The hip-hop “mom” song has become a trope; something the hardcore rapper does when he wants to show sensitivity and range. ‘Pac was one of the first to do it, and definitely the best (Ghostface’s “All That I Got Is You” comes in second). 2Pac struck the right chord between sentimental and soulful, with an assist from a melancholy Joe Sample…uh, sample and an interpolated chorus of The Spinners’ “Sadie”.
“Dear Mama” comes from a very real place. ‘Pac loved his mother Afeni, and Afeni went through hell to have him. Pregnant with Tupac, Afeni was on trial and facing a max sentence of 300 years in prison! ‘Pac was born barely a month after Afeni was acquitted. That’s a hell of a story to tell your kid, huh? Ironically, Tupac himself was imprisoned when “Dear Mama” became a smash in the spring of ‘95.
As real a place as “Dear Mama” came from, it’s worth knowing that some of the lyrics are clearly dramatized (specifically the lyrics about selling drugs). An understanding of some of the 2Pac legend can be reached with the knowledge that as a youngster in Baltimore, ‘Pac was a drama student, He was arguably a better actor than a rapper, and not only is “Dear Mama” a dramatic song in and of itself (it would’ve been a great short film), but playing roles (and maybe not being able to tell the difference from a role and the real him) was a factor in the rapper’s last two or so years on this Earth.
Any way you look at it, “Dear Mama” is a gem. Whether you grew up with both parents, or in a single parent household. Even if, like me, you barely have a relationship with your own mother, this song will hit you right in the heart.