Tupac Shakur was one of the most influential rappers of all time, frequently using his music to tackle social issues in a genre dominated by gangsta rap. What was his first song?
Tupac’s debut solo single was “Trapped”, from his 1991 album “2Pacalypse Now”. The track addresses police racial profiling and abuse and how it can encourage violent retaliation from those who feel oppressed by it. Earlier in 1991, he appeared on the track “Same Song” by Digital Underground, his first commercial recording.
For more on Tupac’s early career, his debut group track and solo single, read on.
Both of Tupac’s parents, Billy Garland and Afeni Shakur, were active Black Panther Party members during the late 60s and early 70s.
The family moved to Baltimore in 1984 and Tupac transferred to the Baltimore School for the Arts, where he studied jazz, poetry, acting, and ballet. He has cited Shakespeare as one of his inspirations, saying that the playwright’s themes are timeless.
Tupac started rapping in high school, winning rap competitions against his fellow students and listened to diverse musicians such as U2, Culture Club, and Kate Bush.
Tupac’s earliest appearance on a single, now using the name 2Pac, came on January 6, 1991, when Digital Underground released their track “Same Song”. The song was included as part of the soundtrack for Dan Akroyd’s directorial debut “Nothing But Trouble”, released on February 15, 1991.
The song was included on the group’s EP album, “This Is an EP Release” and later on the soundtrack for the 2003 documentary “Tupac: Resurrection”. Tupac raps the final verse of the song and appears in the video, which largely serves as promotion for “Nothing but Trouble”, dressed as an African king.
Tupac’s guest appearance in “Same Song” led to him being offered a recording contract by Interscope Records. Shakur signed the deal, paving the way to his first solo album, which was released later in the year.
Tupac’s first solo single was “Trapped”, the second track from his debut album “2Pacalypse Now”. The single released on September 25, 1991, published by Interscope Records.
“Trapped” deals with the subject of police brutality and harassment and the way they can provoke violent retaliation if an individual is pushed too far. The track samples “The Spank” by James Brown and “Holy Ghost” by the Bar-Kays.
The inspiration for the song and its video came when Tupac was allegedly assaulted by the Oakland Police Department. Shakur felt that the police had taken an unnecessarily long time to issue him with a ticket for jaywalking and then mocked his name.
Tupac responded by cursing at the officers and was apparently violently reprimanded. The video for the song shows Tupac locked up in jail. “Trapped” was the first of many songs by Tupac to deal with the subjects of inequality and institutional discrimination.
Tupac sued the police department for $10 million. It is worth noting that the case was settled for a reported $42,000, indicating that there was likely some truth in his recounting of events.
“Trapped” is a rarity among Tupac’s songs in that he was not the main writer, rather it was written as a demo by his friend Ray Luv. The result is that the song has a more traditional rap sound than the bulk of his discography.
The album, “2Pacolypse Now”, was released on November 12, 1991, and reached number 64 on the Billboard albums chart, as well as 13 on the R&B/Hip-Hop albums chart.