Rhetorical Analysis Of Tupac Shakur's 'The Rose That Grew From Concrete'

(Play video) From the perspective of many people, Tupac Shakur was a very creative man who used his craft to tell his story and tell the truths of reality. For this tribute, I will be focusing on the question: Did the rhetor select the best rhetorical means available to evoke the intended response from the audience? By employing neo-Aristotelian criticism, I will be examining how influential Tupac Shakur’s rhetoric was for his audience by using as my artefact, a poem from his anthology published in 1991. As a lover of poetry, I have always found myself having a deep interest in Tupac’s poems, especially the rhetoric I will be focusing on. I’m curious about the techniques that Tupac used to effectively convey his message to the audience. In my tribute, I will examine the context in which the poem was published, analyse the poem by applying two of the five canons of rhetoric and assess the success of Tupac’s rhetoric for its intended audience.   

I will be examining three areas that will help provide the context for the artefact, that is: Tupac as a rhetor, the occasions on which the rhetoric was presented and the audience to whom the rhetoric was addressed. 

Information about Tupac’s background helps us to understand the motives for and nature of this rhetoric. Tupac Amaru Shakur was an influential American rapper, actor and poet whose death still attracts conspiracy theories today. Tupac died on September 13, 1996, at age 25. Mainstream media reports indicate that he died of gunshot wounds in a Las Vegas drive-by shooting. History.com (2009) reported that Tupac remains one of Hip-hop’s most influential voices as a consistent release of his album have kept relevant up to today. Tupac was an accomplished rapper and had a way with words, speaking to the concerns and struggles of African American citizens, particularly those of lower socioeconomic standings. Biography.com (2017) suggests that Tupac was a “sensitive, precociously talented and troubled soul” and that his music career began with him as a rebel with a cause to articulate the injustices, faced by many African Americans. Greenburg (2011) reported in Forbes magazine that Tupac has sold over 75 million records worldwide, with the bulk of it coming after his death. Tupac spent most of his early life in the black community of Harlem, which is often stereotyped and associated with crime and violence. Most of his work has been noted for addressing contemporary social issues that plagued inner cities during the 1990s, and he is to be considered a symbol of resistance and activism against inequality. Tupac’s works have not only influenced the people of his time, but his works are influencing the lives of many people in the twenty-first century, even me. One such work is the poem, The Rose that Grew from Concrete.

The Rose that Grew from Concrete is a poem within the anthology, The Rose that Grew from Concrete. The collection comprises of seventy-two poems that are said to have been written from the time Tupac Shakur was nineteen years old. The poem The Rose that Grew from Concrete was published in a period where young black men from the ‘ghetto’ in the US, like Tupac himself, was seen as either drug dealers or thugs. This poem was a means of educating people about his life as a product of the ‘ghetto’ trying to make it in society. In an interview on YouTube Shakur explained the context of his poem… 

During 1991 when this poem was published, the audience would have been mainly persons from the black community in the US and people who were a fan of his craft. This rhetoric is used by the rhetor as a means of educating, motivating and bringing people together, especially people in the black community. During the setting in which the rhetoric was published, African Americans, especially males from the ‘ghetto’ were faced with a lot of discrimination and so this poem was a way of educating the audience about the reality that existed, motivate the audience that they too can come from nothing and become something and try to bring the people from the ghetto together. On the other hand, this rhetoric plays a much bigger role in the twenty-first century because the poem has taken on new interpretations and more audience than it did in the 1990’s. The rhetoric stands as a reminder for many that, it doesn’t matter where you are from, you can become that rose that grew from concrete beyond the odds that exist. 

The Neo- Aristotelian criticism was used to critique this rhetoric because it is well suited for it. This method of criticism was used because it is utilized to explore the rhetor and the audience and how the relationship between both is tied to the purpose of the rhetoric. Also, this criticism helps the critic to analyse whether the rhetor used the effective means available to persuade the audience to receive the message being conveyed. 

I will now examine Tupac’s rhetoric itself by applying two of the five canons of rhetoric. I will examine how Shakur used invention and style to create a rhetoric that evoked the intended response from the audience. 

In terms of invention, Shakur utilized mainly artistic proofs. As it relates to ethos, the rhetor uses himself figuratively as a rose to convey his message to the audience that a rose (the rhetor) can grow from concrete because he was a rose that grew from the concrete (ghetto). This is evident in the fact that Tupac was an African American male that came from the ‘ghetto’ and became one of the most influential rappers and poet of all time. Throughout the speech, the rhetor evoked pathos by generating a mixture of the emotions. These included pity, thoughtfulness and triumph. Evidence of pathos is illustrated in stanza seven and eight when the rhetor said “Long live the rose that grew from concrete, when no one else ever cared.”

As it relates to the style of the rhetoric, the rhetor uses an emotional language to convey his message to his audience. The rhetor employs an informal tone through the poem. This is evident as the poem is written like a spoken conversation. The rhetor begins the poem by questioning his audience and as he proceeds throughout the poem, he gives the audience more incite about the rose (Tupac Shakur). The rhetor also uses several literary devices such as symbolism, personification, alliteration and metaphor to connect with the audience. For instance, the rhetor utilizes the rose and concrete metaphor to depict his reality to give the audience a more lucid understanding of the message being conveyed. 

Tupac Shakur did select the best rhetorical means available to evoke the intended response from his audience. First, it is important to note that at the time that this rhetoric was published the rhetors audience was mainly young people who were going through a similar situation as the rhetor and people who were a fan of his art. As such, the use of a poem to convey the message that, it is hard to make something of yourself when you are from the ghetto, but it is not impossible, is very creative and effective because poems are always open to different interpretations. Invention was used by the rhetor to give the audience a more intimate and vivid view of the rose’s (the rhetor) experience with breaking through the concrete (the ghetto) and what nature’s law (society) expects of it. The emotions generated in the rhetoric also helped to evoke the intended response as the audience would have been better able to connect with the rhetor and even share similar emotions because they too can relate to the rhetor’s experience. The style was also skilfully used by the rhetor, as he uses the symbol of a rose growing through concrete to show how euphoric it is to not allow society to dictate your future and destiny. The rhetor did not only evoke a response from the audience during the publication of the poem but also evoke a response from the audience in the twenty-first century. Evidence of this can be seen through the various analysis and interpretations that have been done on the internet about this rhetoric and the many tributes addressed to Tupac Shakur for his rhetoric The Rose that Grew from Concrete. 


  1. Biography.com. (2017, December 04). Tupac Shakur Biography.
  2. https://www.biography.com/musician/tupac-shakur
  3. Foss, S.K. (2009). Rhetorical criticism: exploration and practice. Long Grove, IL.: Waveland Press, Inc.
  4. Greenburg. Z.O. (2011, March 21). Tupac Shakur Earning Like He's Still Alive.
  5. https://www.forbes.com/sites/zackomalleygreenburg/2011/05/31/tupac-shakur-earning-like-hes-still-alive/#11f54843641e
  6. History.com. (2009, November 13). Tupac Shakur dies. https://www.history.com/this-day-in- history/tupac-shakur-dies
16 December 2021
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