The Republicans, known for their conservative views on family values were to a larger extent correct in their assessment posed by rap as a new voice that hasn't enjoyed mainstream support for many years, because children needed to be protected against anyone who claimed not to have nothing to lose. The Republicans only failed to accept that they were wrong to deny so many people a voice because someone who hasn't spoken for a long time is likely to come out with millions of issues, as rappers did, and notably Tupac. But what they were also failing to do was to give him awards for the songs he made that explored the ills in black neighbourhoods, like Brenda's Got A Baby, Keep Ya Head Up, So Many Tears, Happy Home, and Dear Mama. Those were his eternal redemption songs to show that the ghetto is not all doom and gloom but there are rays of light. When Stevie Wonder sang, 'uhh child things are gonna get easy' and you heard Tupac humming 'keep your head up' in the background you knew as a single mother trapped in the projects that there was hope - not that sought after sport scholarship or record deal but you could truimph over adversity. 'Take one's adversity/ Learn from their misfortune.../Believe in something/ Believe in yourself/Turn adversity into ambition', he wrote in the poem Ambition over Adversity.
Maybe Tupac's undoing was his desperation when he was doing hard time at Clinton Maximum at Rikers Island, a jail so notorious people who come from there are rumoured to struggle to find girlfriends due to that 'i can hear his asshole getting torn' statement he rapped about in 16 On Deathrow. And then there is AIDS as well that comes with that torn asshole. Here was a man who couldn't find a job because he shot at off-duty police officers and assaulted film directors, who was denied basic human rights, accused of sodomy he disputed, trying to stay focused and work so that his mother wouldn't be so poor to find the temptation of crack alluring again, then he gets shot five times on his way to help his friend record a song that should shield him from a life of gangbanging, just as the pain is excruciating he gets sentenced to jail, goes there and for some time no one is talking about posting bond or visiting him with good news. Here is the same man seeing felow inmates shanked every night and believing the same people who shot him outside Quad Studios in New York are ganging up to finish what they started in the shower one night, maybe after raping him. Listen to that song 'You ain't never had a Friend Like Me and you'll feel that pain, 'shedding crocodile tears just got life plus/ and you wonder if these white judges like us/ just stay strong strong we'll appeal nigga you'll be free/ down with you to the very end/ cuz you ain't never had a friend like me'
This is where things went extremely twisted. White does not entertain this part a lot apart from mentioning that Tupac got married at the Island and had celebrity visitors like Madonna who all wanted him to know they were thinking of him in their own way while receiving their stars at the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Tupac then, not seeing his 'niggaz' paying him house calls or writing letters started circulating the rumour that it was Sean 'Puffy' Combs and Christopher 'Notorious BIG' Wallace who set out to do him. Of course he did not mean it but he knew that claiming that the biggest selling rapper of the time with his album Ready to Die LP is implicated meant cats on the streets would take notice and remember that 'a Tupac' who quite recently told them that 'no matter what you do niggaz never die/ we just retaliate with hate and we multiply' is rotting in some god-forsaken island prison. Combs later told the same VIBE magazine that Tupac claimed the conspiracy in that he went to see him and the son of the Panther squashed the rumour and they agreed on doing a song together once 'Pac was out. Tupac got mad because Combs had enough to bail him out but he didn't do it.
That stunt worked because it alerted Marion 'Sugar Bear' Knight whose Death Row Records had been receiving a serious pounding from Combs' Bad Boy roster on the charts to realise that the only person who can tip the scales in his favour was incarcerated Tupac. With what Afeni Shakur later called a fraud contract signed in the absense of a legal representative 'Pac was out of jail on a $1million bond and on his way to 'death row' where his mere arrival pushed Dr Dre out of the successful company into Aftermath where Dre himself said ‘there ain’t nothing after that’. And whether Suge had anything to do with it or not one of the first engagements that 'Pac attended in LA on his way out of Rikers was the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack party where all the people who contributed to the project were being hosted by Kenneth 'Babyface' Edmonds.
And according to the rumour mill this is where the famed act that gave birth to the song Hit 'Em Up might have been conceived. 'First off fuck your bitch and the clique you claim/westside where we ride come equipped with game/ you claim to be a player but i fucked your wife'. This is not stuff you say on a song and expect to get away with. Not with your boss later telling the Source Awards that anybody who wants to make money should join his company. This is not stuff you associate with and still expect to make Gridlocked and Gang Related films as if nothing has happened. This is not gibberish you tell a concert, even bragging about having used a rubber and expect to see your grey hair. This is, in any culture, stuff you say and get stoned to death after a ten minute trial in a kangaroo court. It was not different with Tupac as his stoning came on the night of September 7, 1996 after a Mike Tyson bout. In Biblical times they used stones to lynch unrepentant sinners but in 1996 they throw chrome slugs.
But then since his death at the age of 25 Tupac has made more impact than he did when he was alive. Only sad that the police have never bothered to find out who snuffed him. His only weakness was his inability to shut his big mouth and let other people speak. He said he'll be remembered for his big mouth, and eleven years later that's what's still echoeing in our ears. There's been a body of work released after that including the much-acclaimed 7 Day Theory, The Don Killuminati where he came out as Makaveli The Don, his ruthless revenge-driven alter-ego. 'murder muthafuckas lyrically and i ain't gon' cry/ me a born leader'. Here Tupac was finally acknowledging his leadership credentials. Qualities displayed in the Outlawz LP Still I Rise where Tupac sounds as if he was on an atonement tip with The Good Die Young, Baby Don't Cry and Teardrops and Closed Caskets standing out.
With the ruthlessness of Makaveli which had lines like 'throw him up against the wall/ close his eyes/ since you lie/ you die/ goodbye' he had songs that showed his human side like Hold Ya Head and Just Like Daddy.
After that it was his previously unreleased works in R U Still Down and others which showed the commitment he put to his work, especially rap. Very few people have died leaving behind such a huge catalogue of their work, which included his Gang Related, Smile, Toss It Up, I ain't Mad at Cha videos which debuted after his death and cremation. To end much speculation about his fake death Shock G from Digital Underground told an interview that he took part of Tupac's burial, splashing his ashes on the Pacific Ocean.
Today Tupac has influenced rappers like 50cent, The Game, Eminem, Nas, Jay Z, Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, Immortal Technique and many others. Nas once said, 'show one rapper that I ain't influenced' but for today the question should be, 'show us one rapper that Tupac ain't influenced'.
Tupac was a youth who lived and died still struggling for that 'ghetto up in heaven and it's ours/ black power'. In the event of South Afrika's Youth Day it becomes important to ask, 'what are the young people all over the world doing to emulate Tupac's struggle to rise above poverty? If only every young person did half of what the son of the Panther did, everyone would realise that we can be roses that grew from a crack on the concrete, 'Proving nature's law is wrong it learned to walk with out having feet/ Funny it seems, but by keeping it's dreams,/ it learned to breathe fresh air/ Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else ever cared.'