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In the Depths of Solitude by Tupac Shakur

“In the Depths of Solitude” is a poem written by American hip hop sensation Tupac Shakur, published in his collection, The Rose That Grew from Concrete. The book was published posthumously in 1999. Shakur wrote these poems between 1989 and 1991. The second poem of the collection is an insight into the mind of Shakur, as is evident in the subtitle of the poem “Dedicated 2 Me.” The title of the poem proves introspective as we see 2Pac addressing the internal conflicts that plagued him, nonetheless he remains self-reliant and optimistic about his life. The dichotomy of a sensitive poet and a street rapper is precisely embodied in this poem.

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In the Depths of Solitude
by Tupac Shakur

I exist in the depths of solitude
pondering my true goal
Trying 2 find peace of mind
and still preserve my soul
Constantly yearning 2 be accepted
and from all receive respect
Never comprising but sometimes risky
and that is my only regret
A young heart with an old soul
how can there be peace
How can I be in the depths of solitude
when there R 2 inside of me
This duo within me causes
the perfect opportunity
2 learn and live twice as fast
as those who accept simplicity

- from The Rose That Grew from Concrete (1999)
Analysis of In the Depths of Solitude by Tupac Shakur


Summary

“In the Depths of Solitude” begins with Shakur making a claim that solitude is a state of mind, where he finds himself wondering about his true purpose. Throughout the poem, he feels conflicted. He wants peace, but he is intertwined in a life full of disquietude. 2Pac wants respect, but he cannot escape the decadence. He yearns to be conventional, but he does not want to have any regrets. Lastly, he claims to have a young heart with an old soul. This young-old duo creates friction for he finds it quite difficult to identify himself. As the poem concludes, we find him making peace. He turns this duality into a source that gives him resilience and simplicity.

Form, Rhyme Scheme, & Meter

“In the Depths of Solitude” is written in free-verse form, which makes use of no set rhyme scheme or meter, and it often sounds like spoken word. Shakur’s use of free verse is in sync with his public appearance as a rapper precisely because hip hop makes use of speech-like utterances to create rhythm and musicality. He often talked of sensitive and serious issues in his rap songs as well as poetry. The free-verse form proves to be an appropriate medium to express his subject.

Besides, this poem is curated in an irregular iambic-anapestic meter. The stressed and unstressed syllables are arranged skillfully in order to create a rap-like flow. Shakur uses symbols in place of words. He replaces words such as “eye,” “heart,” and peace” with their corresponding symbols. He doodles the words out in order to add uniqueness to the verse.

In the Depths of Solitude by Tupac Shakur Handwritten Version
Handwritten Version of “In the Depths of Solitude” by Tupac Shakur


Poetic Devices & Figurative Language

Symbolism

Symbolism is a literary device that employs a word and phrase to represent a meaning that is not necessarily literal. “In the Depths of Solitude” makes use of the number “2” as a symbol to represent the recurrent conflict and duality in the speaker’s mind. The number “2” is repeated four times throughout the poem. The conflict is not just mental but spiritual and pervades all aspects of 2Pac’s life. This poem proves to be a perfect embodiment of internal conflict.

Metaphor

A metaphor is a literary device that references one thing by pointing at another. The main metaphor of the poem, “the depths of solitude,” enables the speaker to address the greater metaphysical questions about life’s purpose, identity, and existence. Shakur was conflicted due to his personal past and a collective history of injustice inflicted on black people. This conflict presented as the “duo” of a “young heart” and an “old soul” within may not bring him peace, but it is definitely a source of knowledge and strength.

Simile

Shakur uses a simile in the last two lines of the poem: “2 learn and live twice as fast/ as those who accept simplicity.” In these lines, he refers to those who accept simplicity and claims that they are the ones who live without any regrets. Shakur, indeed, is one of them as he has the “perfect opportunity” caused by the conflicting “duo” inside him.

Enjambment

This device is used throughout the poem in order to connect the lines internally. Shakur employs enjambment in the first half of the poem, such as in “I exist in the depths of solitude/ pondering my true goal.” He also uses this device in the ending: “This duo within me causes/ the perfect opportunity/ 2 learn and live twice as fast/ as those who accept simplicity.”

Alliteration

It occurs in the following instances:

  • true goal/ Trying 2
  • receive respect”
  • learn and live”

Rhetorical Question

Though Shakur does not use question marks at the end of the following lines, these are rhetorical questions, the answers to which are embedded within:

How can there be peace

How can I be in the depths of solitude


Line-by-Line Analysis & Explanation

Lines 1-8

I exist in the depths of solitude

pondering my true goal

Trying 2 find peace of mind

and still preserve my soul

Constantly yearning 2 be accepted

and from all receive respect

Never comprising but sometimes risky

and that is my only regret

“In the Depths of Solitude” uses the first-person narrative technique. The speaker is 2Pac himself. He begins by consolidating his own existence in “solitude” and puts forth the greater metaphysical question about what he truly wants out of his life. This section of the poem, like the rest of the poem, is coupled with conflicts. These conflicts are often internal in nature; Shakur wants peace that comes with a simple, solitary life. He wants to keep his spirit intact. When readers look at 2Pac’s life, it is marked by violence and disruption.

Shakur also wants acceptance and respect. He admits that his desires will only drive him away from a life fully lived on his own terms. A life lived according to the will of society is not a life fully lived. In contrast, living waywardly is also a bit “risky.” Shakur has tried living his life under the influence of others, which is the only thing he regrets the most.

These internal conflicts that surface from Shakur’s deep pondering bring forth his own feelings of isolation from the rest. It also hints at the discriminatory nature of society, where black people were more than often othered. It is difficult for Shakur to maintain peace and solitude when all through his life he has suffered violence and isolation along with his own kind in a harsh, ghettoed life amidst political upheavals.

Lines 9-16

A young heart with an old soul

how can there be peace

How can I be in the depths of solitude

when there R 2 inside of me

This duo within me causes

the perfect opportunity

2 learn and live twice as fast

as those who accept simplicity

In the last lines of “In the Depth of Solitude,” Shakur continues to exhibit his conflicted self. He is a young person but he thinks like an old one. There is often a tension between the joy and freedom of youth and the wisdom and experience of age. How can one possibly be at “peace” or exist in “solitude” when the conflict is so profound? Yet, readers find Shakur embracing this duality; this “duo” inside brings more perspectives to his life and this proves to be a chance for Shakur to learn and live at a pace that is faster than one who embraces “simplicity” or the ordinary.

The essence of these lines lies in the fact that 2Pac turns his sufferings into power, and conflicts into inspiration. This is something that gives him a vision. He, and the likes of him, then become the “other” because they have what the ordinary never possessed. This very conflict is both the reason for his rise and his doom.

Themes

Conflict and Duality

The most evident theme of “In the Depth of Solitude” is its engagement with the speaker’s conflicted and dual nature. He desires peace, yet is bestowed with a life full of conflicts. He wants to be accepted and respected by society, but, at the same, he wants to live by his own rules. Shakur is an old soul with a young heart, so he is often troubled. However, this very conflicting duality inside him has made him extraordinary.

Othering

Even though there are no explicit mentions of the subject of othering or discrimination, it is one of the integral themes of the poem. Shakur suffers due to the injustice existing in the world. In fact, the wisdom that he possesses even though he is young is due to his early age exposure to traumatic events. Even if he tries to steer his suffering toward learning, it does not pacify his mind. The isolation 2Pac felt being ahead of his time, had a lasting impact on both his professional and personal life.

Historical Context

The poetry of Tupac Amaru Shakur springs from the darker and deeper side of his life. From the very beginning, he had an unstable life. His mother, a member of the Black Panther Party, became an addict in the 1980s due to which Shakur had to often live with his friends and acquaintances. He was in an art school in Baltimore. This is where he first started writing poems. He kept those poems private.

His life in California, where he found himself in trouble with gangs and drug dealing, was also a source of inspiration. What remains an important influence on his poetry and music is the overall struggle of the black community in America. Their lives inside ghettoes were plagued by substance abuse, rape, and other sorts of criminal activities. This occurred due to the lack of opportunity and denial of basic rights.

Shakur’s rise to fame as part of Death Row Records was also the reason for his death because of the feud with Bad Boy Records, which is often known as the East Coast–West Coast hip hop rivalry. His collection of poetry, The Rose That Grew from Concrete was published posthumously in 1999, featuring some of his best-known pieces of poetry including the titular “The Rose That Grew from Concrete” and “In the Depths of Solitude.”

Questions & Answers

What is the meaning of the poem, “In the Depths of Solitude”? 

“In the Depths of Solitude” by Tupac Shakur is an intricate poem that deals with the subject of the conflicted self. There is a split in the mind of the speaker and he acknowledges both of his beings, often in conflict. He may be young but he has a soul of an elderly person. This proves to be a blessing in disguise as Shakur finds himself getting better at life. He can learn faster than the ordinary. He claims that he is conflicted and has suffered much more than anyone but that is precisely what separates him from the normal.

What is the central idea of “In the Depths of Solitude”?

The central idea of Tupac Shakur’s “In the Depths of Solitude” is a very optimistic one. The narrator, 2Pac has embraced the duality and conflict that exists within him. He is in touch with his wise, old self conscious of the world around him, yet he is very much aware of his energetic, youthful self. He does not let any particular side hold him back from living his life to the fullest.

What does the phrase, “In the Depths of Solitude” mean?

The phrase “In the Depths of Solitude” does not represent a state of being, rather it means a state of mind. In his depths of solitude, Shakur meditates on the metaphysical questions about purpose, existence, and identity. He is confronted by his conflicted self (a duo of young heart and old soul), which exists in the deepest part of his mind.

What is the deepest type of solitude according to the speaker? 

According to Shakur, the deepest type of solitude exists in his own mind. It is a state, where all his realities surface and he is often conflicted. So, one may infer that the deepest type of solitude comes from within, not without.

What is the tone of “In the Depths of Solitude”? 

The poem proves to be an exploratory one, so the tone shifts from pessimistic to optimistic. Shakur is first confused due to the duality that exists in his mind, but then he positively embraces the duo as a stimulator of knowledge and resilience. This duality is precisely what sets him apart from the simple crowd.

Who said, “I exist in the depths of solitude”?

Tupac Shakur, one of the greatest American rappers of all time, said “I exist in the depths of solitude” in his free-verse lyric “In the Depths of Solitude.” It is the first line of the poem followed by the line “pondering my true goal.”


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