This song was released posthumously and was produced by Eminem. He took lyrics from a previous recording by Tupac and engineered a chorus from Elton Johns 1971 hit 'Indian Sunset'. Combining the two was a mark of genius which offered the powerful lyrics from Shakur with the iconic style of Elton John, leading to huge mainstream popularity. It went straight to Number 1 in many countries, including Australia, went platinum and further to this Tupac was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
The lyrics are indicative of Tupac’s very troubled upbringing and adult life experience. Although able to contain his frustration and anger as a young teenager and achieve many accolades as a performer, rapper, actor and poet, he was unable to shake his upbringing and the deep rage at the injustice he witnessed and felt limited his life and freedom.
The listener is drawn into the real experience for so many underprivileged African-Americans and the limited choices available to them. Throughout the song, Shakur develops a vision of hope and choice in a desperate and violent urban world; which brings so much grief and removes hope.
Poignantly he identifies his personal troubles and bad decision making, whilst proclaiming 'God hasn’t finished with me yet' and also challenges the homogenised view humanity has of where God can be found in the world. Whilst noting his clear imperfections and decisions that had harmed others he also illustrates a desire to change and a belief in hope.
Although an unusual song choice for Catholics, we hope that diversity can offer us an insight into the wondrous variety of humanity and the art that is offered by people; rather than dwelling on the wrong in his life, we consider the things he was able to offer that show that God loves and works through all people.
We pray for all artists who help us find God in the wonder of their art. We pray especially for the soul of Tupak Shakur, who we pray has been forgiven his sins and rests peacefully with God. May we all find God in diversity, through seeking the good in all people that we meet.
Listen to the song 'Ghetto Gospel' here
Artist: Tupac Shakur (b. 16 June 1971- d. 13 September 1996).
Song: Ghetto Gospel (released posthumously: 21 January 2005).
Brendan Nicholls is the liturgy coordinator at St Ignatius College, Geelong.