15 years have passed since hip-hop held it’s collective breath on September 13th. Tupac Shakur is still undeniably one of the biggest names the culture ever produced, as evidenced by these 15 points, one for every year we miss him, in which he still reigns supreme.
15. Reach worldwide iconic status
You think Weezy is big right? Jay, Kanye, Em, those are pop stars, right? But do you think kids in Ethiopia are debating who was best on ‘Watch The Throne?’ Maybe some, but there probably won’t be many of them. 2Pac however, is mentioned in the same breath as Fela Kuti and Bob Marley all over the world. You don’t have to take my word for it, ask K’naan:
Around here we only bumping Fela Kuti/ Tupac, or Bob Marley, Lucky Dube/ So we don’t really give a fuck about your groupies/ This Is Africa, Hooray!
14. Record a metric ton of songs
People applaud Curren$y or Weezy’s work ethic but everybody’s output pales in comparison to Pac’s. Especially when Pac was released from prison he wrote and recorded at a frantic piece, writing on the ground, doing studio sessions that lasted entire days and even creating an entire album (The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory) in a single week. Yes, recording and mixing.
13. Inspire intense rap nerd discussion
Just drop the five words “Who’s better? Big or Pac?” into a random circle of rap fans (especially those close to their 30s or older) and watch what happens.
12. Piss off politicians
C. DeLores Tucker you’s a motherfucker / Instead of trying to help a nigga you destroy a brother
C. DeLores Tucker was an admirable woman who helped write history as part of the civil rights movement. She used her political capital to became first black female Secretary of State but was forced to leave that position “after charges that she used state workers and resources to produce speeches for which she received $65,000 in 28 months,” as the Washington Post wrote. She lowered her profile for quite some time working mainly in fundraising for Democratic candidates but jumped back in the limelight by becoming one of the most outspoken anti-rap activists in the 90s. She went as far as picketing stores, putting pressure onto record company shareholders and even met up with Suge Knight for a business meeting as she tried to form her own alternative label. Pac was one of her main targets, and one that didn’t exactly mince words about his opinion of her, going as far as to “Wonder Why They Call You B*tch.” The quote above is of course from ‘How Do You Want It,’ a song that also went after Bob Dole and Bill Clinton.
Ever seen a rapper on a silver screen deliver a performance like Pac? Few rappers turned actors actually have decent acting skills, and most stick to roles based on either themselves or the generic thug/gangster template. From a violent gangster to a junkie trying to shake the habit, Pac made that human characters you could believe. His IMDB profile as a thespian is seriously impressive and probably would’ve only gotten better if he would’ve been given more time.
10. Mixing expensive drinks
A friend might’ve told him that it would blow his mind, but Thug Passion, a mix of equal parts Alizé and Crystal, is a recipe that was made popular by the one and only Tupac Shakur. If you’ve got money to blow tell the bartender you’ve got your mind made up.
9. Appeal equally to men and women
Sure, LL was in loverman mode years before Pac even busted a nut but every dude hated the song he did it on. Here’s a question for all TRUbians with testicles: How many times do you spin ‘I Need Love’ on average? Right. Pac’s smoothtalking stays put in everybody’s playlist though, regardless of XX or XY chromosomes. Perhaps the only competition in this category is Q-Tip. Anyway, nobody would ever think of calling a Pac joint soft. Which might have something to do with the next entry…
If you’re reading this it’s safe to assume you’ve heard a lil’ dittie called ‘Hit ‘em Up,’ right? Right.
7. Squashing beef
As full of vitriol as his battle raps could be, it’s important to remember that the east/west war was blown out of proportion by various parties, and Pac thought so too. Reaching out to the befriended Boot Camp Clik, Pac was hard at work releasing a reconcilliatory album with both east and west coast rappers titled ‘One Nation.’ Alas, an official release of the project has still never happened.
Some call it hypocrisy, but Pac’s duality might’ve actually been one of his strongest suits. Equal parts thug and social activist ensured many more could relate to his message and consequently payed attention to it. The fact that Pac could commit his myriad of complex and sometimes seemingly contradictory emotions to wax only enforced the richness of his discography. It’s a shame one of his posthumous releases was the ‘Thug/Life’ double album for which both discs were sold separately. The ‘Thug’ disc vastly outsold the ‘Life’ disc, since it may speak more to rebellious teens, but neither part is really complete without. By itself, it only portrays a distorted view of his persona.
5. Getting caught up in crappy remixes and blends
Though Pac dropped a couple of uneventful features during his time this is one you can’t really blame him for, everybody did it after he passed. Though BIG also released a posthumous album full of mediocre reworkings of his verses that he had nothing to do with that’s small potatoes when compared to Pac. Every artist still wants his features, every DJ still wants him on his tapes. Not to say you can’t do a cool 2Pac mixtape, but if you’re the 7 zillionth guy firing up some cornball audio editing software for your tape full of XXCLUSIVE BLENDZ!!!©®™ you’re not exactly adding anything of value to his legacy.
4. Rocking a bandana
Twist it up and tie it low around a bald head. Voila, instantly no one will take you serious anymore because you’re trying to look like Pac. There is only one Tupac Shakur. Here’s a hint: it’s not you.
3. Posthumous releases
As an indirect result of those aforementioned marathon recording sessions, Pac has eventually released more albums while deceased than alive. The quality of several of them and addition to his legacy is up for debate, but they keep on selling regardless of that. It didn’t stop there though, in 2003 ‘Tupac: Resurrection‘ was released, a documentary on his life narrated by the man himself. The audio was culled from various interviews as Pac was already deceased for almost 7 years by then.
2. Being sighted after death
Similar to Elvis Presley, Tupac’s iconic status and impact on people’s lives often has them refusing to accept his tragic demise. This lead to Pac not only being spotted in Cuba where he supposedly hides together with his step-aunt, Black Panther Assata Shakur, but in every club or pool hall a fan of his has ever visited, close to every other week.
1. Staying power
Every rapper either tries their best to either be associated with him, emulate him in some way or other, or erase from public memory how he was dissed by him. Kids wear T-shirts with his face on it in all four corners of the world. We’re still talking about and dissecting his work 15 years after he passed. We still miss him.