Dear Mama: An Ode to a Black Queen 

“Dear Mama,” is a hip-hop song written and performed by Tupac Shakur in his 1995 album, “Me Against the World.” Tupac Shakur was a well-known rapper, poet, actor, and activist during the golden age of hip-hop in the 1990s. Tupac was well-versed in poetic form and social issues. His mother was a former member of the Black Panther Party, a black-power political movement in the 60s and 70s, and he learned about political history from a young age. As a teen, Tupac was part of a special performing arts program in his high school, where he studied poetry, jazz, and music and acted in Shakespearean plays. In addition to his well-known hip-hop albums, he published a collection of haikus and a book of poetry. The influence of his formal training in poetry and his political awareness is visible in the lyrics and form of “Dear Mama.” Tupac uses form, chronological organization, and imagery to construct an ode of recognition and forgiveness to his mother, who struggled as a single parent with drug addiction to raise him and his sibling. In the song, he wants his mother to know that he appreciates her and understands the struggle she went through, despite the challenges it made him face as a child.

Tupac wrote “Dear Mama” in the classic form of an ode, with strophes, anti-strophes, and an epode. A strophe is a storytelling stanza, an anti-strophe is a repeating chorus, and an epode concludes and summarizes the poem. Tupac used the following form:

  • Strophe x 4
  • Antistrophe 
  • Strophe X 4
  • Antistrophe
  • Strophe X 2
  • Epode.

The strophes generally tell stories of his childhood, while the anti-strophes offer a refrain of recognition of his mother, and the epode focuses on his reflections and forgiveness. By using the form of an ode for his song, Tupac reinforces the idea that his song is a celebration of his mother and a recognition of what she sacrificed for him.

Tupac also organizes his poem in chronological order, starting with memories of his early childhood, and ending with the present moment, to demonstrate his reflective perspective and forgiveness. At the beginning of the song, he reflects on moments when he went through a hard time. For example, he remembered when he ran from the police and his mother punished him: 

And runnin’ from the police, that’s right

Mama catch me, put a whoopin’ to my backside

Towards the end of the song, Tupac switches back to the present day, as he’s writing the song, and looks back on his memory with forgiveness, understanding the struggle she went through to raise him:

But the plan is to show you that I understand

You are appreciated

When Tupac moves from his past and present self, he creates a contrast between his childhood understanding of his experiences and his present understanding of his experiences within the larger systems of oppression in poor communities. He demonstrates a critical understanding that the fault of his mother’s behavior was not entirely individual, but due to larger social forces at play. 

Finally, Tupac uses a back-and-forth between positive and negative imagery of small childhood moments to illustrate the complex relationship he had with his mother, feeling her love, yet wishing, as a child, for more. For example, there are several negative images early on in the song, such as::

it was hell

Huggin’ on my mama from a jail cell

Later, his mental images turn more positive: 

And I could see you comin’ home after work late

You’re in the kitchen, tryin’ to fix us a hot plate

Toward the end of the song, he emphasizes his positive memories: 

And all my childhood memories

Are full of all the sweet things you did for me

These switches show a maturing attitude towards his mother, both understanding and appreciating her, through sifting through the childhood memories in his head and ending up focusing on the positive. 

Tupac uses his complex knowledge and skillset to construct a song that sends a message through both its form and its imagery. As an ode, listeners are already primed to understand this is a song of recognition. Yet, Tupac makes the song more complex by showing both the good and the bad, perhaps summed up best in his lines:

And even as a crack fiend, Mama

You always was a black queen, Mama

I finally understand

For a woman it ain’t easy tryin’ to raise a man

These contrasts between good and bad heighten the listener’s awareness of Tupac’s internal struggles with forgiveness and love for a Black Queen.

Re: Stacks

After his girlfriend broke up with him, his band split up, and he contracted mono, Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon exiled himself to his father’s cabin in rural Wisconsin and spent an entire winter there in isolation, creating “For Emma, Forever Ago,” his first studio album. “Re: Stacks” stands alone as the last song on the album, serving as a capstone to the album’s frozen, emotional exploration of the pain and beauty of being alone. 

A recurring metaphor throughout the song is the mention of gambling, or “stacks” of poker chips.

I keep throwing it down two

hundred at a time

And it’s hard to find it when you knew it

When your money’s gone and you’re drunk as hell”

This motif of “stacks” is referring to effort. Even though Vernon put in everything he had into his relationship, whether that be with his band or his lover, he still hit rock bottom and lost everything he had. Feeling robbed of all of the effort he put into his relationships, what little control he had over his life is gone. The mention of “stacks” recurs throughout the song in the chorus, as Vernon repeatedly tries to rid himself of the memory of the “stacks” he once had. 

Further descending into himself, Vernon continues his self-excavation, baring all of his emotions:

I’ve been twisting to the sun

I needed to replace

And the fountain in the front yard is rusted out

All my love was down in a frozen ground

Searching for a source of happiness, or light, he is twisting towards the sun. The word twisting implies a sense of pain or discomfort; Vernon is trying to get over his losses but he can’t and it’s painful. Even though he needs to move on and find someone new, he can’t because he is too grounded in the past. Ultimately, the culprit for all of his troubles is himself, as mentioned by his rusted-out fountain. Just like iron harms itself by producing rust, Vernon is a bad influence on himself. 

Ultimately, in the last lines of the song, Vernon is finally able to accept what has happened and move on. 

This is not the sound of a new man

or a crispy realization

It’s the sound of the unlocking and lift away

Your love will be safe with me

Although he has not gained a radical new insight or made a huge discovery, time has lent him acceptance of his misfortunes and he is finally able to move on. Nothing has really changed, but Vernon has forgiven his past.

The song, and the album, ends with a drawn-out silence, and then the click and beep of a reconnecting answering machine as he rejoins the world. 


The song “TONYA” by BROCKHAMPTON, is about regret, self-worth and letting down those closest to you. The American hip hop collective was going through a falling-out with Ameer Vaan, a main member of the group and the face of their three SATURATION albums. Ameer was accused of sexual assault by multiple women in 2018, something that he denied, but eventually admitted to doing. After kicking Vaan out of the band, morale was severely impacted and the trajectory of their fifth album, “iridescence” changed entirely. The 14th song on the album “TONYA” marks a turning point for the band as they take an honest route to stay true to themselves and the emotion pouring out of this performance from every single member hits hard for long time fans including myself. Every BROCKHAMPTON song and album has different themes and experiences. The diversity of the group helps to portray these different backgrounds with personalized lyrics and heavy subject matter.

Verse 3: Dom McLennon

I fantasize about a time when everything was simple
My shelter sheltered me from things I needed to commit to
The way it stands to me
A victim of Stockholm in my friendships and family

Dom as a lyricist has made me look deeper into his verses which always have deeper meanings tied to them. Each member shows how they feel about the trajectory of the group as well as past struggles throughout their lives. When he references being “A victim of Stockholm” with the various relationships he has in his life, he’s not saying they actually kidnapped him, but his emotions feel kidnapped in a way. He develops an emotional bond with his family and friends which results in him being emotionally damaged by these relationships when things go wrong. He incorporates a line break in the third line above to create a more impacting line delivery for the final line in the verse. There is also of course rhythm throughout the song including the chorus and outside of it. The use of repetition in the chorus helps to convey the questioning of self worth and helps the listener with summarizing how the difficulties that the group goes through makes them all feel worthless.


Hey, and I’ve been feelin’ like I don’t matter how I used to
Hey, and I’ve been feelin’ like I don’t matter how I used to

The group members all have personal struggles and aren’t afraid of being emotional on their newer albums, which is unlike their previous projects being more lighthearted and fun. That’s not to say their were exceptions to this in both eras of BROCKHAMPTON, but again, at the time of the creation of iridescence, the group was in a rough spot on the inside rather than the performance on the outside.

The group came out with their final studio album last month resulting from some of the inside problems they were experiencing throughout their careers in BROCKHAMPTON. I have always been a fan and will continue to listen to their music as they redefined the definition of what a boyband can be and accomplish. I thank BROCKHAMPTON for helping me through some rough spots of my own and wish the members the best of luck in their futures. They stayed a family till the end.

A Little too Late

The song “Let Her Go” by Passenger (Michael David Rosenberg), in the album All the Little Lights is a really fascinating song because all the lines have various types of intricate language which I never realized when listening to the song. After analyzing the lyrics, I remember parts of my life of people coming and leaving like the song suggests. Passenger creation of this song could go both ways, it is one of those songs that could work as its own poem instead of a song and nobody would know the difference. 

The overarching meaning of the song represents losing someone you really cared for and not realizing what you had or how much you really appreciate the person in your life until they are gone. This song especially focuses on the thoughts and struggles within re-memory and further reminiscing about regrets in your life. For Passenger, this song was used as a way to express the loss he felt after a loved one left him. Subsequently, he conveys that he took for granted her affection and presence and assumed she would stay no matter what. The song’s layers are so significant because each line talks about different ideas that all interconnect. Throughout the song, the motif of the sun frequently emerges as a metaphor to his regrets. 

Lyrics to “Let Her Go” Passenger – Let Her Go Lyrics – Genius

The beginning of the song starts off with this line which is repeated throughout the song as a way contribute to the overall meaning of the story and add a multidimensional meaning to each part.

“Only miss the sun when it starts to snow”

This line is an alliteration because the “s” sound is repeated at the beginning of words in the same line. The sound helps the lyrics flow better which completely enhances the meaning throughout, and expresses feelings through the words “miss” and “sun” used to convey his regrets. Similarly, the word “only” is repeated throughout half the lines to emphasize that you only relate to what the singer is describing after you have lost someone or something you love. This experience is parallel to many poems that allow you to either relate or immerse yourself in an experience or situation.

Once again, Passenger includes the word “only” in a line, that still has a completely different meaning.

“Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low”

This is an example of an oxymoron since people can’t feel high and low (happy and sad) at the same time. However, it enables the listener to think about the text more, and in one sense make it seem a little humorous. The contradictory terms high and low appear in conjunction with one another to reiterate the struggles he is experiencing, while still being in such a low after this breakup. 

“Only hate the roads when you’re missing home”

Passenger uses this to compare missing his home to the road, more specifically his homesickness of the person he loved and misses that made him feel so at home. Although, this part has multiple meanings, for example fighting and also comfort in a relationship. Passenger insinuates his own relationship may have been fighting and bliss.

“Only know you love her when you let her go”

Throughout the song the phrase is repeated 15 times to emphasize the idea. Passenger wanted the listener to understand that the reason the couple broke up is because the man was not trying hard enough so the woman let go. Ultimately, he lost her not because he didn’t love her at all or enough but because he loved her too much.

Overall, Passenger sings about losing a loved one and the two dimensions that comes with it: pain and heartache. Through these troubles, he utilizes strong poetic language to express the toll and affect this had on him. He mourns his actions and feeling a mix of many things but especially, what he could’ve before it was too late. This song is a way for him to release everything he had been thinking, parallel to poetry. Altogether, the meaning of this song relates to loss and remorse. 

Passengers “Let her Go’

Let Her Go, by Verily Passenger is a song about himself, and the regret and remorse that he feels after breaking up with his girlfriend, realizing the value and purpose she had in his life now that she is no longer in it. The speakers audience in this piece is us, the listener, cautioning us to value all that we hold dear, and not recognize this value after we lose something.

Well, you only need the light when it’s burning low
Only miss the sun when it starts to snow
Only know you love her when you let her go

Verily Passenger expresses his remorse by comparing losing her to the changing of the seasons and the change from night to day, or just a candle burning out. Comparing the change in his lifestyle to something as dramatic as the seasons changing ques the listener in (and probably his ex too) how important she was to his day to day, and as we make changes in our lives when the seasons change, his life most definitely underwent great change.

Well, you see her when you fall asleep
But never to touch and never to keep
‘Cause you loved her too much, and you dived too deep…You see her when you close your eyes
Maybe one day, you’ll understand why
Everything you touch surely dies

Verily obviously believes that the end of the relationship was his doing, using phrases “everything you touch surely dies” makes him seem like a plague or ailment, unable to help and only causing pain and despair. Additionally, his line where he “dived too deep” insinuates that he may has lost his girlfriend when he tried to take their relationship to the next level, which she wasn’t ready for.

Overall, the theme of aching loss in this song can be translated over a plethora of other things despite the artist writing it about his girlfriend. Loss is universal so can be applied universally, and as this song is about wallowing in loss and not finding a way to change it, listen to something else if you want to be proactive about losing something.