Today marks the 15th anniversary of the death of Tupac Shakur. From the time I heard my first Tupac song, to the day I got my first album, to today – Tupac has played a “big brother” role throughout my life and I’m sure the lives of many others in my generation. When Pac died I was 7 years old. I didn’t have much exposure to rap at the time, but I had heard a few songs (California Love, 2 of Amerikas Most Wanted, and How Do You Want It) at different times that burned his name and sound into my mind.
I was in the 7th or 8th grade when I got “The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory” (everybody called it “Mackavelli”). I had already built an interest in reading up on Black history, and eventually researching the artists that I listened to became a part of my self-education. I had heard the names of the Black Panther Party, Huey P. Newton, Malcolm X, and Black Power, but I didn’t know much about any of them in detail. Listening to Tupac’s more socially conscious music led me to study those names and more as a teen. Those studies and the messages in Tupac’s, as well as the lessons that can be learned from examining his life are what led me to my current understanding of Black Power. And without that world view this blog probably would never have been created.
Despite the events that took place in Tupac’s life that would raise eyebrows for many about Tupac as a man, and Hip Hop itself, few can argue against his artisic genius. From the feelings of sympathy, sadness, and desperation in songs like “Brenda’s Got a Baby” and “Lord Knows”, to the hyped, partying mood in “How Do U Want It”, to a pissed off but empowered feeling from “Letter 2 the President”, “White Man’s World”, “Panther Power”, and “Soulja’s Story”, to moments of introspection and hope with “Who Do U Believe In”, “Better Dayz”, and “Thug’s Mansion” – Tupac’s music is mood altering.
The brother’s lyricism and symbology have led to thousands of web sites, books, and YouTube videos analyzing his words. Fans looking to understand references he made to past and (at his time) present personalities, events, and concepts to drawing connections between opinions Pac stated when he was alive to things going on today. One thing I always try to remind people of when they get too caught up in the “illuminati killed Tupac” and “Pac being alive” hype is that it doesn’t really matter if Tupac is dad or alive. He put the messages in his music and tailored his persona and sound the way he did for a reason. From experience, I’ve seen that when you go too deep for too long on sociality or politically conscious issues, you can quickly lose the interest of groups ranging from preps to jocks, to thugs and wanabe’s. Tupac tailored his music so that the conscious message was still present in most of his songs, but it didn’t turn off the average listener who wasn’t interested in such subjects.
Whether you understood or agreed with his message or no, you still heard the message; the seed was still planted. Whether those seeds take root through conversation, experience, or your own study is up to you and chance. Regardless, Pac put the messages in his music not for us t argue whether he was dead or not. He wanted us to feel the way he felt about the issues he spoke about and act on those feelings. Tupac said “I may not change the world, but I guarantee you I will spark the mind that is going to change the world.” I would like to think that I am one of those minds. R.I.P. and Thank You, Tupac.