Introduction By @TrueGodImmortal – We’ve been blessed as music fans to have a number of talented individuals in the game that leave an undeniable impact. Some leave a greater impact than others while there are a select few that transcend the normal guise of stardom. In Hip Hop, the biggest name to transcend normal stardom is Tupac Shakur.
A native of my hometown Baltimore, but an enigma that also resided in Oakland, New York (where he was born), and various locations, 2Pac was seen as the future. He was artistic. He was smart. Intelligent. The son of a Black Panther, he was born with strength with his soul that many wouldn’t be able to handle. When your lineage includes Black Panthers and revolution, you were just naturally going to be different from the rest of the world. Upon his birth in 1971, Pac encountered a less than ideal childhood growing up. With most artists, that upbringing would shape him to become more creative and expressive in his pain, emotions, and honesty.
When he reached his teenage years, Pac got his first real taste of artistic freedom by attending the Baltimore School For The Arts, which back then was held in such high regard as a school. He had attended Dunbar High initially but used his gifts to get into the School For The Arts, and the rest is history. It would be there that the Hip Hop artist and actor was born. Pac would study acting, poetry, jazz, and surprisingly ballet at the school, allowing his full scope of creativity and artistic vision to shine through. Pac would become popular at the school for his skills as a rapper and his ability to appeal to all crowds, something that would definitely make him easily accessible as a rapper later on in life. It was there in school that Pac would spark up a friendship with Jada Pinkett, and they would forge a bond that lasted a lifetime, and still seems to be extremely important for Jada even today.
From his time in Baltimore, one could say that Pac saw his genius and ability fully shaped and honed. Soon after he departed Baltimore for California, Pac would begin to pursue a dream as an artist, and his legacy from that point on would become something the likes of which we may never see again.
With his recent induction into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, Pac is now etched in history forever as a true legend. Today, I wanted to look back on his career, his life, his accomplishments, and everything he stood for, as we remember one of the greatest public figures in modern urban black culture. Sure, 2Pac was a rapper and actor, but he was more than that. He was a voice, he was a revolutionary, he was at times misguided, he was a contradiction, he was aggressive, abrasive, but most of all, he was himself always. Let’s take a look at the legend that was and always will be, 2Pac.
@CherchezLaPorsh – History has known many revolutionaries. They’ve always inspired, motivated and shared their vision of change by rallying, public speaking and remaining in the public eye to gain a following. Usually those revolutionaries focus their efforts to bring about political change and seem to use one method: speeches. There have been a few who have impacted the world just as much, but took an entirely different approach. Tupac was one of those people and it’s only fitting to recognize him as the legend he is.
It’s not easy to write about someone who excelled at poetry, was an incredible rapper, an inspiring writer, a worldwide influencer, and who believed in a set of morals. For the duration of his (short) life, he held himself to those beliefs, morals and values in everything that he did. There are so many aspects to Tupac’s life. He was a multifaceted and incredibly talented person, and while he’s my second favorite rapper of all time, it’s the poetic and philosophical sides that set him apart from any other rapper at the time (in the 90’s).
He was only 18 at the time he started writing poetry and with this, his “revolutionist” mindset officially began. He recognized the need for positive influences and wanted to incorporate his art which was rooted in honest and vulnerable emotion, respect to his culture and beginnings, and of course, integrity. Pac used poetry as a means of addressing and explaining experiences although he kept them to himself mostly, he tried to inspire others to do the same. What he wouldn’t know at the time was that by joining an educational program, it connected him with other like-minded people and soon after he attended poetry circles. He began sharing his poems with the participants not knowing that with each one he was inspiring another writer, another poet, and another mind. In 1999, the world was gifted with a compilation of his poetry titled “The Rose That Grew From Concrete”, and in it is a collection of poems that use every poetic device that provokes thought and provides a perspective that we would otherwise not have.
My favorite poems are many but the ones that stand out the most are: “The Rose That Grew From Concrete” about overcoming obstacles; “Untitled”, which touches on freedom of expression, living in oppression and his reflections on his African roots and “Starry Night”, the poem he dedicated to the memory of Vincent Van Gogh (one of my favorite artists) celebrating his art and life in the most honest way. As I said, I appreciate all of Pac’s published poetry, unfortunately it wasn’t until after his death that we got to see first-hand how this aspect of his art would impact people so much so that there would be university classes that were developed using Tupac’s poetry and lyrics as the curriculum which started at UC Berkeley but later used across the US.
The philosophical side is another worth mentioning. Tupac’s personal beliefs were laced in his music, of course in his poetry but mostly in his interviews when he was in the public eye and had the widest audience. He often spoke about the problems within law enforcement, the poverty that was crippling so many neighborhoods across the country but also used his voice to uplift people and sprinkle as much positivity as he could. The best example I can think of is an interview Tupac did while speaking with a cop while in jail in ’95 after the kids shot a police officer and it was blamed on Tupac’s lyrics. The confidence, passion, honesty, respect, and heart he speaks with is unmatched. As much as the state trooper is trying to spin negativity, Tupac never wavers and articulates so well the intended meaning. He points out that an agenda was trying to be pushed and conveys it in the most respectful way. This is reflective of his self-confidence and certainty which he displayed at all times, no matter the conditions, the questioner or audience.
Tupac is widely regarded as the greatest rapper ever but, we often forget to acknowledge how impactful Tupac was as an actor, a poet, a visionary and an icon. 21 years ago, while in Las Vegas Pac was shot several times. I remember the “breaking news” ticker on the TV vividly, as it interrupted every program and of course we were in disbelief, it was late and it was Pac. We thought and hoped that it was like other times and he would recover and come back stronger. No one thought that night, how it would be if Pac didn’t recover, if he didn’t make it, but of course, six days later we learned he had passed. It took a couple years after his passing before it set in and we realized the magnitude of this loss. Tupac is quoted with saying: “I’m not saying I’m going to change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world”. I never really understood it until I realized that he was so much more than just a rapper limited to a niche audience.
His wisdom, his poetry and his ideologies were laced into educational institutions, in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in the National Recording Registry, and of course, in the foundation of Hip Hop. His audience stretches so far beyond just music fans that without a doubt he will have had a role in some positive change that will occur. His manager, Leila Steinberg wrote “it took his death to teach us that when one man dies, we all bleed” – it’s been 21 years and the void he left has never been filled. Rest in Peace Pac!
@JADBeats – My first introduction to Pac was seeing him with Digital Underground, which I kind of brushed off, as it was more of a funny thing to me being that he was with Shock G. Once “Brenda’s Got A Baby” came out, I started to pay attention. I liked the sound but I didn’t come to appreciate that song until a little later when I was ready to digest the message. “I Get Around” hit and became a classic. It was and still to this day is one of those quintessential fun summer songs. Then I heard which is probably my all-time favorite Pac song “Keep Ya Head Up” and then I realized that “okay, I like this guy”.
Me Against The World is the first Pac album I possessed and played on my own and I’d say this was my favorite album out of his discography. I loved “Temptation” and watching that video as a kid had me wondering “wow is this what it’s like dealing with women”. There was also “Dear Mama”, “So Many Tears”, and many more. This album was the one that took him to the next level but also came with troubles. Pac was very contradictive in a way being the positive black power unity guy then being the negative fuck everybody unless they’re from the west guy at times. But who isn’t this way as a rapper? Most rappers are this way, yet it seemed he was influenced a lot by the people he was around or felt the need to show how much of a thug he could be. Those were dangerous times as a rapper. It was all about competition and who could make it to the top. Even with all of his antics, we always got the true Pac in interviews. That’s the part of him I admired and respected.
When Pac was shot, I remember hearing it on the radio and thinking nothing of it because we’d been here before so of course he’d pull through….but once they announced he was dead, it was like the world stopped. I surprisingly dropped a few tears immediately. All of his meaningful songs and lyrics came rushing to my mind. It was the first entertainer’s death that affected me. There was so much disbelief about him being gone that people wanted to hold on to any hope they could latch onto so it’s understandable why so many stories and rumors of Pac faking his death, dying on Friday the 13th, coming back in 7 years or being in Cuba festered. It wasn’t a stretch being that his posthumous albums added on to this mystery and even filming the “I Aint Mad At Cha” video right before his death and dropping it right after his death showing him getting shot leaving a club with his soul-chilling in heaven with other musical legends. Also, his video for “I Wonder If Heaven Got A Ghetto” gave you hope because it suggested that Pac was still alive 6 days later getting treated by nuns and there was a shot of him or a look-alike in the opening scenes.
Now that years have passed, people have accepted that he’s gone but there are still those who still believe he’s in Cuba, so who knows. I always wondered if the writers of “Final Destination” got their idea from Pac’s “Hail Mary” video of death or karma eventually catching up to you by freak accidents occurring. Pac was a brilliant man who was wise beyond his years making him seem older than he was, but he was only in his early 20s with a lot of fight. Many of the things he rapped about 20 years ago are still happening today, from police brutality, brothers killing brothers, gang violence, mass poverty, and more. I don’t believe he would’ve stopped or cured us from this, but I think he would’ve put a dent in the effects on us because that’s just the type of soul he had.
He had great ideas and could’ve done a lot for the black community which I believe he would’ve had his time not been cut short. I believe his path would’ve went beyond Hip Hop and acting to the political realm. He was one of the first talking about putting money back into the community, supporting and owning our own spaces. There’s never been an artist like him though many have tried by using his flow, cadence, and style, but none have ever come close to his authenticity. His passion came through when he spoke and rapped so you connected to what was being said and that’s why Pac is loved all across the world and is a cultural icon.
Outro By @TrueGodImmortal – For me, my introduction to Pac came early on. He was in the Digital Underground at the time and he didn’t really stick out to me honestly. It wasn’t until I heard “Same Song” that I actually got intrigued by his ability. His short verse wasn’t spectacular but for a young kid, it was enough to have me interested. I saw him on the music videos, but never thought much of it, until his debut solo album came out in late 1991. That album, 2Paclaypse Now, brought him more attention and stardom. It was then that we began to see the talent that Pac possessed. Over the next two years, he would appear in two huge films, Juice and Poetic Justice, alongside Omar Epps and Janet Jackson respectively, earning his stripes in cinema. After that, Pac would end up releasing his second album and giving us the all-time classics “I Get Around” and “Keep Ya Head Up”. Over the years following his 1993 sophomore release, Pac made a bigger name for himself through his time on Death Row, his random stints in jail and beefs, his legal issues, but mostly due to his honest and raw music, his focus on trying to heal the poverty-stricken, and trying to bring some positivity to the community.
Pac, over recent years, began taking unwarranted slander, and while I can respect someone who shares the opinion that Pac wasn’t a gangsta (he wasn’t), or that he wasn’t the most gifted lyricist in all of Hip Hop (he is top tier regardless), what can never be taken away from him is the fact that Pac was just himself. He was an artist that gave you quotes for days, whether in interviews or songs, he spoke from the heart and what he was feeling at the time. He is also known for having one of the best three album runs in Hip Hop with Me Against The World, All Eyez On Me, and The 7 Day Theory.
Simply put, Pac could do it all. Whether Hip Hop, poetry, activism, acting, mentoring, motivating, and more, 2Pac did it all in just 25 years on this earth. That is without a doubt the mark of a legend. RIP Pac – DAR