Today (June 16th, 2015) would’ve been the late, great Tupac Shakur’s 44th birthday. Despite his untimely demise almost 19 years ago, the Thug Life ambassador remains a strong presence not only in Hip Hop, but Pop culture as a whole. Tupac somehow, some way seems to always pop up in our news feeds, whether it’s Tupac Tuesday on Facebook (and Twitter), theories that New Jersey emcee Kasinova Tha Don is actually a mouthpiece for a still alive and hiding in Cuba Tupac, a brand new Tupac dis track, and most notably in recent memory, his cameo appearance at the end of Kendrick Lamar’s “Mortal Man“. Let’s face it, his legion of fans (self included) refuse to allow his memory to fade.
That he was a man of many sides, layers, and opinions and was very vocal and “in your face” when sharing said layers, in his music, writings, and interviews, in no small part contributes to why his essence continues strongly almost two decades after his death. Given this particular Tupac Tuesday is also ‘Pac’s 44th birthday, let’s explore a few of those layers that made him such an intriguing figure, by way of 44 bars from various tracks.
Note that you can click on the song title to hear the track in question and also that I’ve taken the liberty to bold bars that I find particularly strong and emblematic of the ‘Pac in question.
Political ‘Pac – The son of a Black Panther, Tupac was never shy about expressing his strong political beliefs, in his music. He routinely called out the both the government and law enforcement for the disproportionate mistreatment of minorities and the under-privileged. A quick glance at the 16 bars below bring these concepts to light. Sadly, these ideas are still very much relevant in today’s society. Not only was ‘Pac political, but it’s powerful statements like these that lead many to say he was also prophetic.
From “Panther Power” – 12 bars
My Mother never let me forget my history
Hoping I was set free chains never put on me
Wanted to be more than just free
Had to know the true facts about my history
I couldn’t settle for being a statistic
Couldn’t survive in this capitalistic
Government ’cause it was meant to hold us back
Using ignorance & drugs to sneak attack
In my community think of unity
But when I charged them, tried to claim immunity
I strike America like a case of heart disease
Panther power is running through my arteries
From “Trapped” – 4 bars
They got me trapped
Can barely walk the city streets
Without a cop harassing me, searching me
Then asking my identity
Hands up, throw me up against the wall
Didn’t do a thing at all
I’m telling you one day these suckers gotta fall
Loyal ‘Pac – Though Tupac had his fair share of rivals throughout his Rap career (we’ll get to that shortly), he was also a very loyal man to those loved ones who reciprocated that loyalty. Family, women he loved, and good friends, his homies if you will, were common themes in much of Tupac’s music, whether the stories he told were his own or pulled from the experiences of others. Through thick and thin, he remained loyal to those he loved. Let’s take a look at some prime examples of such.
From “Dear Mama” – 4 bars
And even as a crack fiend, mama
You always was a black queen, mama
I finally understand
for a woman it ain’t easy tryin to raise a man
From “Happy Home” – 10 bars
Look at him walking and talking, a lil’ child with my eyes and mouth
Father watch over lil’ seeds, help me guide them out
Had to change my whole lifestyle, married my baby’s momma
Made her my wife now, I’m trying hard y’all
Maybe in time I’ll be a better man
watching the older couples, handle it like veterans
Show me the meaning of forever and together we rise
If it would help our child grow, then together we’d die
Why – question my love? It’s so easy to see
Without my family all I’m left with is a shadow of me
From “If My Homies Call” – 6 bars
And I, hear that you made a few enemies
But when you need a friend you can depend on me, call
If you need my assistance there’ll be no resistance
I’ll be there in an instant
Who am I to judge another brother, only on his cover
I’d be no different than the other
Angry ‘Pac – Lastly, it’s well-known that after Tupac was first shot back in 1994, he began to express quite a bit of anger in his music. The entire East Coast vs. West Coast feud of the mid-90s was largely Tupac’s doing, for better or worse. He attacked a slew of emcees with a venomous ferocity matched by few, if any, on dis tracks before and since. Let’s take a look.
From “Hit ‘Em Up” – 2 bars
Biggie remember when I use to let you sleep on the couch
And beg the bitch to let you sleep in the house
From “Against All Odds” – 2 bars
Mobb Deep wonder why a nig*a blowed them out
Next time grown folks talking nig*a close your mouth
From “When We Ride On Our Enemies” – 2 bars
Heard the Fugees was trying to do me – look bitch!
I cut yo’ face, this ain’t no motherfuckin movie
From “Fuck Friendz” – 2 bars
Understand this, ain’t no nig*a like me, fuck Jay-Z
He broke and I smoke daily
Truth be told, 44 bars is not nearly enough to capture just how many different sides Tupac shared with us in his music. There’s religious / spiritual ‘Pac (“Ghetto Gospel“, “Black Jesus“), romantic ‘Pac (“Can U Get Away“), womanizer ‘Pac (“What’z Ya Phone #“), and the ‘Pac that truly empathized with a woman’s plight, (“Keep Ya Head Up“, “Brenda’s Got A Baby“, “Baby Don’t Cry“), to just begin to scratch the surface how multi-faceted he was. Happy Birthday Tupac and rest peacefully knowing your music and impact will not soon be forgotten, if ever.