Tupac 20 years later- His legacy of life, meaning and form in hip hop remains
Twenty years ago iconic rapper Tupac Shakur died, six days after being gunned down on the Las Vegas strip.
Beyond the music, Pac as his fans will refer to him became a global cultural icon on the level of Elvis Presley, Bob Marley and John Lenn0n.
Tupac’s passion came from the people who gifted him to the word. His was a conscious decision to reflect the society he lived in. A divisive figure in some circles his political consciousness shaped his music giving life, meaning and form to his expression. Who could ever forget the first time that we heard Brenda’s Got A Baby:
I hear Brenda’s got a baby
But, Brenda’s barely got a brain
A damn shame
The girl can hardly spell her name
(That’s not our problem, that’s up to Brenda’s family)
Well let me show ya how it affects the whole community
Now Brenda really never knew her moms and her dad was a
We are talking about a time when rap was about bottles, models, misogyny, outbursts of anger against the system. Rather than talk about teenage pregnancy in some disconnected prose or expletive-ridden rage, he gave it a face. A beautiful one called Brenda.
The realities were all around him. He shared in the pain, sorrow and beauty of the world he found himself in. Pac talked about himself being a walking contradiction.
In the midst of manifold violence (Toss It Up) he could pull out a pro-feminist bars like in Keep Ya Head Up.
And when he tells you you ain’t nothin’ don’t believe him
And if he can’t learn to love you you should leave him
Cause sista you don’t need him
And I ain’t tryin to gash up, I just call em how I see em
But he grappled with the patriarchal misogynist world that shaped him. He adds:
Ran with the local crew, and had a smoke or two
And I realize momma really paid the price
She nearly gave her life, to raise me right
And all I had ta give her was my pipe dream
Of how I’d rock the mic, and make it to tha bright screen
I’m tryin to make a dollar out of fifteen cents
It’s hard to be legit and still pay tha rent
And in the end it seems I’m headin for tha pen
On tracks like Wonder why they call you bitch, he talks about a woman’s life choices and the advice he had for her.
Even in his tirade against former friend, the late Notorious BIG on Hit Em Up he said:
Killing ain’t fair but somebody gotta do it
Twenty years later the same challenges exist. The dreams remain unfulfilled. The injustice, inequality, police brutality, abuse of women, drug infested slums exist in the ghettos of this world. In effect in many ways it is worse and Pac’s words have now attained a global meaning.
In an interview in 1995 he said:
The only thing that can kill me is death, that’s the only thing that can ever stop me, is death, and even then my music will live forever.
And with the world remaining troubled he will live forever.