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June 16, 2011

Thug Angel: RIP Tupac Amaru Shakur (June 16, 1971 – September 13, 1996)

Tupac Amaru Shakur, born Lesane Parish Crooks, lived an eventful life during his short 25 years on this earth.  His talent reached far and wide in the realm of acting, poetry, music, modeling, political advocacy and nationalism.  When trying to think of what to actually write about him to do his legacy justice, my mind suddenly comes to a blank.  How can I sum up everything he was and is to this very day?  How do I put into words the impact he had on the lives that he touched and affected through his music and advocacy?  What does come to mind is the recent memory of my younger sister, at the ripe age of 22, sitting in my living room and proclaiming that Tupac was not as influential in her life, musically, because he was stagnant character.  She explained to me that Tupac was too ghetto and had too much of a negative mentality to really do any good in the community.  I'm paraphrasing, but she basically did not understand why people are so hung up on Tupac and does not agree with those who see him as a freedom fighter, political advocate and activist, a poet, leader, and phenomenal artist.  To her, Tupac was a common ghetto thug.

Upon hearing this, my first reaction was to take her to the kitchen and wash her mouth out with soap for using such foul language about one of my heroes.  How could she say such things about Tupac?  Does she really know his legacy and what he went through and what he did, which ultimately contributed to his untimely demise?  Does she know the lyrics to Brenda's Got A Baby and Keep Ya Head Up?  She couldn't possibly think these things after hearing songs like Dear Mama and So Many Tears.  Or perhaps she wasn't old enough to see him battle C. Delores Tucker for the right to exercise his freedom of speech.  Maybe she didn't hear his first posthumous album that so valiantly boasted powerful and meaningful tracks like Against All Odds, Hold Ya Head, Krazy and White Man'z World where Tupac proclaimed "this is the realest shit I ever wrote". 

How could she know that Tupac was actually a poet who wrote about topics concerning love, civil rights, the current political climate, sex, passion, and the fight for what's right?  Was she aware that he was raised by militant political activists known as the Black Panther Party and civil rights heroes like Mutulu Shakur, Geronimo Pratt, Mumia Abu Jamal and Assata Shakur, the same exhiled woman rapper Common was criticized for visiting in Cuba as they all were public enemies due to their political fight and activism?  Maybe she missed the bit of information that Shakur's hit song Dear Mama is one of 25 songs that was added to the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry in 2010 or that as of 2004, he was the highest selling rap/hip-hop artist selling over 67 million copies worldwide.

On the other hand, I'm sure she is aware of his multiple arrests, court cases, rape conviction, shooting incidents, misogynistic lyrics and other violent behavior he also displayed and endured.  And I'm also pretty sure she is aware of the "Thug Life" movement that he founded and represented on his body in the form of a tattoo, and in his music and interviews.  To know Tupac was to love him.  But to know him, you would have to know that he was a Gemini, with twin souls.  One soul represented the enormously talented, intelligent, eloquent, inspirational and motivational Tupac.  The other soul represented the angry, violent, unapologetic, immature and insecure Tupac.  When following his interviews and public persona, you never really knew which Tupac you were going to get, but the reality was that you loved them both and knew without one, you couldn't have the other.  This dichotomy that I speak of was ever present in the history of his music and personal life as it played out in the local and international media before my very own eyes.

Tupac had the work ethic of a James Brown mixed with a modern day Lil' Wayne.  In fact, Lil' Wayne can attribute his work ethic and multitude of recordings to Tupac's influence because as we all know, Tupac released 9 posthumous albums and still has material to spare.  I often wonder if my generation is doing its job in inspiring the new generation and educating them on the history of music like our parents did.  Our parents taught us about the oldies and introduced us to Rock, Blues, Soul, R&B and Jazz.  However, when it comes to the new generation, they seem to have a lack of information, exposure and inspiration when it comes to those who came before them and paved the way for their favorite artists to thrive today.  This is where my heart becomes heavy.  How could a young adult like my sister not understand the intricacy of his life?  How could she say he was too ghetto-minded and stagnant and not realize that his actual influence is too massive to even quantify?

Perhaps these words will educate and inspire the new generation.  To know, understand and love what Tupac stood for because he is a product of the same environment in which they now live.  To know that he fought for their freedom to rap and write about whatever they wanted.  That he fought for the institutionalized, marginalized and disenfranchised.  To know that he fought against adversity, poverty, ignorance and his own physical demise and used his music as a political and creative springboard to help the greater good.  To know that he loved his people and encouraged the baby mamas of the world to keep their heads up and the misguided young men in prison to hold their heads high.  To know that he is their favorite rapper's favorite rapper and that he has inspired this generation's artistry and creativity like no other rapper.  As I said earlier, to know him was to love him so I urge all those who shun Tupac or don't understand his relevance in the climate of hip hop today, to get to know him a little bit more before they judge, because Tupac made it very clear that ONLY GOD COULD JUDGE HIM!

RIP Soldier!

Since I am a lover of all things Tupac, I wanted to show a visual portrayal of his life and legacy...enjoy!

Some of my favorite and most profound Tupac Hip Hop Quoteables and quotes from various interviews:

“I'd rather die like a man, than live like a coward.  There's a ghetto up in heaven and its ours.  Black Power!"

"I wonder why we take from our women, why we rape our women, do we hate our women? I think its time to kill for our women, time to to heal our women, be real to our women."

“Recollect your thoughts don't get caught up in the mix, cause the media is full of dirty tricks.”

“Of course I'm going to say "I'm a thug" that's because I came from the GUTTER and I'm still HERE!”

“Somebody help me, tell me where to go from here cause even Thugs cry, but do the Lord care?”

“To all the seeds that follow me protect your essence.  Born with less, but you still precious.”

“I am society’s child. This is how they made me and now I’m sayin’ what’s on my mind and they don’t want that. This is what you made me, America.”

“I feel like role models today are not meant to be put on a pedestal. But more like angels with broken wings.”

“If you  walked by a street and you saw a rose growing from concrete, even if it had messed up petals and it was a little to the side you would marvel at just seeing a rose grow through concrete. So why is it that when you see some ghetto kid grow out of the dirtiest circumstance and he can talk and he can sit across the room and make you cry, make you laugh, all you can talk about is my  dirty rose, my dirty stems and how I'm leaning crooked to the side, u can’t even see that I’ve come up from out of that.”

“Forgive but don’t forget, girl keep your head up. And when he tells you you ain’t nothing, don’t believe him. And if he can’t learn to love you, you should leave him.”

“Fear is stronger than love, remember that. Fear is stronger than love. All that love I gave didn’t mean nothing when it came to fear.”

“They got money for the war but can’t feed the poor.”

“I’m not sayin’ I’m gonna rule the world, or that I’m gonna change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world.”

“I set goals, take control, drink out my own bottle. I make mistakes but learn from every one and when it’s said and done, I bet this brother be a better one. If I upset you, don’t stress. Never forget, that God isn’t finished with me yet.

And here are a few of my favorite Tupac videos:

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