Keep Ya Head Up: Celebrating Tupac Shakur On His 40th Birthday

I don’t let my kids listen to most hip hop not just yet. Occasionally, I’ll slip a little Tribe Called Quest, Common, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, The Roots and De La Soul into the mix, just because I trust the lyrics of a lot of their music to be thoughtful, interesting and, above all else, tame enough for kid consumption. Plus, I figure once they get used to hearing the good stuff, they’ll understand just how much most of the mess playing on the radio today is a complete assault on their senses and sensibilities and gravitate to artists and hip hop worth listening to.

Today, though, I’m adding a few songs to the rotation pieces by one of my favorite artists of all time: Tupac Shakur. Not all of his music is for the babies, that’s for sure; I’m seriously not a fan of the music he made after Suge Knight got a hold of him. I’m more partial to the incredible songs he made early in his career songs like, “Brenda’s Got a Baby,” “Dear Mama,” “Keep Ya Head Up,” pretty much every song on his debut album, 2Pacalypse Now and my guilty pleasure, “I Get Around.” For me, each of these songs spoke eloquently to the condition of our people and, save for “I Get Around,” specifically to the condition of black women mothers, in general, but financially-challenged, single black moms in particular. Of each of these, “Keep Ya Head Up” still touches my heart whenever I hear it still makes me really think and reflect on the lyrics and how beautiful and powerful they are coming from the lips of a profoundly intelligent, passionate, in-love-with-our-people black man.

I post this video in honor of Tupac Amaru Shakur, whom, if he were alive today, would have celebrated his 40th birthday. After you watch the video, check out “All Eyez On U,” the poem MyBrownBaby favorite Nikki Giovanni, a friend to Tupac’s mom, Afeni Shakur, wrote in honor of Tupac after his death. It is, as you can imagine, breathtakingly beautiful, and speaks not only to the loss of this man but his relevancy to us as a people as a messenger, as a truth-teller, as a champion for those who, all too often, are misunderstood, disposed of and, most disgustingly, forgotten. For sure, “All Eyez On U” is a must-read, and my friend, Jackie Holness, has the poem in its entirety posted on her lovely blog, After the Altar Call.

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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. I did adore Tupac and the gentle side of his lyrics. They still dance inside my head today. But for me the party Jam”How do you want it” reminds me of good times before my husband and I were married and how we would wear out the floor to it….Tupac was definitely a gift…taken to soon…but the leaps and sashays he has created for me) live on!

  2. You just listed all of my Tupac faves right there, Denene!

  3. Denene, thanks so much for the “shout out!” When I really pause and think about the fact that Tupac was murdered and unable to fulfill his God-given potential, I am terribly saddened…And at the same time, I’m so glad that his star shone as bright as it did when he was with us:)

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