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Meaning of the lyrics in ‘Changes’ by ‘2Pac’

2Pac’s “Changes” is a potent illustration of the struggles and systemic injustices faced by the African American community, especially those stuck in poverty-stricken neighborhoods. It’s a profound commentary on race, civil rights, and economic disparity, wrapped up with a call to action for individuals to strive for personal and societal transformation.

From the jump, ‘Pac builds a vivid image of his lived experience. When he says, “I see no changes, wake up in the morning and I ask myself / Is life worth living, should I blast myself?” he’s expressing the despair derived from the unchanging reality of being a young, poor, black man in America. He dives deeper into the societal ills faced by his community with lines like, “First ship ’em dope and let ’em deal the brothers / Give ’em guns, step back, watch ’em kill each other” where ‘Pac chastises the government for neglect and manipulation, suggesting that they nurture the conditions that lead to internal violence.

The hook, “That’s just the way it is / Things will never be the same,” is a two-faced coin. On one side, it resigns to the harsh reality of the status quo. But on the flip, it hints at hope, an aspiration for a time when ‘things’ will not be the same.

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In the second verse, ‘Pac gets real about the racial animosities and the misplaced hate causing disgrace to races. He outrightly comments on how the system targets his people with the line, “The penitentiary’s packed, and it’s filled with blacks,” and takes a shot at the cyclical trap of illicit activities used to escape poverty, evident in: “Try to show another way but you stayin’ in the dope game.”

In the final verse, 2Pac leaves us with a war cry, “We gotta make a change […] So it’s on us to do what we gotta do, to survive.” He then proceeds to give the audience a taste of street wisdom, encouraging self-defense and caution towards law enforcement, which he frames as an oppressive force. The song ends on a somber note, attesting to the persistent worry of ‘paybacks,’ which might be seen as a reference to gang retaliation, or metaphorically, the constant fear of repercussions people in his environment experience.

“Changes” is a powerful testament to 2Pac’s lyrical prowess in addressing social issues. It’s a window into the grim realities of life in the ghetto, a call for societal transformation, and a beacon of hope for future generations. The recurring line, “That’s just the way it is,” serves as both a harsh acceptation of reality and an urgent call to question and change the accepted status quo. No matter how you cut it, “Changes” remains one of the most impactful anthems in hip-hop history.

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