2Pac: The Greatest American Hero
Every July 16 and September 13th I take time to celebrate the life Tupac Amaru Shakur because he was a larger than life figure in my childhood. I have this complex love hate relationship with Pac (Mostly because his fans are the equivalent to Cowboy fans: Annoying AF). His legacy depending on who you are talking to portrays him to be a larger than life figure or the next Malcolm X that got gunned down before he could achieve his space in the pantheon of Black Activists. My memories of him as a fan is that of a bipolar top tier rapper who could not decide if he was the activist we needed or the gangster his friends/bosses wanted him to be. The genius thing is neither one of those characters are wrong or bad in anyway.
If anything 2Pac represented our truest self. The battle that rests inside of all of us. The war of fighting our inner demons but still wanting to have strength enough to leave a positive mark in the world. His actions were bipolar because the same rapper that penned “Brenda’s Got A Baby” also penned “I Get Around” and the ode to video groupies “”All About U”. Do you expect anything less from a 20 year old savant with money to burn? He is the same rapper that threatened to pillage a whole coast but still during his last days sought to rebuild bridges and relationships that his scorched earth policy destroyed. He is the essence of America, killing ants with sledgehammers and after seeing the damage realizing that we used the wrong tool.
Personally he’s the rebel of my adolescence years. He was my bridge between the positivity of Chuck D and the misogyny of Snoop Doggy Dogg. On one song he was teaching me how about the prison industrial complex on “Trapped” and then on the next album I’m dying to join him at a West Coast pool party like “I Get Around”. The flipside to the fun came via a sodomy charge and the infamous shooting at Baseline Studios in New York. While some saw this as strengthening his almost mythical presence for me it made a teenager have to evaluate his loyalties. While Pac spoke to my pint size revolutionary spirit, Puffy and Biggie represented the fly lifestyle that I aspired to have. Let’s be honest, as a 16 year old, I wasn’t ready to save the world. I wanted to “fuck bitches, get money”.
2Pac isn’t my goat and depending on my mood he may not even be Top 5. But his impact on rap music and my life is undeniable. “Me Against the World” is the 2Pac I loved – this was the erratic writing Pac that I loved. He was angry, he was social, he was positive, he reminisced, and he checked every box and did it in a classic fashion. While “All Eyez on Me” was uneven because of its length, “Me Against The World” capitalized on brevity and quality.
He’s a convicted sex offender, philanderer, drug user and misanthrope. He’s also a creative savant who knew how to use his voice to get the most effect. He’s your drunk uncle. The one who gives you sage advice in between chugging 2 40oz of Colt 45. He’s the perfect slice of Americana, the conflicted hero. It’s hard to separate the wisdom of his words from the vileness of his actions. We have done that with many of our heroes and it makes no sense why he is no different. 2Pac is bigger than Elvis – in every sense. He is the music of Marvin Gaye mixed with the militancy of Huey Newton. If anything – Pac is Black America at its finest and lowest.