Tupac Amaru Shakur would have been 46 years old today. If you believe some of the conspiracy theories he might still be around…possibly in Cuba.
All jokes aside, Tupac’s impact on the culture is still felt today. His stature has only grown with time. When he died none of his albums were platinum; now they all are. He was a prolific rapper, recording dozens of songs and verses that have been released posthumously.
Hip-hop + Poetry
And more than any other rapper, Tupac bridged the gap between poetry and hip-hop. That’s not to say he’s the most poetic rapper. Rakim and Nas both have potent, lyrical flows, but Pac did more than that. He wrote poetry and proclaimed himself to be the rose that grew from concrete. He didn’t suggest that he was some version of a poet (like Nas’s ghetto poet), he simply was a poet.
That’s what made Pac so special. Like all great artists he contained multitudes (shout out to Walt Whitman). He rapped about street life from every angle. He understood Brenda’s baby, he wasn’t mad at friends getting out of the game, but he was also ready to ride or die.
Masculinity + Sensitivity
Tupac took gangster rap and infused it with sensitivity. He made young Black men feel masculine but he also allowed them to express their feelings.
Nobody would call Tupac a feminist, but he wasn’t all bad. He loved his mother and he wrote a few cautionary tales directed towards women….Still, he used that certain epithet too much.
Tupac’s place in hip-hop will never be disputed. He’s on rap’s Mount Rushmore with Biggie. The other two spots can be debated. Over twenty years after his death, we still recognize his greatness.
All Eyez On Me
“All Eyez on Me” was Tupac’s fourth studio album. Since his death the album has been certified diamond (10+ million album sales). Its over two hours in length and has 27 songs. Perhaps the most famous song is “California Love.” It’s a fine tune, but hardly the best song on the album. My personal favorites:
“Heartz of Men”
“Yo Suge, what I did I tell you when I got outta jail? I was gonna start diggin’ in these n***as chests, right?” Pac was on a mission after prison. He went straight for the jugular, or, in this case, the heart.
“I Ain’t Mad at Cha”
“Oh you a muslim now? No more dope game?” I love this line. Pac’s mother was a Black muslim and Pac’s name is an obvious nod to that movement. It’s funny that he would chide a former friend for being down with the nation. Anyway, it’s a great song. There are hundreds of songs about lost love, but how many great lost friendship songs are there? This is one.
“Shorty Wanna Be a Thug”
Cautionary Tale Tupac is the best Tupac. This is at the core of Pac. He never wanted to be a thug himself, at least not most people’s definition of a thug. Pac was never arrested before he was famous. He was down with struggle. He remained down with the struggle until the day he died. Sometimes the line got blurry, but not on this track.
“Wonda Why They Call U Bitch”
Another cautionary tale. It doesn’t come off as well as the above song, but it’s got a message nonetheless. Think of it as an uncouth version of “Gold Digger.”
What? That’s also uncouth?
Maybe just listen to the song and decide for yourself.
“Ratha Be Ya Nigga”
“You f***in with n***as that’s insecure/watered down my s**t is pure/write down my number but don’t call me ’till your sure.” This song doesn’t have a great message, but man Tupac hits the track with the fierceness on that first line. I don’t care what anybody says, this song hits.
That other ‘All Eyez on Me’
Today also marks the release of the biopic of Tupac’s life appropriately titled “All Eyez on Me.” I wrote about some of the problems the production was having back in November. And you can read a review of the film right here on Lemonwire. So far it seems like the movie hasn’t quite lived up to its namesake’s lofty heights. Of course that’s almost an impossible task.
Anyway, Happy Birthday Tupac. Whether you are in Cuba or Thugz Mansion, I hope you’re enjoying it.