Obituary: Afeni Shakur, Inspiration for a son's rap tribute

08 May 2016 - 00:35 By Monica Laganparsad

"And even as a crack fiend, mama/
You always was a black queen, mama/
I finally understand/
For a woman it ain't easy trying to raise a man/
You always was committed/
A poor single mother on welfare, tell me how ya did it/
There's no way I can pay you back/
But the plan is to show you that I understand/
You are appreciated"This was notorious rapper Tupac Shakur's tribute to his mother, Afeni Shakur (born Lesane Parish Crooks), who died this week aged 69.In 1995, when the rapper released his third album, Me Against the World, it was said Dear Mama was the reason it made double-platinum.In 2010, the song was added to the National Recording Registry in the US Library of Congress, which said it was "culturally, historically, or aesthetically important, and/or informs or reflects life in the US".Afeni Shakur said at the time: "I'm touched. It could have been any song, but I'm honoured they chose Dear Mama . It spoke not just to me, but every mother that has been in that [single-mother] situation. "The song even struck a chord with the Tupac haters. To them he was a violent misogynist who had been jailed for sexual assault.Nevertheless, some were known to weep at the words of Dear Mama . It turned Tupac into a crossover artist.If Cat's in the Cradle by Cat Stevens is the definitive father and son anthem, then Dear Mama stands among the finest paeans written about mothers.Dear Mama traces the life of a remarkable woman, a Black Panther activist who gave birth to Tupac when she was 17, a month after she had been released from jail on charges of conspiracy to bomb police stations and public places in New York.She became addicted to crack when Tupac was young but she recovered. Tupac rapped that despite her addiction she never faltered as a parent.Afeni's death on Monday, from a suspected heart attack, came four months before the 20th anniversary of her son's death. Tupac was killed in a drive-by shooting. He was 25.Afeni took control of her son's estate and transformed it into a multimillion-dollar industry by issuing his catalogue of unreleased material. She used the money to establish the Tupac Amaru Foundation for disadvantaged youth.In the early '90s, when gangsta rap was criticised for its alleged encouragement of violence, Tupac's music was about the harsh reality of being black and poor.The feud between Tupac and fellow rapper Christopher Wallace, also known as The Notorious B.I.G., drove a wedge between fans. Wallace was 24 when he was killed in a 1997 shooting.Both men were raised by single mothers. Their backgrounds were similar and they are regarded as the most influential rappers of all time.In 1999, their mothers met for the first time at the MTV music awards and, united in grief, declared the feud to be over.Two decades later, Dear Mama remains a tribute to all mothers.Only Tupac could say what we struggle to say.And it was simple:"There are no words that can express how I feel/You never kept a secret, always stayed real/And I appreciate, how you raised me/And all the extra love that you gave me ... You are appreciated."Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there.1947-2016

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