s Robert Woodruff Library announced that they would make Shakur’s private writings available for scholarly research.

“Dear Mama” is one of 25 recordings selected for inclusion in 2010. The entries are judged on cultural, historical, and aesthetic significance. This year’s class also included Patti Smith’s “Horses,” R.E.M.’s “Radio Free Europe,” Willie Nelson’s “Redheaded Stranger,” Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti,” and the “Little Engine That Could,” as narrated by Paul Wing.

-- Jeff Weiss

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