'If you can't find somethin' to live for, you best find somethin' to die for."
With his biopic All Eyez On Me just around the corner, here's my personal tribute to Tupac Shakur.
Lesane Parish Crooks. Tupac Amaru Shakur. 2Pac. Makaveli.
What can I say. A legend of Hip Hop that was taken from us far too soon. The California-raised-Harlem-native made such a huge and everlasting impact. Pac died after being gunned down in a drive-by shooting, and now it’s 21 years later. 21 years. It’s unimaginable that a whole person could be born, grown up - now legal to drink - and they might not know who Tupac is. His legacy is set in stone, and forever it will remain.
"Will I survive, will I die?"
With Tupac's biopic, All Eyez On Me, coming out on Friday, I am both excited and nervous. You cannot mess up this man’s story. They will not be named, but some biopics have…well, failed. I was apprehensive, but the clips of the movie are promising. Demetrius Shipp Jr. is dedicated to this movie, dedicated to the legacy. I’ve been following him since the announcement was made and man, does this guy look like Tupac. Shipp is surely paying his respects to Pac. It must not be easy being in that shadow. There’s a lot of pressure on him, but so far it looks like he won’t disappoint.
Pac's induction into the Rock Hall of Fame was long overdue. Not that it mattered to his legacy, but the salute alone was amazing and needed for this new generation. The best part was Snoop Dogg’s tribute, paying respects to his former Death Row label-mate: "Understand all of Pac's sides, he was much more than you probably think.” He truly was.
Tupac had so many faces. From acting to music, to being immersed in his community and leading a movement. His music alone was versatile: from social consciousness in “Changes," to firing shots in “Hit ‘Em First,” to young single mothers in “Brenda’s Got a Baby”; from being a "sucka for love" in “Do for Love,” to loving his mother in “Dear Mama.” Pac was able to embrace his soft side and that gangsta-aesthetic that eventually led him down the wrong road. There was a duality about him, not just in his music but in Tupac himself. Sensitive yet troubled, Pac was such a paradox, how can anybody not love him?
Fun Fact: Tupac has always been over B.I.G. in my “Top 5" discussions - sorry, not sorry.
“Long live the rose that grew from concrete, when no one else ever cared"
I’m only 24, what could I possibly say about Tupac? Right? Well actually, a lot. I was only four when he died, but by 10 I was completely enthralled. When I first fell in love with Hip Hop, he was there. Yes, he was there, blasting through my headphones while I walked to school. My music library started off with Tupac. Other than the music and movies, his poetry is what grabbed me. I remember getting my hands on The Rose That Grew from Concrete for the first time. My sister owned a copy, and well, I eventually stole it from her. It was now mine. I was in middle school, I think. I know, just a baby. I read it over and over again, memorizing every line and every sentiment. I dreamed of being Jada, “the omega” of a guy’s heart. The omega? What? I want love like that. I was that rose. During this time, it was super rough for me. Although my father died years prior, I was still silently coping with the loss, among other family BS going on. So yeah, “Sometimes I Cry” too. So at this point, not only did his music made such an impact on my life, but his poetry even more so.
Fun fact: At 14, I got my nose pierced and the stone was way too big for my face. I was called Tupac for a while and I accepted it. I was more than okay with that nickname.
"If God wanted me to be quiet, He would've never showed me what he does"
Then life went on. After some time, I stopped listening to Pac. Not that I forgot about him, but just musically I moved on. However, those same feelings I had reemerged in a recent interview Kendrick Lamar had with Zane Lowe. Zane points out how there are traces of Pac in Kendrick’s music, especially in To Pimp A Butterfly.
This dude’s impact on not only me but the culture. It’s something I could never forget - from physically seeing him to hearing him on record…No matter how many times I come into my own as Kendrick Lamar… I will always have that sense of reaching a certain standard of empathy and compassion toward a record, the same way Pac approached music. It’ll always be in the back of my head to never forget that. No matter how big the hit record gets, no matter how big the album gets - I'll always have that compassion and that’s why his memory and his legacy in my music will never leave.
I believe Kendrick, for me, took the place of Tupac. I know many have compared the two but nobody can step into Pac's shoes. However, Kendrick shared those same sentiments in his music. He has that same sensitive, social consciousness. Tupac is no longer here, Kendrick is one of those who stepped in to shed light on the same social issues. After I knocked out my review for DAMN., I had a Pac session. I was brought back in time, reflecting on how inspired I once was by Pac while growing up through that tough time in my life. I’m of a different generation, Tupac’s words still ring true for me today. How could they not? His music was about what was going on 20-25 years ago, and yet they resonate today. His music has no expiration date. It was his truths of the world he was living in. It is our truths of today’s world.
"I am society’s child”
I have so much more I want to say about Tupac. There is so much more to say about Tupac. He was more than the simple public perception of him or “society’s child." He was more than just the East Coast and West Coast beef. Bred from Black Panthers and named after a revolutionary, Pac was a revolutionary. He was a Hip Hop legend. He was actually a pretty damn good actor. He was a poet. He was - is Tupac Shakur. His legacy is set in stone, and forever it will remain.