And still I see no changes…
Welcome to Death Match, Ben–you’re about to get as shut down hard as Biggie was in Tupac’s anthem “Hit ‘Em Up”. Well, not exactly–no one could possibly shut someone down like that ever again. And that’s partly my point: Tupac was a transcendental figure in hip-hop in a way that Biggie never was, and really never could have been. His lyrical genius allowed him to transition flawlessly between so many different styles and themes, between topics that were both street-worthy gangsta rap, and soaring verses about inner pain, death, drugs, society and poverty that could have ended up in poetry magazines:
Will I survive all the fights and the darkness?
Trouble sparks, they tell me home is where the heart is, dear departed
I shed tattooed tears and couldn’t sleep good
for multiple years, witness peers catch gunshots
Nobody cares, seen the politicians ban us
They’d rather see us locked in chains, please explain
why they can’t stand us, is there a way for me to change?
And that’s the thing about Pac–not only could he back up all the shit he talked, he could also rise above it. He wasn’t a saint (who is?), but at least he didn’t sell crack to children. He rapped about the inner pain and turmoil that was destroying him, and about the pain and turmoil that was engulfing the country; he threw down when he had to, and opened up his soul when he wanted to.
He overcame all of his internal turbulence, but it still ate at him–in a sense, his struggles were being fought out in a very literal way on the streets of L.A., when a whole generation of young, poor and oppressed black people were standing up to fight, and sometimes getting carried away. Pac’s genius was that he saw all of that and recognized the way that his own life and his vision could help heal the world.
And he even managed to overcome his “death.” I mean come on, not only has he made more money than he ever did during his life after he was “murdered,” but he has even managed to release new albums and songs! He has been inducted into that elite club of people, along with Elvis and JFK, who were killed, but who never “died.”