Today on the Rap Flashback we remember the late, great, Tupac Shakur on the 20th anniversary of his untimely passing. With roughly 110 million records sold world wide and 5 number 1 albums, Tupac’s impact on Hip Hop and Pop culture cannot be overstated. His trademark was the soul that he put into everything he touched. It is because of that soul that his prestige remains strong.
Whether wearing bandannas, sporting stomach tattoos, elongating and emphasizing vowels at the end of bars (ex: feeeel meeee!), direct mentions of his name, songs, album titles, or direct quotations and/or para-phrasings of his lyrics, Tupac’s influence on current artists is still felt today. We all know his story’s highlights; from being raised by Black Panther, Afeni Shakur, to his revolutionary music, his Digital Underground days, his stint with Death Row Records, his friendship turned feud with Christopher “The Notorious BIG” Wallace, his TV appearances, and films. Countless choice words from everyone from Quincy Jones to C. Delores Tucker, Hip Hop contemporaries like Nas and Jay-Z, and newer artists such as J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar further solidify his legacy.
Described by Shock-G as “the hardest working man in Hip Hop, hands down,” the sheer volume of Tupac tracks and albums released since his death speaks to his unparalleled work ethic; something we can all learn from in the Hip Hop community. That he’s been gone for 20 years and many have yet to hear all of his music is nothing short of amazing. Additionally, his likeness, like his music, remains plentiful. Whether freelance or professional, or on murals all over the world, Tupac is often the subject of paintings and drawings. And of course, who could forget Hologram Tupac at the Coachella Live 2012 Festival?
With a Morgan Creek Productions biopic entitled All Eyez On Me complete, albeit delayed over song rights, and the recent announcement that Johnny Depp will star in Labyrinth as Russell Poole, the LAPD detective who investigated the murders of both Tupac and Biggie, it’s evident that Shakur’s visibility will remain strong in the coming years. Two full decades after his death, and Tupac is still a source of intrigue and entertainment for both his core fans and new fans alike.
A true Gemini, few artists have been able to balance sensitivity, nihilism, and activism like Tupac Shakur; and he did so in his poetry, his music, and on-screen as well. Who else has a library of work that includes poems like The Rose That Grew From Concrete and Can You See The Pride in The Panther, songs like “Brenda’s Got A Baby” and “Hit ‘Em Up“, and performances like that of the loves-struck “Lucky” in Poetic Justice and the nihilistic, gun-happy “Bishop” in Juice? Simply put, he did it all, and it seems like an injustice to try to sum up his accomplishments and importance in an abridged column.
With that said, as we salute Tupac Shakur and reminisce upon his legacy, we’ll leave you w/ a few memorable ‘Pac lyrics. Pour out a little liquor for the G.O.A.T.
“I finally understand, for a woman it ain’t easy trying to raise a man. You always was committed. A poor, single, mother on welfare, tell me how you did it. There’s no way I can pay you back. But my plan is to show you that I understand. You are appreciated.”
— from “Dear Mama”
“Why question my love? It’s so easy to see, without my family all I’m left with is a shadow of me.”
— from “Happy Home”
“Driven by my ambitions. Desire higher positions. So I proceed to make G’s, eternally and my mission is to be more than just a Rap musician. The elevation of today’s generation if I can make ’em listen.”
— from “Unconditional Love”
“So I’m askin’, before I lay me down to sleep. Before you judge me, look at all the shit you did to me. My misery. I rose up from the slums, made it out the flames. In my search for fame, will I change?”
— from “Who Do U Believe In”
“If I upset you, don’t stress. Never forget, that God isn’t finished with me yet. I feel his hand on my brain. When I write rhymes, I go blind, and let the Lord do his thing.”
— from “Ghetto Gospel”