That dude was real.

Being the fifteenth anniversary, (wow, 15 years already) I thought I would briefly reflect on the enigma that was Pac. My first experience with him was on a mix tape that I found at the Baif half court that I practically grew up at. I found the tape under a park bench, I suppose someone had dropped it, and it turned out to be one of the single greatest finds in all of eternity. Up there with the fact that our planet is round and the earth isn’t really the epicenter of the universe. I was about 13 years old, and in that time, when the internet was just a pipe dream, good music was very very hard to come by. The tape was simply titled “the SHIZNIT” and from front to back was nothing but pure bangers. Who ever made that tape was clearly a clairvoyant, because looking back, almost every song on those 90 minutes of ear heroin could easily make any purists top 20 all-time list. A stand out cut on the tape was Tupac’s “I get around”. I didn’t know who this guy was, but after that song, I knew he and I would get along just fine. From that point on, I can honestly say I enjoyed a lot of Pacs music. “Me against the world” start to finish is a classic, cuts like the title track, dear mama, and old school are in heavy rotation on my YouTube account. And the Makeveli album, well, when that album comes on my iPod at the gym, let’s just say I’m extremely sore for a few days. But let’s look deeper into what made Pac, well Pac, and what his place is in the pecking order that is the hip hop icons list.


I’m going to say it, and 90% of you, which is what 4.5 of you, because I probably don’t have many more then 5 followers, are going to bug the fuck out. Pac was a slightly above average rapper at best! Those of you who say he was the greatest of all time, well, you can probably park real close to malls and community centers and stuff, cause your clearly handicapped. Now, occasionally Pac rips something word wise, like in the aforementioned “me against the world”, “changes”, and “thug mansion”. You could probably debate too, that if “all eyez on me” were slimmed down to a single cd, it could presumably be one of the best albums ever, and Pac absolutely killed, lyrically, tracks on it, “can’t c me”, “only god can judge me” and the title track “all eyez on me” are from a rhyme standpoint, Pac at his finest. But there was way too much filler on that album. Again, delusional Pac fans will insist that Pac and filler should never be used in the same sentence, everyone just calm down. What Pac lacked in lyrics though, he more than made up for, with raw emotion, and passion for his art. He couldn’t paint a vivid mental picture like a B.I.G. or a Pun, nor could he make you dwell deep into your mind to figure out what he meant, ala Rakim, or Kane. But he could get you amped up. Got a ball game? Throw on Pac. Amped up. Got a party? Throw on Pac. Amped up. Want to fight? Throw on Pac. Amped up. He more than anyone, could get into your heart, blood and head. He was like M.O.P times Freddie Foxx Times 25. When you hear the intro to “can’t c me” “The blind stares of eyes, lookin hard but won’t realize”, you’re ready to do just about anything. I remember seeing 5’7 guys dunking basketballs, people who had nothing act like they were kings, hell, I once saw a midget knock out a giant with that song in his Walkman. Dude was that real. From a compensation stand point, there is nothing that makes up for not so strong lyrics like the angst and rage of a poverty stricken young black male. (I usually make it a point to not associate young rage, youthful pain and poverty with being black, because I believe that circumstances like such are not pertinent to any certain ethnic background, but this after all Pac we are discussing, so it stays). His emotion and talents to motivate is his greatest asset. Not his lyrics.

Battle Rapping, Beef.

If there is one thing I can assure you of, it’s this. You don’t want a feud with Pac. He somehow single headedly divided an entire country into two coasts. That’s the kind of emotion and motivation I spoke of earlier. Do you think that, when Jay and Nas were beefing, that they were actually looking around corners to ensure that they didn’t bump into each other? I doubt it. But if you were in a rap feud with Pac, that’s what you had to do. Not since the NWA days did anyone believe more of what a rapper was saying, when it related to criminal activity. Mobb Deep said they were going to shoot you, you brushed it off. Pac said he was going to shoot you, you stayed home. Dude was that real. This is a guy who had a shootout with police for Christ sake. He talked it and lived it. Now as far as actual battle rapping goes, he was again, alright at best. I can only imagine the day he had when he went in to record “hit em up”. You know there was no juice in the fridge when he woke up. Didn’t have any clean socks when he got dressed, and hit every red light on the way into the studio, only to find that someone was in his parking spot. To top it all off, he probably got one of those really annoying carpet shocks when he tried to open the door to the lab. There is no reason for anyone to be as mad as he was that day. He was charged up enough because of the whole bad boy beef, but he was on some other level shit there. But let’s say this about “hit em up”, if it was by anyone other than Tupac, that shit would be whack as hell. It’s off beat, it’s a jacked melody, it has no flow, and did you know there are other guys on that song too? The Outlawz were garbage on that track. Solidifying that Pac rules everything with what he is saying, not how he is saying it. “Hit em up” will go down in the pantheons of history as one of the best diss records off all time, but I think it should be used as an example of how not to make a song.

Message and Motivation.

Pacs political messages were both rampant and divided throughout the ups and downs of his career. One moment he had you thinking he could have been the first black president, the next moment you were thinking, when is he getting locked up again. From swearing off thug life, to reinstating it, to worrying about the youth of that day’s society, Pac was everywhere. And while some say that’s an ingeuine stance to take, I’ll tell you this, you are that way too. None of us are completely left wing or right wing. But what most people do is they promote what they believe in, and accept what they can’t change or fight. Pac wasn’t about that. He believed that violence couldn’t be avoided at any cost, yet he also had a firm stance on single teenage mothers. He carried a gun everywhere, but told the youth to stay in school. And whether you remember this or not, he switched sides regularly. Most people, when they think of Tupac, they immediately throw up a west side. But Pacs roots were in Baltimore, and later Oakland. However most of his younger work had east Coast written all over it. It wasn’t until he got bailed out of jail, did he become the matriarch of the West Coast. That’s a lot of flip flopping both demographically and politically, but it was never questioned as far as authenticity was concerned. Because his authenticity was never in question. He never lied to us. Dude was that real. Could rep one
hood, then bounce to another, because that’s what the situation called for. So when you are listening to any particular album, and you hear a melodramatic track about the up movement of the youth tied in metaphorically to a rose in cement, then two songs later you hear Pac calling woman nothing but bitches and hoes, you don’t wonder where his head is at, because his head is everywhere, and he believed everything he said. You should too.

In conclusion, I’ll leave you with this. Anytime someone dies at the tender age of 25, that’s a travesty. But, and again, here comes the commentary from the cheap seats, Pacs death was necessary. Not only for the fact that not even he could keep up the image he created for much longer, or the fact that getting shot, again, and finally succumbing to a hail of bullets solidified his street credibility, but from a sociological stand point as well. Pac had such a following of young angry teenagers waiting for his every move, hanging on to every word he said, and following everything he did, that when he died, hopefully their eyes were opened to the dangers and tragedy that come with that lifestyle. If Pacs life reached out to millions and millions of listeners, then hopefully his death can reach out to a small percentile as well, and it’s a sacrifice that society has taken since the day Jesus got pelted to death on the cross. One man in exchange for a greater good. There’s no telling what Tupac Amaru Shakur could have lead these followers to accomplish, if given the proper amount of time and resources. We could very well have had a revolution of societal upheaval and seen a generation of youth advance well beyond what their circumstances dictated. But it could have very well gone the other way too. As for his place in history, from a rapper standpoint, lyrically I’d be pressed to get him into the top 20 all time. But from a legacy standpoint, and what he brought every day and every night, his leadership, and message (sometimes), his passion, and his changing of the game forever, he belongs in the high teens, at max. Go fourth and play 6 or 7 of your favorite Pac tracks, get “I get around” in there somewhere if you can, just for me. And big, BIG shouts to the homeboy Treach for making one of the best tribute songs off all time, “mourn you till I join you”, have a listen wont you.

R.I.P. Tupac Amaru Shakur (June 16, 1971 – September 13, 1996),

See you in Thug Mansion