1 Verse, 1 Hearse #18, Tupac – Trapped
The Killer Hearse is back! I mean, this segment is the best thing to happen to the internet since private browsing, some say. You know, sometimes you don’t want to save any cookies and stuff. Mozilla says it best, “there may be times…when you don’t want other users on your computer to see this information, such as when shopping for a birthday present.” Exactly. Birthday presents! Anyways, we’re back. It’s not like the hearse has been in the shop or anything. It’s just been chillin’ in the garage. Nobody has killed anything lately, in my opinion, or at least deserving of a hearse, in my opinion. Rappers are friendly creatures. They don’t like to really kill verses. They just want to get the club turnt up. Rappers do too much collabos, too much networking, and too much press conferences. It’s been like a Thanksgiving Day parade out here. So with that said, I went back into the archives for this installment of 1 Verse, 1 Hearse. I brought out Tupac’s “Trapped” because I love how he spoke on the so-called “American Dream.”
Tupac was very pessimistic yet honest on “Trapped” which appeared on his debut album, 2Pacalypse Now. In “Trapped,” Tupac counters the argument that anyone can make it out of the ghetto and achieve the American Dream, whether they’re black, brown, or white. Although it’s true that anyone can make it out, it’s not that easy. The purpose of this song is exactly that. How is someone supposed to make it out when they’re constantly and unfairly harassed and jailed by police? When the schools in their community are under performing. When peace is never taught. People are trapped in the ghetto. During the songs three verses, Tupac paints three different scenarios in which people are/get trapped. For the purpose of this hearse I will focus on verse number 2.
They got me trapped
Can barely walk the city streets
Without a cop harassing me, searching me
Then asking my identity
Hands up, throw me up against the wall
Didn’t do a thing at all
I’m tellin’ you one day these suckers gotta fall
Cuffed up throw me on the concrete
Coppers try to kill me
But they didn’t know this was the wrong street
Bang bang, down another casualty
But it’s a cop who’s shot there’s brutality
Who do you blame?
It’s a shame because the mans slain
He got caught in the chains of his own game
How can I feel guilty after all the things they did to me
Sweated me, hunted me
Trapped in my own community
One day I’m gonna bust
Blow up on this society
Why did ya lie to me?
I couldn’t find a trace of equality
Work me like a slave while they laid back
Homie don’t play that
It’s time I let ‘em suffer the payback
I’m tryin’ to avoid physical contact
I can’t hold back, it’s time to attack jack
They got me trapped
Tupac is trapped by racism in this verse. In the story, Tupac is peacefully walking down the street when cops suddenly confuse him for a criminal they’re looking for. The cops cuff him, and throw him on the ground. Because Tupac was “resisting” arrest, they were going to shoot him in “self-defense.” Thankfully, they realized he wasn’t the guy they were looking for. This incident not only shows the abuse he’s facing but the racism he faces as well. Here in America there’s this stereotype that all Asian people look alike. In this incident all Black people look alike which is why Tupac got confused for the criminal. Plus, he’s also Black which adds to the stereotype that all Blacks are criminals. Since they all look alike, they’re all criminals. Either way, the racist cops were out to kill.
Tupac adds a little karma to the story though. The guy they meant to arrest shot back and killed an officer. However, Tupac feels no remorse for the fallen officer. “He got caught in the chains of his own game,” he raps. Why would he feel sorry for the guy who probably tried to kill him?
After that incident which consumed about two thirds of the verse, ‘Pac addresses the inequality he faces in schooling and employment. One of the many solutions to escaping the ghetto is going to school, and getting a good education. Well the education Tupac has received in grade school is practically useless since it’s unequal to that of the education received in the suburbs. “Why did you lie to me,” he asks society. Although that line can be seen in many different ways, I feel like he is talking about school because it makes logical sense that he would also address the education system in the hood. Call it, reading between the lines. Anywho, back in 1954, Brown v. Board Of Education ended state sponsored segregation in schools. The court ruling stated that segregation was unconstitutional because it violated the Equal Protection Clause giving people “equal protection of the laws.” The Supreme Court said that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” Schools are no longer segregated thus making them equal. Tupac isn’t buying it though. “I couldn’t find a trace of equality,” he states. The schools in the suburbs are superior to those in the inner city. To Tupac, it still feels like 1954. Schooling is unequal.
Since he doesn’t feel apt for the unjust education system, Tupac gets a job and starts to work his way out of the ghetto. Even then he’s still trapped. He’s overworked and underpaid and stuck in a dead-end job. Being the rebel he is, he quits his job. Tupac “don’t play that.”
No matter where he goes, or what he does, society has Tupac trapped. Whether he’s walking down the street, trying to go to school, or trying to work, he’s at a disadvantage. By the end of the verse, Tupac grows frustrated and “lets ‘em suffer the payback.” He resorts to his old ways because he’s tired of being stuck in this vicious cycle. He’s trapped.
Tupac’s perspective on the world made him one of the most popular figures in American culture. The way he could genuinely express himself also made him one of the best rappers of all time. Throughout his career he spoke on the troubles he faced growing up in New York, and Baltimore. Much of his work is dedicated to the hood. He motivated people to do something with their lives. But on this track, he told outsiders about life in the hood. He dedicated this track to those who criticized his people for not fulfilling the American Dream. The “dream” is nothing but a hypocritical illusion. How can someone achieve the American Dream when they aren’t on the same playing field as the rest of the country. People are trapped.