Is the Song Brenda's Got a Baby a True Story?
In 1991, the late rapper Tupac Shakur, or 2pac, wrote a song titled "Brenda's Got a Baby" for his first solo album which was a dramatic ballad about a 12 year old girl who was impregnated by her cousin and gave birth to the baby while sitting on the floor in a bathroom. The most tragic details of the story is that she couldn't tell her parents, so she ended up throwing the baby in a dumpster after giving birth. Upon walking away from the dumpster, she hears the baby crying and changes her mind. To support the baby, she tries to work a job and then trys to sell drugs, which both fail. She then trys to become a prostitute and starts selling her body, which ultimately leads to her death at only 12 years old.
Now many of Shakur's fans are wondering this story could actually be true. The fact that the music video for the song reads "Based on a True Story" in the intro lends even more weight to the possibility that it is true. But how many movies have we seen where they were based on a true story, but many details were changed, such as names, places, and even certain events in the storyline? "Based" on a true story, does not actually mean it "is" a true story. For example, let's take a look at the movie Titanic. While there was an actual ship named The RMS Titanic, many of the characters and their stories were fictional. There was no Rose and Jack, or lost "Heart of the Ocean" diamond aboard the Titanic. So the writers used true historical events as the base for the storyline, but created fictional scenarios upon that. This is what "Based on a True Story" actually means.
So how much of Tupac's story was actually true? Was there really a 12 year old girl named Brenda who slept with her cousin, threw her baby in the dumpster, and was eventually murdered? I've heard many rumors over the years. The most common one being that Tupac read about a similar story in the newspaper, and didn't actually know a girl named Brenda. Upon looking at the Wikipedia article for the song title, there's a section of the article that someone has added that states that 2pac had read about a 12 year old girl who had sex with with her cousin and did indeed have a baby. It goes on to state that she put her baby in an incinerator. However, this variation of the story in Wikipedia does not have a reference or citing source. So this scenario can't be verified and anybody could have added it since Wikipedia is a user-editable encyclopedia. It also completely contradicts the story in the song, because Brenda ended up keeping her baby instead of leaving him in the dumpster (or putting him in an incinerator). We know this, because after she throws her child in the trash bin, Shakur states that she didn't have any money or a babysitter, which prevented her from keeping a job. She must have still had her child if she needed a babysitter, All of this prompted me to investigate further.
I started my investigation with Google. I searched for articles that contained the words "baby incineration" and "baby incinerator". I excluded all webpages that quoted Wikipedia to narrow the search down. I tried searching for variable phrases such as "12 year old incinerator" or "cousin 12 year old pregnant".
After I had spent a good amount of searching, I hadn't found any articles related to abandoned babies and incinerators, aside from the Elisabeth Fritzl case, which came to light in 2008. However, I found thousands of articles in which babies had been thrown in garbage cans and dumpsters. It seems to be more common than most people realize. According to a study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 65 infants were abandoned in 1992 alone. But there must have been one story that stood out from all the rest in 2pac's mind. Unless the entire story was fictional and solely based on the hundreds of babies that have been discarded by their mothers over the years. Maybe 'Pac was just speaking in generalities about a common situation, and wanted to bring attention to it with a personalized story about a 12 year old girl, to give the story more depth. It's not uncommon for Shakur to write about the social ills of urban life. In fact, that's what his entire legacy was built on, that was his M.O.
I wasn't satisfied. If there was a particular story out there that inspired him, a single incident, I wanted to know. I then decided to check local articles from the areas Tupac had lived in, and around the times he had lived in those places. I checked Brooklyn, Harlem, Baltimore, Marin City, and Oakland articles, but came up with nothing. At least not within the time frames when he was living in these areas.
After an exhaustive search, I had to conclude that the rumored story about the child being thrown in the incinerator was false. I read hundreds of articles about children being thrown in dumpsters. There was many cases that stood out, such as Prom Mom Melissa Drexer, who gave birth to her baby in a High School Bathroom and discarded the baby in the trash before returning to the dance floor at her Senior Prom. Also, who could forget Amy Grossberg, who birthed her child in a hotel room, before her boyfriend Brian Peterson put the baby in a plastic bag and left it in a dumpster. These stories made national headlines in the media and were on TV and in the papers for months. Everybody was shocked that High School kids could do such a thing. So I think that if there were a 12 year old who experienced all the things Shakur wrote about, and the media was aware of it, it would be fairly easy to find an article about it online. Something like that would be major news, especially since it would have occured before those other two cases I mentioned.
Many of the various stories I had found about children being abandoned in garbage cans or dumpsters were news articles from the 1980's. The atmosphere for urban teens was much different towards the late 80's because of the Crack Epidemic. Many women were discarding their babies as a result of their drug habits and increased recklessness. I believe he did in fact read one of these stories, about a baby being found in a dumpster. In fact, I believe he read many, since it was a relatively common incident in the media. But I don't believe the rest of the story existed until he sat down and penned it. I don't believe he based the song on a single person or single incident he read about. I think was moved by the stories he continued to hear about, and imagined what type of scenarios could have occured that would result in a baby being thrown in a dumpster. I believe that Tupac, like the writers of Titanic, took real life incidents and used those as the base of his story, and then added fictional characters and a storyline to give it more insight.
Regardless of where the inspiration for the story came from, the issue still remains and babies are still being found in dumpsters across America every now and then. So I guess it's not relevant whether or not it was a real story or was inspired by a single incident. It's probaby a safe bet to assume that there are many "Brenda's" out there that the media doesn't know about, and probably even stranger scenarios than hers when it comes to teen pregnancy.
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