The first thing one must understand, when trying to really understand Tupac Amaru Shakur is that he died at only 25 years of age.
Twenty-Five years old.
Had Malcolm X died at 25 his story would have ended as a prisoner, Malcolm Little, who died while beginning to study Islam. Had Martin Luther King died at 25 his story would have ended as a newlywed ordained minister that had yet to lead a single protest or boycott. Had Thomas Jefferson died at 25, his story would have ended as a recent college graduate who loved books and had yet to even leave his home state of Virginia.
So before you judge this man fully, understand how short his life was and all he was able to accomplish in that short life. He accomplished more and touched more hearts in his 25 years than most men do in a lifetime. However, his youth did show in some of his actions.
Tupac Amaru Shakur was a man guided by passion. The passion of the have-not fighting for every single breadcrumb is the passion with which Tupac Shakur faced every obstacle. Whether it be the Vice-President of the United States calling him an irresponsible thug or in his response to what he felt was a betrayal by a man he had considered a close friend. Tupac’s passion was the driving force to that 25-year-old man being able to accomplish all that he did in his life. It is only while truly believing in that which you are doing, that you can approach obstacles with the energy Tupac did. Like a car going 150mph, passion like Tupac's could get you closer to your destination if you're going the right way but further than you ever imagined if the car is going in the wrong direction.
Tupac always remained true to self. That was, what he believed to be, our only responsibility in life. To be ourselves at all times and remained connected to our innermost self so as to not ever make a decision that we will later regret or be ashamed of. For as long as one is true to oneself, then what is the need for apology? Perhaps one can be misguided by the wrong information, which happens. But, the case can then be made to the accuser that if given the same misinformation, they would have done the same.
His logic was that he would follow the same method that lead to the end of the Vietnam War. The media showed the most graphic and violent images of the soldiers fighting in Vietnam and that led to the American public demanding that the war come to an end. This logic went wrong when Tupac decided he will give middle America a glimpse into what was happening in THEIR OWN country on a daily basis and rather than demand that the suffering of the people Tupac spoke of end, they instead demanded he shut up. Implying either that he was lying about what he was telling them or those people put themselves there. Both of which we know aren't true.
For those that criticize Tupac, and call him a hypocrite, I ask you to point to a 20-25 year celebrity that has come from nothing who has not been trapped by the evils of fame. Yes, Tupac at times was a victim of his own success and at some points the message could be seen as a bit cloudy. But, there was always a method to the madness. Tupac understood fully that he was not speaking to a well informed, and educated populace. He knew he was speaking to societies forgotten babies that were now considered thugs and criminals. He knew how to bring them closer to him so they could hear songs like "Words of Wisdom", "Brenda's Got A Baby", or "Keep Ya Head Up". I would argue that most rappers, especially in the early nineties that had those kinds of messages in their music never reached those "thugs". So in Tupac, the thug was cured by Tupac's ingenious way of hiding medicine in the candy. Lyrics like those below really connect to that young man who feels like his life is hopeless and nobody understands. It is through this connection formed that Tupac can show that young man more about life and how to maneuver through it.
for multiple years, witness peers catch gunshots
Nobody cares, seen the politicians ban us
They'd rather see us locked in chains, please explain
why they can't stand us, is there a way for me to change?
Or am I just a victim of things I did to maintain?
For those that say Tupac was a fraud (I won't spend much time here because this perspective is small-minded). I say that the fact he didn't have a criminal record until he was already famous is something we should applaud. To think that a man must be imprisoned, to be validated by the community he grew up in, is immature to say the least. A friend of mine once said that the character we all know as Tupac was created in that Baltimore performance arts school as a sort of an act. To that I say that all of a man's experiences are ingredients that make up that which he will become. To discredit Tupac because he attended a performance art school and did not have a record is like I stated earlier, small-minded. A man who was blessed to live in a one-parent household in Baltimore, MD but still get the chance to attend a Baltimore School of the arts, Tupac spoke on the moment where he told his homeboys that Shakespeare was dope and they had no idea what he was talking about. He wanted to bring that level of education to the people that came from where he came from.
Perhaps the argument can be made that all rappers who come from nothing supply that same inspiration that Tupac did. I say to that argument that no artist of any kind, before or after Tupac, had roots so deep in the struggle for social justice. From his mother Afeni Shakur’s high role within the Black Panther party his God Father, Geronimo Pratt, and his later formed relationship with Maya Angelou and his idol-ship of freedom fighters such as Fred Hampton and Assata Shakur, Tupac knew the history of poverty in the United States and its connection to racism. He informed his listeners of this connection in songs like “Words of Wisdom”. Most rappers speak of life in the impoverished neighborhoods of America and how miserable it could be. Tupac spoke on not only what it’s like, but spoke on how it got here and had more information on how to change it than any artist that came before or would come after him. This is why Tupac’s inspiration is like no other. He was a magnificent talent in various creative fields but it was his heart of a freedom fighter that separated him from the rest.
If a man comes from nothing, and manages to make something of hisself and even provide for himself and his close circle, but is still met with resistance from middle America, what does that say? It is a way of saying that he and those around him belonged in the impoverished neighborhood with holes in the ceiling and roaches in the kitchen. Tupac was the messenger that reached the masses that reminded us all that not everything is ok. There are ills of society that must be dealt with, or else. Tupac reminded us of those ills and demanded that they be dealt with somehow. I am not arguing that Tupac Amaru Shakur was perfect, because even he acknowledged his many flaws. But like many 20-25 year olds, Tupac knew what he wanted out of his life, wasn't shy about expressing it, and was still in the process of figuring how exactly he could save his people from the shackles of injustice when he was shot on September 7th 1996. For six days, the world, and specifically ghettos all over the world, stood still until on September 13th, Tupac was taken off life support and passed away. Tupac Amaru Shakur reflected America’s innermost fears that some day it’s crimes against humanity would manifest themselves and look the country right back in the eye. The problems Tupac spoke of are just as relevant today as they were twenty years ago and are indicative of a society that has always refused to listen to its own children. Even in the passing of one of its most vocal, his message will forever live on through children of his philosophies.
“No matter what you think about me, I’m still your child. You can’t just turn me off”
It is because of the example set by Tupac that I can write a post like "The Excerpt" or "Sister". It is with the understanding that I am being true to myself that I am fearless in regards to what can be, or will be said about what it is I write. It is with that fearlessness that I pursue all of my goals in life knowing that my heart is, and always will remain in the right place.
Rest in Peace to the Great Tupac Amaru Shakur.