“Keep Your Head Up” is the 11th song off of the album Strictly for my N.I.G.G.A.Z, a studio album by Tupac Shakur that was released by Interscope Records on February 16, 1993. The acronym “N.I.G.G.A.Z.” in the title of the album stands for Never Ignorant Getting Goals Accomplished. This exemplifies Tupac’s main message in his album, which is to spread public awareness about the politics and controversies that were happening in urban societies. Around that time, living in an urban society was extremely tough; there were gangs surrounding the area, father-less homes, corrupt neighborhoods, etc. Even though many were struggling in this type of environment, the government failed to address this issue. Tupac had grew up in a bad area of Harlem. He was involved in gang activity and went to jail himself, but in his music you can tell he is trying to escape that life and try to be a better person. He notices the injustices in society and explains his consciousness and his experiences growing up in the hood. Labeled a “Gangsta rapper” at the time, Tupac shocked the world and this became one of his most controversial yet best albums to be produced.
In the song “Keep Your Head Up”, Tupac tries to send a message to all of his listeners to never give up, no matter how tough a situation may currently be. This song is more geared towards women, as he mentions their struggles and his mother that raised him. It has a very melancholy and smooth beat in the background. Contrary to most rappers of his time and of the present, Tupac does not mention anything about violence, drugs, or negativity about women – the song doesn’t even have a single curse word. The song samples Zapp’s “Be Alright” and The Five Stairsteps “Ooh Child”, two tunes that also send out a positive message to keep trying.
When I first heard this song, I was not completely aware of what the message was because I was young. Growing up in a suburban, middle to lower class area, I repeatedly heard this song but never payed attention to the lyrics. Then when I was old enough, I had decided to listen in on the song and I had found out it has a deeper meaning. Up until today, it is one of my favorite songs of all time. Whenever I’m feeling down or going through a rough time, I would just listen to Keep Ya Head Up to motivate me.
In his first verse, Tupac talks about the struggles many women have to go through in society. He tries to inspire women to keep their head up, no matter how badly men treat them. He also questions why men treat women the way they do; he makes it as though women have a lot of power, even saying that everyone comes from a woman and without women in this world, everyone would cease to exist. Here is an excerpt from the song, and possibly one of his most popular quotes:
“…And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
I wonder why we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?
I think it’s time to kill for our women
Time to heal our women, be real to our women
And if we don’t, we’ll have a race of babies
That will hate the ladies, that make the babies
And since a man can’t make one
He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one
So will the real men get up
I know you’re fed up ladies but keep ya head up”
Later on in the song, he brings a more serious tone and mentions what’s going on in society such as racism, poverty, and his miseries while growing up. He hits some hard points that most people do not realize that are critical to our well being, such as the fact that we have money to fight in wars but not enough to help out the poor in our own country.
What makes this song so wonderful is that anybody can relate to it – whether you are a woman going through a lot of suffering/bad break up, or a man who is having a hard time at the moment. The underlying message is to just “keep your head up”.