When I was about 6/7 years old, I heard Brenda’s Got a Baby for the first time. My dad would always play Tupac’s music (CDs) on the radio in our car. I enjoy all of his music and don’t have a favorite song. However, this song particularly made me a fan of Tupac. All children love a good story and I was intrigued by this one. Now, how in the world did I understand the intensity of the lyrics to the song at such an early age? I don’t know. The song, to me, is comparable to an easy read. It was inspired by a true story. In 1991, Tupac read an article about a young girl from Brooklyn, New York who threw her baby into a trash compactor and felt compelled to write about it in lyrical form. The baby was found alive. He couldn’t get the story off of his mind for a while. Brenda’s Got a Baby is not only a tribute to the real young lady and baby, but, a tribute to all young girls who grow up in poverty stricken areas dealing with similar issues. It’s easy to assume that all girls who become mothers in their pre-teens and teen years are wild, out of control, and so on. For some of these young parents, their pregnancies are results of rape (whether it be sex against the victim’s will or the victim being underaged even if the victim consents/statutory rape). For more details regarding the true story, I provided links to articles below. Tupac raps straight through the entire song, no hook in between. So, where I chose to break the lyrics apart may not make sense to readers. Here’s a breakdown of lyrics from the song.
I’ll explain the lyrics bits at a time and include my interpretations of those lyrics.
Got a (got a)
Say that one more time Brenda
Got a (baby)
I hear Brenda’s got a baby
But, Brenda’s barely got a brain
A damn shame, the girl can hardly spell her name
[Money B.]- (That’s not our problem, that’s up to Brenda’s family)
Well let me show ya how it affects the whole community
The song opens with dialogue between Tupac and his friend, Money B. (Tupac is speaking to a group of people). A young girl named Brenda has a baby. Being that she’s so young, she doesn’t have much of an education. This may be a reach, but the “the girl can hardly spell her name” lyric always made me believe Brenda had some sort of learning disability. The lyric can either imply that she doesn’t have much of an education meaning she’s only experienced elementary and middle school, or it can imply that she has a disability and isn’t learning basic skills at home (The last article that I came across confirmed that she was a slow reader; the link is below). When Money B. states, “That’s not our problem, that’s up to Brenda’s family”, it highlights a social issue from an individual standpoint, rather than a collective standpoint. Since the issue didn’t affect the individual directly, the individual didn’t see a reason to care. Tupac on the other hand approached the situation from more of a collective point of view, hence why he proceeds to tell Money B. and listeners how Brenda having a baby as an adolescent impacted the community as a whole.
Now Brenda really never knew her moms and her dad was a
Junky, went in death to his arms, it’s sad ’cause I bet
Brenda doesn’t even know
Just ’cause your in the ghetto doesn’t mean you can’t grow (you can’t grow)
Brenda’s mom has neglected her; they may not have a close connection. Brenda’s dad battles a heroin addiction. Her home-life is unstable and she has no guidance. Her environment is toxic. Having dreams and goals are non-existent for young Brenda. Living in the ghetto doesn’t mean that you’re incapable of becoming more than your circumstance. Not every child in the ghetto is a product of their environment, meaning some children break cycles that cause the ghetto to be the way that it is.
But oh, that’s a thought, my own revelation
Do whatever it takes to resist the temptation
Brenda got herself a boyfriend
Her boyfriend was her cousin, now let’s watch the joy end
Tupac personally believes that everyone is capable of achieving anything greater than unfortunate circumstances. Living in urban areas, you’re surrounded by negativity and are subject to error. However, if you really want to make it out of that situation, you can’t give into temptation that will negatively affect your life in the long run. No, I’m not saying that it will be easy for everyone to avoid the temptation, you really have to put in effort. This is a case of insest; Brenda and her cousin are romantically involved. Although this is a romantic relationship, things are about to take a turn for the worst.
She tried to hide her pregnancy, from her family
Who didn’t really care to see, or give a damn if she
Went out and had a church of kids
As long as when the check came they got first dibs
Brenda is a young girl, who finds herself uncomfortably pregnant. She’s lost and embarrassed. Brenda keeps her pregnancy a secret from her family, although they could care less about what she’s experiencing. The only thing that matters to this dysfunctional family is the additional government funding they’ll receive (welfare assistance).
Now Brenda’s belly is gettin’ bigger
But no one seems to notice any change in her figure
She’s 12 years old and she’s having a baby
In love with the molester, who’s sexing her crazy
And yet she thinks that he’ll be with her forever
And dreams of a world with the two of them are together,
Whatever, he left her and she had the baby solo
She had it on the bathroom floor and didn’t know so
Brenda is further into her pregnancy and her attempts to hide it are a success because no one knows she’s pregnant. Her age is revealed (12) and she’s having a baby; her older cousin/boyfriend is the baby’s father. This is technically rape. His age isn’t revealed, but I’m assuming he’s 18 or older. In her mind, they’ll be a happy family forever. In reality, he doesn’t want anything to do with her or the baby and abandons them. Brenda gives birth alone on a bathroom floor.
She didn’t know, what to throw away and what to keep
She wrapped the baby up and threw him in the trash heep
I guess she thought she’d get away, wouldn’t hear the cries
She didn’t realize
How much the the little baby had her eyes
Now the baby’s in the trash heep balling
Momma can’t help her, but it hurts to hear her calling
The line, “she didn’t know, what to throw away and what to keep”, can be interpreted in a concrete or metaphorical context. Brenda is confused as to what to do. Should she throw her innocent baby into the trash or should she try and make the best of being a new mom with no help? She feels that she doesn’t have any other options but to throw away her baby (to my understanding, this was a common thing for young parents to do during this time). All possibilities of becoming more than the status quo seem impossible. Where many young girls are preparing for their futures and enjoying their youth, girls like Brenda are forced to grow up sooner. Immediately after throwing the baby in the trash, she takes the baby out. The baby’s cries make her feel guilty.
Brenda wants to run away
Momma say, you makin’ me lose pay
The social workers here everyday
Now Brenda’s gotta make her own way
Can’t go to her family, they won’t let her stay
No money no babysitter, she couldn’t keep a job
She tried to sell crack, but end up getting robbed
So now what’s next, there ain’t nothing left to sell
So she sees sex as a way of leaving hell
It’s paying the rent, so she really can’t complain
Prostitute, found slain, and Brenda’s her name, she’s got a baby
Brenda is probably ashamed of her actions and wants to get away. Her mom is upset with her because Brenda’s recent obstacles are causing social workers to show up at their residence more than usual; welfare checks aren’t coming in as much. They argue constantly. In a sense, Brenda’s mom views her as a cash cow. The government benefits depend heavily on Brenda’s presence in the home. Brenda is no longer in the home and has to fend for herself. You would think this would be a better option being that her home life is toxic. Maybe she’d be able to get some assistance with furthering her education. Granted, due to the crisis and her being a child, she’d have to go to foster care. Foster care in itself can be traumitizing for children. This isn’t ideal and can have many pros and cons, but there could potentially be a family willing to care for, love, and protect her. Unfortunately, harsh and tragic turns of events take place. She’s not allowed to live with her family and struggles to make ends meet; she’s unsuccessful at selling drugs. No one is helping her care for the baby. The only choice she feels she has left is to become a prostitute. The money she makes from this will be used to exit poverty. Although she’s not complaining, I can only imagine the amount of fear she faced being a young 12 year old girl, resorting to this way of life to survive. Brenda was more than likely afraid. In the end, she’s killed.
https://www.lyricfind.com/ (Song lyrics)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NRWUs0KtB-I (Brenda’s Got a Baby music video)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5joypkAZfDk (Actress who portrayed Brenda in the iconic video, Ethel “Eddy” Love, speaks)