The whirlwind life that was Tupac Shakur shook the industry, and to this day, motivates artists to be more poetic, and all the more real.
Being the child of a Black Panther supporter, the struggles that he saw as a child shaped what his beliefs were. At first, his mother, Afeni Shakur, had been distant due to being always in a movement, and according to the movie Tupac: Resurrection, his relationship with his mom didn’t get strong until later. Once he moved to Baltimore, he was exposed to an artistic school, and he was exposed to dance, poetry, and more.
As he got older, he started to see the bigger picture, and the struggles of blacks, especially in poverty. That shaped the songs he began with that history and shot off verses with Digital Underground. Then he began to deal with his pain by spitting the truth for his own album, and it was picked up by Interscope. But when you open those demons, you let in the darkness. In Tupac: Resurrection, he notes that he wanted to show the world what he’s seen, like the footage from the Vietnam war. He felt that if he showed people the graphics of the street, it would help it stop.
Tupac shares that he didn’t have a record his entire life, but once he started rapping stories from the hood, he began to be targeted by the police. From that, the tracks opening everyone’s eyes into the struggles of the street turned into Pac’s belief that the cops were coming him or for the black community.
After his moves in not only rapping, but in cinema as a lead player in Juice, his visibility was so large, that in the documentary Tupac Shakur: Thug Angel: The Life of an Outlaw, it was shared that Tupac wanted to always ride around with video cameras because he felt he needed to constantly challenge the police, both in life and through his music. Down the line, he even shot some cops (the incident was self-defense).
Once he got to be the big time star, he changed, and some were concerned about that change. Speakers in the documentary say that while everyone else was sleeping, he was constantly working. He would hear a beat and do multiple takes – but his work was the most potent compared to other rappers. Not only would he spit from a different part of his mind, heart, and body, but his work was built on education and history, therefore, it made his work the most impacting to those who listened to it. His attitude changed with this elevation of status, and some felt he got “too thug” and too much of a loose canon.
But how Pac changed hip-hop, you may ask? It was simply by living what he spoke about – and speaking about what was real. There were peaceful times, and in other times, you see a violent side of Pac, one that always had to either be high or have Hennesy in a cup, but one that always spoke the truth and felt enlightened. Once he went to prison, it was shared that he had clarity from not being able to do those things, he began to almost prophesize his existence and recorded many tracksto release in case of his death.
Today, you can’t find anyone that spits quite like Pac, but the closest beyond closest are the rappers like Kendrick Lamar, who talks about real life and consequence, as well as police brutality. Many also cite Tupac is one of the artists that shape their desires to move into hip-hop, because of his poetic knowledge. Taking inspiration from things like Shakespeare, Tupac had a poetic pentameter about him that could not be matched. And though some of the other big rappers of his time, like Biggie were there, there was a huge difference in the source material and the delivery of that material.
After that hole was lost with Tupac’s death, his entire discography became a Bible, a spiritual. People believed in his word, people studied his lyrics and even became experts in his gospel. No artist has had that effect on so many people as Tupac did, and why he will reign as one of the most influential rappers, who paved and engrained his footprint into the foundation of the genre.
Amy Cooper is the type of journalist that when asked “What do you bring to the table,” she replies “I am the table.