My Ambitionz az a Qualitative Ridah1: A 2PAC Analysis of the Black Male Baller in Amerikkka2

in Sociology of Sport Journal
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  • 1 University of Central Florida
  • 2 The University of Memphis
  • 3 Cerritos College
  • 4 Seton Hall University

The purpose of this paper is to contextualize and analyze the lyrics of Tupac Shakur by using the research methodological approach of concatenation to merge hip-hop and sport so that the qualitative data from these songs might serve as a cultural map to constructs of identity, race, social class, and black masculinity in the context of sport and the black male athlete experience in America. Applying critical race theory and White’s framework of black masculinity and the politics of racial performance, a connection is made with themes of the artists’ (rapper) social commentary and the athlete (baller). The themes from Tupac Shakur’s lyrics are follows: (a) Trapped, (b) Against the World, (c) The Streetz R Death, and (d) Ambitionz. Synergy with the rapper and baller are articulated, as well as implications for scholars and practitioners that work with high school, collegiate, and professional black male athletes, along with other men of color.

“The most dangerous weapon, an educated Black man”—Tupac Shakur, 1991

The links between music and sport in African American communities date back to the post-World War I Negro Leagues and the Jazz Age (Haddock, Ross, & Jackson, 1996). Both movements exploded out of resistance toward the myth of white superiority in the music and sport industries. McLeod (2009) cites several compelling examples that illustrate how black performers are allowed freedom in bodily and creative expression through the cross-pollination of music and sports, more so than other media, for example, film. The Harlem Globetrotters were an all-black basketball team engaged in the African American cultural renaissance of the 1930s. Their performance style exemplified the fusion of team collaboration, solo improvisations, and clowning routines that are unique to jazz, rather than the orderly and strict discipline of all-white symphonies and sport teams that were used to justify their superiority. Jazz musician Miles Davis openly discussed how boxer Sugar Ray Robinson’s discipline influenced him to overcome his heroin addiction in 1954. Shortly thereafter, he recorded his renowned “Jack Johnson Sessions,” a tributary album to the very first black heavyweight boxing champion.

As the cultural renaissance transformed into brazen empowerment, the “‘in your face’ style” of the Black Power Movement was fueled by black funk artists like Dr. Funkenstein, (a.k.a. George Clinton) and the new slam dunk move epitomized by Julius Erving (McLeod, 2009, p. 216). Funk bled into basketball fashion trends and wove into militant black pride in the late 60s, as many athletes sported Afro hairstyles popularized by musical artists such as Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone. Both Hendrix and Stone reciprocated the exchange and adopted headbands, multicolored wristbands, and decorated knee-high socks into their images. The first endorsement between a musical group and an athletic company was solidified in the 1980s with Run D.M.C.’s song and music video, “My Adidas,” a deal that would influence future endorsements between brands and hip-hop musicians. As black culture and music continued to evolve, rap artists uniformed themselves with oversized basketball and hockey jerseys in their music videos (McLeod, 2009). Football Super Bowl halftime shows have hosted black jazz performers from Lionel Hampton and Ella Fitzgerald to hip-hop artists like Missy Elliot, Nelly, P. Diddy, and Nicki Minaj.

Despite significant attention given to hip-hop culture and rap within the disciplines of English, history, psychology, sociology, and religion (see, e.g., Durham, 2014; Kitwana, 2005; Rose, 2008; Smith & Jackson, 2012; Watkins, 2005), the sport sociology and sport management communities have been virtually silent about the intersection of sport and hip-hop (for notable exceptions, see, e.g., Harrison, Moore, & Evans, 2006; Marston, 2017; Martin, 1997; Sudre, Joncheray, & Lech, 2019). This is a striking omission, for lyrics and language in popular culture can serve as a way to critique race, gender, class, and sexual orientation, (Morrell & Duncan-Andrade, 2002) and also the American educational system with its complicated performances of blackness in the historical present.

In this paper, we focus on the late Tupac Shakur (hereafter 2PAC) and in specific lyrics from his music archive so as to map constructs of identity, race, social class, and black masculinity in the context of sport and the black male athlete experience in America. Raised in Los Angeles, CA, Shakur (1971–1996) was a prominent hip-hop artist in the 1990s. With lyrics that addressed contemporary social issues, Shakur achieved massive commercial and critical success as a musical artist. His life came to an early end when he was shot and killed on the Las Vegas Strip after attending a Bruce Seldon–Mike Tyson boxing match at the MGM Grand Hotel.

It is commonly accepted that Shakur’s lyrics function as a written and spoken narrative account of his human experience, as well as that of other black males in American society. As Stanford (2011) once remarked: “Outside of his most incendiary critics, Tupac Shakur is generally perceived as a socially conscious artist whose political credibility is located in his lyrical critiques of racism and his mother’s membership in the Black Panther Party” (p. 3). Iwamoto (2003) similarly asserted that 2PAC was “regarded as a sensitive and progressive person who was more knowledgeable than most people gave him credit for” (p. 44), largely because of the “thug” persona popularized in media accounts of his life and music at the height of his popularity. In addition, McCann (2013) notes that 2PAC’s discography reveals how “Black affect is both malleable and relative autonomous within the circuitries of music capital, White supremacy, and Black radicalism” (p. 408).

Dyson (2001) further locates 2PAC’s place in hip-hop history in his book Holler if You Hear Me: “Tupac’s genius can be understood only by tracing the contours of contemporary rap and placing him within its rapidly expanding boundaries” (p. 108). Dyson’s analysis of hip-hop culture reveals several themes, but one of the more important aspects of his assessment is the intersection between the athlete and the artist—specifically the black male athlete and black male artist. The temptations that often come with celebrity and the challenges of managing success thus form a major theme of this paper; 2PAC’s lyrics highlight one racialized performance of the life of the “baller”—the complicated performance of black masculinity rendered visible if indeed marketable within popular and political culture—with threads that connect the athlete and artist within the broader scope of sport and music.

Clearly, 2PAC (or, rather, 2PAC’s music and legacy) reside in a contested space in the landscape of both American popular culture in general and hip-hop music in particular. In what follows below, we draw from Rehn and Skold’s (2005) work in challenging the binary of hip-hop and rap lyrics as simply positive or negative, and instead attend to how the performance of black masculinity (see Alexander, 2006)—indeed, the performance of capitalism—embedded within 2PAC’s work can serve as insight into how the “baller life” comes to be made and remade in ways both productive and provocative.

More specifically, through applying critical race theory (CRT; e.g., Bell, 1992; Crenshaw, Gotanda, Peller, & Thomas, 1995; Delgado, 1990) alongside White’s (2011) framework of black masculinity and the politics of racial performance, we endeavor to make a connection with themes of the artists’ (rapper) social commentary and the athlete (baller). The themes from 2PAC Shakur’s lyrics that we discuss are as follows: (a) Trapped, (b) Against the World, (c) The Streetz R Death, and (d) Ambitionz. We also articulate the synergy between rapper and baller, as well as implications for scholars and practitioners who work with high school, collegiate, and/or professional black male athletes, and other men of color.

Rap, Race, and Hip-Hop

The existing scholarly literature on hip-hop has typically focused on the following areas, with race often at the center of the analysis. First, scholars have interrogated the musical content as having a great beat but scrutinize the artists’ lyrical focus (see Sullivan, 2003). Second, scholars have focused on “the code of the street” in terms of identities of the “gangstas” and “thugs” (Kubrin, 2005) and have empirically tested the violent content of rap music in hip-hop culture (Johnson, Jackson, & Gatto, 1995). These two areas are predicated on or grounded as deficit studies, that is, those that find negative associations and problems embedded within the form of expression itself. This body of work collectively suggests that hip-hop music negatively influences academic aspirations among black youth, promotes illicit drug use, is misogynistic toward women, and so forth (Armstrong, 2001).

Other narratives exist that do not center on deficit perspectives. Critical theorist and black feminist scholar bell hooks wrote poetically about male creative expression specific to rap where men “require[d] wide-open spaces, symbolic frontiers where the body could do its thing, expand, grow, and move, surrounded by a watching crowd” (Hooks, 1992, p. 377). For example, researchers have examined the coping mechanisms and expression of agency by urban youth in relation to identity and cultural perspectives. Spencer, Fegley, Harpalani, and Seaton’s (2004) work on the intersection of black masculinity and adolescent male coping behaviors is instructive when examining identity and emotional health:

Masculine norms tend to discourage the display of vulnerability; consequently, many adolescent males adopt a presentation of self that may seem confident and stable when in fact, internally, this may manifest itself as hypermasculinity: the exhibition of stereotypic gendered displays of power and consequent suppression of signs of vulnerability. This exaggerated presentation of masculinity can lead to conflict in school, neighborhood, and family settings, but it can also serve as a coping response to deal with environmental stressors such as lack of economic opportunities and fear of victimization. (p. 234)

Although hypermasculine behaviors can combat racism, they can also degrade the self-esteem of young men of color. Iwamoto (2003) likewise highlights the dangers of biased and specious portrayals of hypermasculinity in cultural media that limit masculine ideals as reflected in larger social values. He argues that poverty and neglect shield black children from absorbing nonhegemonic experiences: “black youth are often deprived of and under-exposed to cultural influences that differ from those of the mass media, which often negatively or one-dimensionally depict black men as villains, murders, gang members, boxers (Latinos), and martial artists (Asians)” (p. 45). The interrelationship of hypermasculinity in sport to music cultures is prevalent in their mental approach: “both encourage a ‘no pain no gain’ approach to practice and a stoic concentration on performance . . . . Like athletes, musicians must perform whether they are having a good day or bad day” (McLeod, 2009, p. 204).

Specific to 2PAC, Edwards (2002) analyzed 2PAC’s 72 poems in his collection, The Rose That Grew From Concrete (1991), which served as an important period in his plight as an aspiring rap artist. Edwards (2002) noted that this body of work provides a different perspective on the capacity of 2PAC’s talents as a writer and artist: “The poems and the lyrics of Tupac’s raps—as represented in 2calypse Now—respectively represent idealizations of the separate, different worlds that Tupac inhabited and mastered; the world of school and the world of the hood” (p. 62).

Taken collectively, White (2011) asserts that although many critical studies of hip-hop have shed light its problematic side, “scholarly studies have failed to fully investigate all the ways in which hardcore styles of hip hop in particular have recast ideas about masculinity and the performance of the body” (p. 2). It is with respect to this performance of masculinity and the physical body that we are especially concerned in this paper. Research in the area of hip-hop has drawn connections between the shared popular representations of athletes and musical artists, especially in African American communities with the term “baller” capturing this intersection of identity, culture, and performance (Lewis, 2010).

Each year, the highly visible recruiting process plucks athletes from the high school talent pool. These major university recruits are known in popular culture as “ballers” (Boyd, 2003). A diverse word, it can be used as a noun, adjective, or verb, and resonates with both black and white male youth (Comeaux & Harrison, 2004). It is a term so commonplace today that HBO features a series called Ballers that stars former wrestling superstar and Hollywood icon Dwayne Johnson as a former professional football player turned financial planner. Its image signifies achievement and success in revenue-generating sports like football and basketball. Existing baller identity research reorients the way black male performance is circulated in sport literature. The Baller Identity Measurement Scale was adopted to promote career engagement and disband the lack of understanding about career possibilities in athletics (Harrison, Tranyowicz, Bukstein, McPherson-Botts, & Lawrence, 2014). These authors also sought to educate college athletes in how to capitalize their football experience into career currency through transferrable skills off the field.

Critical Race Theory

The politics of racial performance for black male artists and athletes are grounded in the presence of racist attitudes implicit in dominant sport culture. Originally developed in legal studies (Bell, 1992; Crenshaw et al., 1995; Delgado, 1990), CRT has been applied in education to expose detrimental power dynamics in institutional, individual, overt, and tacit levels (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995; Tate, 1997). Its five major tenets are meant to catalyze social change: (a) giving voice to marginalized groups as a means of critiquing the perpetuation of racial stereotypes in normalized dialogue (counter-storytelling), (b) the realistic view that racism is endemic and indelible in American sociocultural structure (permanence of racism), (c) access to high-quality education as exclusive to white students (whiteness as property), (d) concession of basic rights to black Americans that is rooted in the self-interests of whites (interest convergence), and (e) color blindness in the midst of incremental change (critique of liberalism) (DeCuir & Dixson, 2004). CRT has been well documented in its application to uncovering the intentional and intensive isolation and silencing of black athletes in education (Beamon, 2014; Bimper, Harrison, & Clark, 2012; Lawrence, 2005; Simiyu, 2012; Singer, 2005b). The current study builds on the establishment that racism is deeply infused in the black male baller experience.

Sport sociology research has provided fertile grounds for researchers to challenge destructive power dynamics between black athletes in both institutions of higher education and individual relations within predominantly white campuses. For example, Singer (2016) drew from CRT to expose how racism impacted the holistic development of black male football athletes at a historically white institution. His data analysis revealed that some students were aware that they were being “trained to acquiesce to the dominant social order where the cultural orientations of elite Whites are the norm” (p. 1087).

The CRT scholars have resisted the color blind practices and social conditions that aid racism in athletics (Hylton, 2010). In a critique of sport as a color-blind institution, Griffin (2012) employed CRT to argue that even though black males athletes have been able to receive financial compensation for their talent while they choose to embody the hip-hop personae, further reflection on their struggle reveals that “they do not have equal representation in positions of power beyond the basketball court, control of how the Black male image is marketed, ability to embody their identities as they see fit, or structural access to generate organizational change” (pp. 175–176).

The CRT can contribute to our understanding of racism and social relationships rather than assuming that poor academic performance is an inherent deficit in some black athletes themselves (Benson, 2000). The exclusion of black athletes becomes more complex when the intersectionality of race and sexuality offers insight into the understanding of oppression (Anderson & McCormack, 2010). Through CRT, it is clear that race and racism must precipitate scholarship and activism in sport and higher education literature.

Methods

Design

Concatenated exploration, a rarely used methodology in the social sciences, was employed in the current study (Stebbins, 2006). Similar to links in a chain, concatenation couples independent or interconnected cases for the purposes of yielding new or novel thoughts, ideas, or theories (Stebbins, 1992, 2006). In the case of this study, the merging of hip-hop and education, hip-hop and sport, the black male rapper and the black male athlete, and 2PAC’s lyrics and athlete activism are all interconnected dyads that launched novel results and implications. Concatenation was adopted an appropriate methodology for three primary reasons. First, each song by 2PAC could be considered an independent case, and each case could be considered interconnected as they were crafted by the same musical artist. Next, concatenation has its outcome as the generation of thoughts and concepts that are greater than the sum of the individual cases (Stebbins, 2006). Accordingly, it was believed that the individual songs by 2PAC could be concatenated to reveal themes that reverberate beyond hip-hop and into other domains such as sport. Finally, concatenation was adopted in order to introduce this rare, yet insightful, methodology to the sociology of sport discipline.

Data

The data that were used in this study consisted of lyrics from 12 songs by 2PAC. Though Shakur has an extensive catalog of music, these songs were selected because the lyrics focus on the representations of lived experience of black men in America with respect to their social realities. Specifically, the current study analyzed the following songs: Trapped, Young Brothas,3 Dear Mama, Temptations, Rebel of the Underground, Young Black Male, Lord Knows, The Streetz R Deathrow, Words of Wisdom, Me Against the World, Life Goes On, and Ambitionz az a Ridah. 2PAC’s awareness with the parallels and intersection of black male ballers is captured in part through his song lyrics and music videos. Specifically, black men as public representations of success through sport and developing cognitive and noncognitive skills as athletes mirror the challenges and realities of the black male artists. Both identities fit under the tag “baller” as cultural tags of “making it” in America (see Figure 1).

Figure 1
Figure 1

—The black male baller (Harrison, 1999).

Citation: Sociology of Sport Journal 37, 3; 10.1123/ssj.2020-0019

Analysis

Stebbins (2006) outlines the steps researchers must undertake when engaging in concatenation. After one identifies the cases to concatenate, the researcher analyzes the data while being cognizant that “retaining the open-endedness of inquiry as it evolves through the concatenation process is a central consideration” (Stebbins, 2006, p. 492). When engaging in concatenation exploration, “the researcher wants to learn who is doing (thinking, feeling) what to (with, for, about) whom, and when and where,” and thus should ask questions accordingly of the data (Stebbins, 2006, p. 490). The researcher should also ask a why question, as it assists in interpretation of the cases (Stebbins, 2006). Collectively, the previously mentioned questions are referred to as the “six Ws” in the concatenation exploration process (Stebbins, 2006). The data generated from asking the six Ws becomes the basis for forming “concepts and their interrelationship in propositions” (Stebbins, 2006, p. 490).

To begin the concatenation process with 2PAC’s songs, one member of the research team listened to each song in its entirety while reading the printed lyrics in order to get an overview of the song. Next, the researcher listened to the song again and began to answer the six Ws. For example, the researcher noted that the answer to the first W, who is doing the thinking or feeling, was 2PAC. Similarly, the answer to the when question, that is, when the songs were recorded, produced, and distributed, was from 1991 to 1996. Moreover, certain questions, such as why 2PAC recorded the songs that he did and to whom he was speaking to, were not explicitly answered in the songs and required the use of secondary data. A Google search was employed to locate relevant data (e.g., books, interviews, etc.) that could potentially answer the why and whom questions. Perhaps answering both the why and whom questions, Shakur stated that his lyrics were meant to shed light on what happens in the real world, particularly to young black males. Furthermore, he cited a goal of discussing how people could better the world (Mills, 2007).

To answer the what question (i.e., what are the central themes in Shakur’s music, particularly those related to black males), the researcher read each line of lyrics to determine what common messages were being conveyed. This process is referred to as line-by-line coding (Glaser, 1978). In addition, the investigator used the process of open coding to identify potential themes by extracting examples from the lyrics (Agar, 1996; Bernard, 1994). This procedure is often referred to as identifying raw themes. The raw data themes are quotes that capture a sentiment provided by the participant (singer; Marshall & Rossman, 1999). The third step involved a memoing technique, which is utilized to record commonalities among codes or raw data themes (Ryan & Bernard, 2000). Of the three types of memos that Ryan and Bernard define, code notes was the type the researcher utilized, as it affords the researcher the ability to “summarize his or her ideas about what is going on in the text” (p. 783).

From the code notes, 19 first-level codes were produced. Examples of these first-level codes included “escape through vices” and “police brutality.” The researcher then proceeded to reduce the first-level codes into six second-level categories that began to explain the observed phenomena and the relationship among the first-level codes. For example, “separated parents” and “divorced parents” were aggregated into a joint second-level code. Finally, the researcher clustered the codes to begin, identifying aggregate dimensions or themes that were significant. Against the World was coded 57 times—within that song, police brutality (coded 22 times), institutional racism (coded 18 times), mass incarceration (coded six times), and historical figures and events (coded 11 times) emerged as common. The Streetz R Death was coded 19 times. At this point, it was believed that data saturation was achieved (Gioia, Corley, & Hamilton, 2013).

Following the previously mentioned procedures, the data and the coding structure were reviewed by another member of research team. Any instances of disagreement were discussed until a consensus was reached. This peer review process served to decrease the subjectivity and bias that is present when data are analyzed by a single researcher, thereby increasing the credibility of the study (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005). Four major themes were established, applied, and counted via the use of MAXQDA software (VERBI Software, Berlin, Germany) after the researchers achieved intercoder agreement.

Results

Analysis of the data resulted in four themes that directly addressed the what question of the concatenation process: what are the central themes in Shakur’s music, particularly related to black males. Congruent with the titles of the songs that were analyzed, these themes were labeled: (a) Trapped, (b) Against the World, (c) The Streetz R Death, and (d) Ambitionz.

Trapped

The first theme identified in the analysis was labeled trapped (coded 62 times) because it spoke to the impact of adverse childhood experiences on the behavioral, cognitive, emotional, and physical well-being of black males. 2PAC’s lyrics revealed how disruption to the nuclear family unit (i.e., two parents) can result in adverse childhood experiences. Such disruptions included divorced, separated, or single parents (coded four times), incarcerated parents (coded one time), parental neglect (coded three times), and familial substance abuse (coded one time). The result of such disruptions, as evidence in his lyrics, are feelings of hopelessness and doubt (coded 34 times), escape through vices (coded 18 times), and lack of impulse control (coded one time).

For example, in lyrics in the song The Streetz R Deathrow, 2PAC lamented how he did not benefit from a traditional, nuclear family unit (“every other had a pops and a mother”). Such a childhood, according to 2PAC, “screwed” him and resulted in his questioning if he was “somebody they despised.” As a result, he says he shunned intervention from his mother (“quit tryin’ to save my soul, I wanna roll with my homies”). Though he realized he was a “tickin’ timebomb,” he still engaged in a lifestyle marked by aggression (“packin’ a 380 . . . punks drop from all the buckshots the fools got”) and materialism (“fiendin’ for a Mercedes”). Similarly, consumption of alcohol (“another sip of that drink, this Hennessey got me queasy”) and drugs (“I smoke a blunt to the take the pain out”) and promiscuity (“while she hot and horny, go up inside her”) also emanated from Shakur’s lyrics as outcomes of adverse childhood experiences. In this manner, 2PAC penned lyrics related to how adverse experiences can leave individuals trapped.

Against the World

The second theme that emanated from Shakur’s lyrics related to inequities and injustices within society. Within this theme, 2PAC provided specific examples of inequities in society and discussed how black individuals should respond to such issues. Police brutality, institutional racism, mass incarceration, and historical figures and events were all referenced by the artist as specific examples of inequities and injustices within society. For example, in discussing mistreatment at the hands of law enforcement, 2PAC expressed that “if one more cop harasses me, I might go pyscho” (Trapped). Elsewhere, he maintained that America was “killing us one by one” in an effort to “eliminate the problem” (Words of Wisdom). With respect to institutional racism, 2PAC stated that he “couldn’t find a trace of equality” within society (Trapped), particularly as black people were “kept out” and “made to feel inferior” (Words of Wisdom). Shakur also called politicians “hypocrites” (Me Against The World) as he believed they encouraged people to “say no to drugs,” yet “kept it running through our community” (Words of Wisdom).

Mass incarceration of black people was also referenced by 2PAC as an inequity within society. Shakur bemoaned that “too many brothers daily heading for the big pen” and that when they are released, they “come out worse off than when they went in” (Trapped). This mass incarceration, according to the artist, was “part of some big plan to keep a brotha in” prison (The Streetz R Deathrow). Shakur also referenced the role of historical figures and events when discussing inequities and injustices within society. In Words of Wisdom, 2PAC reasoned that Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation as a means to “save the nation” and that people have been lied to. He questioned if black people should pledge allegiance to a flag that neglects them and believed that controversial figures such as Malcolm X were decisively left out of school textbooks: “No Malcolm X in my history text. Why is that? ‘Cause he tried to educate and liberate all Blacks” (Words of Wisdom).

Beyond identifying inequities and injustices within society, 2PAC discussed how he and other black individuals should respond when faced with such issues. Specifically, 2PAC urged black males to overcome struggles that they encounter in society (coded 23 times). Lyrics such as “I couldn’t let my adversaries worry me” (Lord Knows) reflect the notion that black males, including athletes, must “rise above” (Ambitionz az a Ridah) those who would seek to keep subjugate them. This point is one of the dominant refrains in Shakur’s song Me Against the World as he stresses: “The message I stress: to make it stop, study your lessons/Don’t settle for less, even the genius asks his questions/Be grateful for blessings.” Furthermore, Shakur highlighted the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., as a specific example of the struggle that black males must overcome in his song Words of Wisdom. In doing so, he opined that the struggle would not conclude until the black male prevails: “Thought they had us beaten when they took out King, But the battle ain’t over till the Black man sings.”

The words Against the World were used to identify this theme, as the examples of coded lyrics highlight struggles against injustice and inequality. Though 2PAC highlighted injustice and inequality in his lyrics, he did not advocate a response of passivity. Instead, as noted in the “Discussion” section, 2PAC argued that black males must actively overcome oppression. One way to overcome such oppression was by “studying your lessons” and “asking questions.” In fact, this “Against the World” section actually mirrors 2PAC’s Against the World song. In the first few verses, 2PAC details the oppression in society and concludes the song with how to overcome the oppression. Similarly, this “Against the World” section details the oppression as noted by 2PAC in the beginning and ends with his comments on overcoming the oppression.

The Streetz R Death

The third theme, The Streetz R Death (coded 19 times), related to 2PAC’s discussion of a life lived in the “streetz.” According to 2PAC, his attraction to the “streetz” was due to the affirmation he received from those within it. This was expressed in his song Dear Mama, in which he stated that though “they sold drugs,” he “hung around with the thugs” because they “showed a young brother love.” Beyond the affirmation he received in and from the “streetz,” 2PAC also spoke on the violence commonly associated with a “gangbangin’” lifestyle. An analysis of his lyrics revealed a degree of tension for the artist as he lamented losing friends to street violence, yet also glorified such violence. On numerous occasions, Shakur’s lyrics mourned the loss of his “homies” to the “gangbangin’” lifestyle. For example, on Lord Knows, he lamented that he “done lost too many homies to this (expletive) game.” Likewise, on another song, he questioned “how many brothers fell victim to the streets” (Life Goes On). Yet despite these tragedies, 2PAC also demonstrated instances in which he glorified such violence. For example, he expressed that “suckers scatter but it don’t matter, I’m a cool shot” (The Streetz R Deathrow). Elsewhere, he discussed his desire for vengeance against “them brothas that played me and all the cowards that was down with it” (Ambitionz az a Ridah).

Ambitionz

The final theme, Ambitionz, related to how money, or the lack thereof, served as motivation. This theme was coded 14 times. When reflecting on his life and upbringing, 2PAC commented on how his socioeconomic status drove him to pursue monetary success by any means necessary. 2PAC expressed that he had “been poor all [his] life, but [he] don’t know quite why” (The Streetz R Deathrow). To combat the poverty he experienced, 2PAC expressed in Dear Mama that he started selling drugs to generate income. Despite being illegal and stigmatized, Shakur did not feel guilty because the money he earned allowed him to help his mother, who was “poor” and on “welfare,” to pay the household bills:

I needed money of my own so I started slangin’/Ain’t guilty cause, even though I sell rocks, it feels good putting money in your mailbox/Love paying rent when the rent’s due.

In other songs, the artist discussed “dreamin’ of riches” and his desire to accumulate money stating that he was on a “meal ticket mission, want[ing] a mill[ion].” In particular, he stated that he was “fed up” and that children need to be taught “they can be all they can be” and that “there is much more to life than poverty” (Words of Wisdom).

Discussion

Critical race theory propels scholars into articulating critiques of current paradigms as well as methods for social change (Ladson-Billings & Tate, 1995). Thus, this unique study recruited a naturalistic and interpretive qualitative research design to translate 2PAC’s lyrical content as a prism to view the nonbinary realities of the black male athlete community. It is this unique methodological approach that decodes his autobiography of past childhood trauma, present isolation in the streets, and future messages of agency to black male athletes who would forge activist identities in the synergy of hip-hop, sport, and education.

Trapped

Adverse childhood experiences leak into the behavioral, cognitive, emotional, and physical well-being of black males. Although feelings of hopelessness and doubt are encoded in 2PAC’s lyrics and recorded in scholarly research (Adler & Adler, 1985; Griffin, 2016; Steele & Aronson, 1995), the hypermasculine black male rarely gives voice to these affects when establishing his identity. 2PAC asks, “Is there another route? For a crooked outlaw, veteran, a villain, a young thug, who one day shall fall.” Even he was not immune to the internalization of self-sabotage: “Of the myriad forces Tupac had to confront, few were as urgent as his own demons, especially the chronic absence of self-worth that spurred a lot of his self-defeating behavior” (Dyson, 2001, p. 241). These demons can be contextualized in the restrictiveness of the education system in order to preserve academic disparities faced by student-athletes of color and the psychosocial realities of rejection, isolation, and mistrust (Bimper et al., 2012; Melendez, 2008; Tate, 1997). Black male athletes can exhibit self-defeating behavior when they internalize the pernicious stereotypes of the dumb jock (Edwards, 1984; Harrison, Sailes, Rotich, & Bimper, 2011). If they are successful jocks, they are trapped into constant recognition in classes from the celebrity status thrown onto them at predominantly white institutions. Yet, faculty have historically been more likely to offer study skills to white college athletes than black college athletes (Comeaux & Harrison, 2007) and single out athletes in front of the class that characterize them as poor students (Baucom & Lantz, 2001; Parsons, 2013).

Such conflicting and biased actions trap teacher and learner in an internecine relationship, especially when faculty believe they have adopted a color-blind ideology. The notion of color blindness is a critique of liberalism in the CRT framework because it is nearly impossible to examine the subconscious treatment of black college athletes as other while justifying white students as normal. The use of CRT begins with an understanding that whiteness has been positioned as the superlative status in America and throughout global culture. The insights within CRT demand the repositioning of whiteness as the global barometer in order to change the structural and cultural conditions that maintain the subordination of black stakeholders (Simiyu, 2012; Singer, 2005b). The illusion that individual faculty members and the law are impartial to color is echoed in 2PAC’s lines: “Trapped in my own community . . . . Why did ya lie to me? I couldn’t find a trace of equality.” When faculty are not motivated by malice and adopt a color-blind ideology, they still fail to acknowledge the persistence of racism in the construction of black athlete identity in college. The polarized treatment of black male college athletes as prized performers (Wiggins, 1988, 1991) and faulty scholars creates a contradictory climate for black athletes at predominantly white institutions (Bimper et al., 2012). This contradiction is not novel for black students at predominantly white institutions (Steele & Aronson, 1995) and leaves no trace of equality.

Against the World

The 2PAC suggested in his musical oeuvre that he was up against the contradicting messages of human equality and mass incarceration of black people. His positionality as a hip-hop icon allowed him to openly express himself and challenge the repressing silence of black men in America (McLeod, 2009). One method of open expression was in his physicality and the tattoos on his body that allowed his “unfolding, meandering identity” to become visible in his existential self-expression (Dyson, 2001, p. 232). Furthermore, Dyson calls 2PAC “the zeitgeist in sagging jeans” (p. 107) for articulating his generation’s pain and confusion while setting fashion trends. A parallel can be drawn between 2PAC’s spirit of the time and one of TIME magazine’s 2017 most influential people of the year, Colin Kaepernick. While 2PAC questioned if black people should pledge allegiance to a flag that neglects them, former National Football League (NFL) player and political protestor Kaepernick unfolded his identity as a peaceful protestor when he silently knelt during the national anthem in front of millions of American eyes on network television. 2PAC used tattoos and fashion to influence the culture, and Kaepernick used his physical body to position himself into the posture of a kneel to engage in peaceful, reflective protest (Walton-Fisette, 2018; see also Chaplin & Montez de Oca, 2019). While 2PAC bemoaned, the mass incarceration of black citizens expressed that “if one more cop harasses me, I might go pyscho,” Kaepernick used his positionality as a sport icon to give other athletes a rational platform to challenge police brutality toward the black community. He created a Know Your Rights Campaign to teach black youth self-empowerment, to raise awareness on higher education, and to instruct them how to properly interact with law enforcement in various scenarios to avoid the prison pipeline.

Kaepernick’s protest sparked a conflagration as more black athletes used their platform to protest police brutality toward black people. Four NBA starters wore “I Can’t Breathe” shirts in reference to Eric Garner’s last words before a policeman choked him to death. Five St. Louis Rams NFL players positioned their bodies to walk out in the “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” pose representative of the iconic posture of protest that branched from the Ferguson, MO shootings. Several Seattle Seahawk NFL players linked arms in unison during the national anthem, as well. Even the famously apolitical Michael Jordon resonated with Kaepernick’s protest and said, “I have decided to speak out in the hope that we can come together as Americans, and through peaceful dialogue and education, achieve constructive change” (Wagner, 2016). Brandon Marshall pledged his money to several charities, took a knee in solidarity with Kaepernick, and fanned the flame of black athlete protest:

I feel like this is our only platform to be heard. A lot of time people want us to just shut up and entertain them. Shut up and play football. But we have voices as well. We’re actually educated individuals that went to college. When we have an opinion and speak it, a lot of people bash us. (Zirin, 2016)

These physical “performance[s] as social justice activism” parallel 2PAC’s most dangerous weapon: an educated black man (Myers & Alexander, 2010, p. 164).

Despite being bashed, a new wave of black athlete storytelling is emerging from the voiceless. 2PAC participated in and encouraged this wave of transformation in the way black people share their perspective as a means to challenge the accepted discourse about racism. He embraces the counter-storytelling tenet of CRT (Beamon, 2014; Lawrence, 2005) as he gives voice to marginalized groups: “The power is in the people and the politics we address.” Momentum has catalyzed black male athletes to find their voice in the politics of racial performance despite the pain and outrage of facing racism and discrimination in sport (Brooks & Althouse, 1993; Lawrence, 2005). This message coupled with athlete activism is especially relevant, as black players experience perceived powerlessness to effect change (Melendez, 2008). When black male athletes are inspired to find their voice like the hip-hop artists they listen to have, they can fight against the inequity and injustices of the world as a tenable unit.

The Streetz R Death

If the streets are death, the schools are where independence goes to die. The hegemonic system of American schooling is a miseducation of black male athletes out of their exploration and experimentation as full-time learners (Woodson, 1933). Limits are indoctrinated into their lifestyle as they are churned into revenue generators for multibillion dollar self-regulating organizations (i.e., National Collegiate Athletic Association, NFL, NBA). 2PAC criticized the school system as a suppressor of opportunity with his lines, “They act as if asking questions is a crime” and “Through this suppression/They punish the people that’s askin’ questions.” In college, the National Collegiate Athletic Association pervades the hourly schedule of athletes and independent time is ruthlessly squandered. Scarce room is left for time and energy to devote to engaging in activities that foster community and interpersonal skills (e.g., clubs, organizations outside of athletics, black fraternities); compassion (e.g., community service volunteering); careers (e.g., internships, majors that require laboratory hours in addition to class time); exposure to different cultures and approaches to education (e.g., study abroad programs); and cognitive growth (e.g., study groups) (Bimper et al., 2012). Structural barriers are placed on their financial compensations, even though their image and likeness provides fodder for billions of commercial dollars for the National Collegiate Athletic Association and its membership institutions. After winning the March Madness tournament, one black male college athlete told reporters that he sometimes went to bed starving because he could not afford enough food on his athletic stipend (Ganim, 2014). Stripped of their time, energy, and image, what is left?

The 2PAC recorded the consequence of such indoctrination: “I am what you made me, the hate and evil that you gave me.” Black male athletes are bombarded through popular culture by messages from stakeholders that they have higher value as jersey numbers than as well-fed learners in an intellectually stimulating and financially stable environment—they consistently see coaches hired and fired for lucrative opportunities and for falling short of university expectations (Simiyu, 2012). The normalization of continuously conflicting messages parallels the permanence of racism in the CRT framework in existing sport literature (Beamon, 2014; Singer, 2005b). Institutions historically use black athletes as cheap labor to entertain wealthy alumni (Rhoden, 2006; Simiyu, 2012). The racist hierarchical structures that allow these processes to remain in place facilitate racism as a normal part of black athletes’ lives (Beamon, 2014). It is their value as athletic commodities that lend the interest-convergence principle of CRT (Donnor, 2005). The showcasing of black athletic prowess masks their utilitarian value to athletic departments’ interests as “casualties of war scarified in the flexing athletic arms race of intercollegiate sport” (Bimper et al., 2012, p. 122). As is, black student-athlete educational development concedes to athletic profitability.

Ambitionz

Poverty manifests a unique demon to the black community. Children are more likely to experience poor health and nutrition outcomes, residential insecurity, limited access to upward social mobility, and exposure to crime and gang activity when they grow up in poverty (Cooper, 2012; Orfield, 2009). In other words, “too many of our children have learned how to hate” (Lapchick, 1995, p. 87). 2PAC commented on the Dickensian struggle of the younger generation: “What’s the use? Unless we’re shootin’ no one notices the youth.” The lack of economic opportunity structures is an environmental stressor that viciously propagates unhealthy coping mechanisms, for example, hypermasculinity. In all of his wisdom, 2PAC saw the real hope for change beyond his own lifetime and recognized the significance of educating future generations: “The message I stress: to make it stop, study your lessons/Don’t settle for less, even the genius asks his questions.” Three decades after 2PAC’s message to future generations, one black male athlete in particular has refused to “settle for less” and has entered new territory as an agent of change to evolve educational paradigms for black youth. Early in 2018, LeBron James partnered with a school system in his hometown in Ohio to open the I Promise elementary school. This new model explicitly addresses 2PAC’s criticism of American education and how “fed up” he was with financial denial of black children based on race and social class. James’s school destroys the intergenerational monetary barriers that keep poor, at-risk black youth out of school with its founding pillars: free tuition, free uniforms, free breakfast, lunch, and snacks, free transportation within 2 miles, a free bicycle and helmet, access to a food pantry for the student’s family, and guaranteed tuition for all graduates to the local university of Akron. James’s school creates the ideal learning conditions for two generations, as parents of students will receive access to job placement services and general educational diploma assistance. These acts of service seek to nurture academic potential and create institutional opportunities for black youths rather than exploit athletic talent (Edwards, 2000; Sack & Staurowsky, 1998).

James’s school promises to mend the inequities that 2PAC vocalized: “It’s wrong to keep someone from learning something.” Perhaps in this environment, more black men will have a positive experience in school where they can “acquire the confidence and protective communication skills required for achievement (not just survival) in racist environments where oppressive stereotypes are allowed to persist” (Harper, 2015, p. 668). In the I Promise school, it is less likely that black athletes will experience isolation, decreased sense of belonging, and race-related threats such as having bottles thrown at them, being spat on, and being called a “nigger,” as has been documented in predominantly white learning environments (Coakley, 2009; Lawrence, 2005; Melendez, 2008; Parham, 1993). One can further hypothesize that the dangers of violence from the hypermasculinity coping mechanism would be reduced in such an environment, as Iwamoto (2003) previously noted, “young men of color often enter into hyper-masculine behaviors to combat the degrading effects of racism on their self-esteem” (p. 45). The I Promise School is a beacon of hope that disrupts the deficiencies of college preparedness situated in the wider sociopolitical inequalities that delineate access to quality education for black athletes (Comeaux & Jayakumar, 2007).

Within a CRT framework, we recognize the almost exclusive accessibility to safe and well-equipped schools to whiteness as property: “Those that possess, steal from the ones without possessions”. The ambition of James’s school explicitly resists this educational inequity with its founding pillars. His investment into the black community actively combats whiteness as property by increasing the social capital of blackness. The CRT framework reveals how both men’s ambitions to resist the structural inequalities that favor whiteness and hinder black youth in education are juxtaposed through lyrical content and athlete activism.

At times, the artist perpetuated negative stereotypes about black men, and other times he critiqued them. While 2PAC referenced aggression, materialism, and promiscuity, he also defied stereotypes of a black male. He allowed himself to present multiple identities to his audience and gave voice to both tragedy and triumph. Although he wrote of feeling trapped, he punctured the blanketed role of the hypermasculine black images with a peek behind the curtain in his iconic line: “even thugs cry.” It is this multidimensionality that affords him a complex identity and the ability to become exponentially more relatable to black male athletes who permeate multiple economic identities:

Occupants of two worlds—the world of the streets and the world of wealth—these athletes can speak from a perch of power and influence, while holding the kind of “keep it real” pedigree that makes them relevant to the core black community. (Rhoden, 2006, p. 8)

As both artist and athlete occupy two worlds, the following section extrapolates how to wield the power and influence of both domains from the perch of educational interventions.

Implications for Power Brokers and Stakeholders

The plan for liberation is bidirectional; scholars and practitioners who work with black male athletes each have roles to play. It cannot be stressed enough that stakeholders have the power to enrich human capacity for learning. We know that many ballers are influenced by rap artists. As primary educational stakeholders, how do we set black male athletes up for success and “prevent the academic falls from grace that severely limit their opportunities after collegiate and professional sport careers?” (Bimper et al., 2012, p. 108). The answer can be found in CRT with its focus on issues of justice, liberation, and the empowerment of people of color in a society based on Eurocentrism (i.e., white supremacy). In light of Singer’s (2005a) influential work on addressing racism in sport through CRT, we need to reach “beyond the Eurocentric worldviews that have permeated the education and training of scholars and students in our field” (p. 474).

To that end, the following recommendations are offered as an interventionist road map through which we might engineer atmospheres that provide the fundamental elements of an affordable, engaging, and nurturing community.

Justice

Feature photos of black athlete activists in general student support centers that cue students to serve rather than simply score. Perhaps conscientious environmental cues would remind black athletes of the capacity to speak against injustice when they process lyrics such as “It’s wrong to keep someone from learning something.-2PAC” superimposed over images of Althea Gibson, Muhammad Ali, Tommie Smith, John Carlos, Harry Edwards, Arthur Ashe, Wilma Rudolph, Colin Kaepernick, and LeBron James. Exposing black youth to ideals that differ from the mass media’s portrayal of balck males as one-dimensional villains, murderers, and gang members can counteract biased and specious portrayals of hypermasculinity (Iwamoto, 2003). In addition, this would go above and beyond shallow academic inspiration, or as one black male student-athlete at a predominantly white institution contended about photos of athletes who had simply graduated, the “‘I got out of here so you can too wall.’ Good luck with that 1.5 [grade point average]!” (Bimper et al., 2012, p. 119). The successful advocacy of previous black athletes is a nondeficit reminder that such human agency is possible for all black youth, athlete or not. Incorporating cultural influences in bidirectional learning cannot be underestimated, since “to a larger degree than we suspected, culture determines what we can and cannot perceive” (Doidge, 2007, p. 300). Empowering visuals can cue students to perceive success more readily.

Coaches could allow athletes to discover their proclivities toward political activism without fear of repercussions when the black community responds to inevitable threats. However, the reality remains that black athletes are subject to fear of being treated unjustly by the coaching staff:

Coach said that we could not get involved . . . I mean, man, it was hard because the Blackness in me wanted to protest with everybody else, but ya know, I’m a athlete and we have to represent in a certain way and we have to do what the coach says if we wanna play too though. (Beamon, 2014, p. 128)

Athletes and all men of color should unequivocally never have to choose between their racial identity and the wishes of a coach.

Liberation

Student affairs professionals can create high-leverage strategy interventions for black athletes to speak liberally about topics of personal and professional relevance without fear of repercussions from coaches or faculty. Temple University enacted this “counterculture of modernity” (Gilroy, 2000) when artist Young Jeezy was brought on to speak to the football team in 2014 about the challenges of managing success as black men, the temptations of celebrity, and the importance of social support. In one study, a group of researchers created a dormitory-based academic program that sponsored late-night bull sessions for black students in groups of no more than 15 to talk about topics such as relations with parents and family, friendships, romance, classroom experiences, and fraternities (Steele & Aronson, 1995). Black students from this intervention earned one-third of a letter grade higher than black students randomly assigned to academic programs that did not sponsor late-night talk sessions. This confirms more recent research on the power of meaningful dialogue to reduce the detrimental effects of stereotype threat (Johns, Schmader, & Martens, 2005). For an extensive review of similarly empowering workshops to develop the holistic black male athlete and other strategic responsiveness to interest convergence through CRT, see Cooper (2016).

Concatenation within CRT liberates faculty from the constriction of hegemonic pedagogies. If colleges want to produce scholars with qualitative methodology skills, faculty must provide more synergy between domains to empower critical consumers. The merging of hip-hop with CRT can be utilized as a method of alternative engagement that anchors instruction in lived experiences of black culture for all students. This pedagogy is a springboard to stimulate musical intelligence in course curricula into poetry writing, multimedia class projects, analytical thinking, and the solidification of learning with rhyming. Teachers are thus liberated from the “folkways, mores, values, attitudes, and beliefs of the dominant white race [that] have become the norm or standard upon which other racial and ethnic groups in society are judged and evaluated” (Singer, 2005a, p. 467). The integration of this type of “reality pedagogy” (Emdin, 2016) is currently being used to teach math and science in some schools in New York.

Empowerment

Extensive training and seminars can be forgone for students of color if teachers provide positive feedback at all grade levels. Positive and critical feedback combined with the buffer of assuring students that they can reach high standards can increase the academic performance of black students so drastically that it has been shown to slightly surpass that of their white peers (Cohen, Steele, & Ross, 1999). Faculty who encourage black college athletes to pursue graduate school have a significant influence on these students’ college grade point average (Comeaux, 2008). Clearly, teaching faculty how to impart empowering encouragement has quantitative outcomes.

Black male athletes become self-empowered agents of resistance through education (Bimper et al., 2012). It is incumbent upon scholars and practitioners alike to catalyze conversations and create safe spaces for educational reform in the college athletic system. Even modifying the linguistic label of “student-athlete” to “scholar-athlete” or “scholar-baller” is an effective systemic mitigating tool (Stone, Harrison, & Mottley, 2012). Changing the language will shift the culture from the bottom-up and employ psycholinguistics to adapt a different perspective that empowers students with the subtle nuances of language choice. This critical pedagogy strategy is meant to alter the educational aspirations and mind-sets among athletes from various backgrounds regarding their perceptions about the likelihood of matriculation, graduation, and success (Comeaux & Harrison, 2007; Fuller et al., 2016).

Limitations

Though this study fills a gap in hip-hop and race literature by acknowledging the uniqueness of black male student-athletes’ experiences, it is still limited by gender and environment. This study explored how males internalize hypermasculinity and as such did not include how female student-athletes interact with these coping mechanisms. These experiences may also differ for black athletes at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, where hypermasculinity may manifest in different variations. Finally, our study was strategically limited to the lyrics in 2PAC’s songs. He did not express that his desire for vengeance was grounded in racial oppression based on the lyrics that were examined. Perhaps, secondary data (e.g., interviews) might shed additional light. Such an analysis of secondary data might be an opportunity for future research.

Although 2PAC was an innovator in his field, he was still rejected by critics of hip-hop who disregarded his extraordinary creativity and instead chose to impose a reductionist approach: “On such view, hip-hop is but the seductive corporate packaging of the vicious stereotypes black folk have tried to defeat since our ancestors were uprooted and brought to America in chains” (Dyson, 2001, p. 110). This myopic thinking is familiar to black athletes on college campuses who encounter stigmatizations that limit their perception on campus as the dichotomous scholar or athlete (Harrison, 2002). While some studies affirm hip-hop lyrics as vehicles for liberation, other researchers have found this genre to be ephemeral, its lyrics to be detrimental, and its images destructive to black cultural capital (Armstrong, 2001; Dyson, 2001; Johnson et al., 1995). The current study does not refute that some content can be misogynistic, stereotypical, and one-dimensional. However, the researchers chose to critique the songs that were rife with complex nuances to go beyond the binary of positive and negative approaches to lyrical analysis. Thus, this study neither took a positivistic approach nor fashioned an a priori hunt for negativity that would oversimplify the effect that one man had. Rather, a theoretical map emerged to trace CRT as a vehicle for expression in American culture.

Future lines of inquiry should continue to combine concatenation and CRT for 2PAC and other hip-hop artists to illuminate urgent issues in athletics in higher education. Additional research designs could examine factors like race and gender to include the influence of hip-hop on white college athletes or the analysis of black female rap artists and black female athletes.

Conclusion

Through concatenation, the independent domains of sport and hip-hop were interconnected to yield novel methods of educational inquiry in higher education literature. The current avant-garde inquiry situates scientific investigation within higher education, sport, and hip-hop. The innovative methodological approach is a vehicle to examine the synergy between hip-hop cultures and sport to reveal the legacy of human agency in multiple domains. As it is “essential that we utilize the full power of CRT,” all five tenets of the CRT framework were accounted for throughout the interpretation of findings, including the least commonly used in education literature (i.e., whiteness as property); interest conversion; and the critique of liberalism (DeCuir & Dixson, 2004, p. 30). The lyrical content from 2PAC is linked to the realities of black male athletes in the past, present, and future. The value of hip-hop as a method of educational engagement allows black athletes to break the hypermasculine mold and to forge complex, new, multidimensional identities for self-expression.

The 2PAC inherently embraced all five tenets of CRT to question the roles that race, racism, and power have played in shaping black male experiences in school and education. Singer’s (2009) seminal research on institutional integrity in college sport illuminates three perspectives within the CRT framework for actual commitment to the educational interests of the athletes they serve: civic leadership, financial support, and a platform to voice concerns. The current study extends previous research on race, social class, and black male identity by examining the position of Colin Kaepernick’s civic leadership, LeBron James’s financial support through the I Promise School, and 2PAC’s lyrical vehicle to voice concerns for black college athlete empowerment. In the wave of momentum of black male athletes liberating themselves from the athlete-or-rapper dichotomous trap, it is hopeful that more schools pop up to share access to quality education in the black community. Findings from this research have illustrated that hip-hop and education is a suitable nexus for such radical change. Although his life ended at an athletic event, if 2PAC were still alive, he just might have tenure at the I Promise School. As the legend himself would say, “So get up, it’s time to start nation building.”

Notes
1.

Shakur, T. (1996). Ambitionz az a ridah. On All eyez on me. Los Angeles, CA: Death Row Records.

2.

Cube, I. (1990). Amerikkka’s most wanted. On Amerikkka’s most wanted. Los Angeles, CA: Priority Records.

3.

In this paper, we insert Brothas where N****z is as part of the lyrics and cultural language. The theme of Young Gunz is another tag that 2PAC Shakur frequently referenced the identity of young black males regarding the positive or negative potential of their black masculinity as they navigate structural inequalities in America.

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If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

Harrison, Bukstein, and Barnhart are with the University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL, USA. Fuller is with The University of Memphis, Memphis, TN, USA. Griffin is with the Journal of Higher Education Athletics & Innovation, Cerritos College, Norwalk, CA, USA. McArdle is with the Seton Hall University, South Orange, NJ, USA.

Address author correspondence to C. Keith Harrison at scholarballer51@yahoo.com.
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