Yodemo publisher St Lucas tha Ribelatti reincarnates the legend of Tupac Shakur through his ruthless attack of the book that started it all. This is the second coming that all his fans have been waiting for the whole decade and Tupac’s much fancied reincarnation.
The legendary Tupac Amaru “Don-Killuminati – Makavelli” Shakur was gunned down in Las Vegas 11 years ago. Born to a Black Panther activist, he lived his life as an intelligent young man who was forced to embrace folly in order to be “The Man.” In his early twenties, Shakur's respect for the world and especially women dwindled to the level of misogynist. But one thing that the world failed to kill off in Shakur was his poetic/activist spirit. In Rebel For The Hell of It, the author highlights the tragic regression of a Negro who went from a star to a monster. While Shakur tried his best to represent the suppressed voice of the dark-skinned population in America, his enemies bragged that they were richer than he, forcing him to choose between be real and being reel. It's either the money or the soul; that's what Shakur was faced with as you page through the book. One thing I noticed about Shakur, even outside of this book, is that he was far from being a businessman. Shakur would never go the level of Jay-Z, but would keep on being a Nas with a thuggish soul. Once upon a series called Hardcopy on SABC 3, a newspaper owner told the editor one statement that made me think of Shakur. He said about the all-understanding editor who gave moral support to his staff, “You see this people as your family, don't you? You are like a father to them?” The editor grudgingly answered “yes.” Then the cutthroat mogul replied, “Well, it is clear that you are not a businessman, you are a father, go home and be with your children, you don't belong in business.

For me, throughout this book and other sources on Shakur's life, it is clear that this Negro was a poet and
activist, not a businessman. He was heavily affected by the effects of war and capitalistic exploitation, but unfortunately he learned the hard way that those were the tenets of capitalism. Like Mario Puzo once wrote, “There is no great fortune without a crime.” In the company of Marion “Suge” Knight, Shakur realised the truth of that statement. According to various hip hop reports, Shakur is the best selling rap star of all time, with over 50 million records sold. However, his pocket never attested to that reality as much as that of Jigga would. Therefore, reading this book is like traveling through the shoes of a Negro exploited because of a good heart that failed to become cruel, not even under the guise of Makaveli. For him to hold up the Grandiose Dellusion he had about being Makaveli, Shakur had to stay on drugs and alcohol. He never went a day without smoking Lebake, or having a gulp of Bodila. I must say, a version of Brenda Fassie, whose heart was on the people, not on the business.

Rebel for the hell of it is an academic diss with merit. In terms of lingual relevance this book doesn’t cut it for the hip hop head clad with hanging T-shirts and bandanas. It goes to the varsity brain that knows how to leap-frog in between the intellectual debate raised by culture critic, Armond White, within a maze of words defying limited schooling but consistently calling for the reinstatement of the dictionary. In simple terms, if you are not a bookworm, this book should be blasphemy to your cherished belief in modern ignorance. The only merit that this merciless portrayal of Tupac Amaru Shakur’s life of constant battle with himself and the seemingly antagonist world, is that it’s a kind of book Shakur would have read. Intellectual that he was, with over hundred academic books read by him, this book makes the list that would have graced his eyes, and challenged his mind to think.

From the Introduction to the Discography, White does not apologize for portraying Shakur in the way that he viewed himself. In fact he stands justified, except for the title of the book, which sounds pretty much like a marketing gimmick. Shakur was a fuck-up to his society, yes – nothing unique about that, except for his unmatchable talent. The author is able to juggle insult and justification, for himself and the subject (Shakur), in his attempt to perform an academic postmortem of what to many was a legend still alive within conspiracy cycles.

In the four years that I have tried my best to read this book, I realized recently that the only thing that kept me trying was the Life – and Death – of this powerful wordsmith. I’m not hating, you need to buy this book, but unless you are an author yourself don’t expect to understand (or is it overstand) it soon. In this book, White has failed dismally to reach Shakur’s fans, but surely has achieved reaching the targeted audience: Folks who thought hip-hop was just another form of music. I doubt if White was even trying to reach any of us. Yes, I’m not just a reviewer; I am also a fan. Somehow, in the past years I have been trying to read this book, I have managed to stand in between the gap created between the intelligentsia and the fanatics. Therefore, I will say from an academic view that this book is a great attempt. From a fanatic view I will say “What the fuck?” The only thing a fan recognizes in this academic attempt is the picture work and some of the quoted lyrics. The rest, it needs a few years and a college degree.

However, it must be said that white has been able to depict Shakur in the way that he saw himself in the mirror. He saw him with through a limited view that Shakur saw himself – a view only possible to go beyond through the eyes of Freud. The fact that he quoted Russel Simmons as saying about Shakur that “It was just that rebelliousness for the sake of it.” That’s a sheer lie, or a dim observation, which somehow stamped the title of the book. Any true fan would know that Shakur rebelled for a cause, not for the hell of it. Any psychoanalytic academic would also know that Shakur’s rebellion had taken years to harness, until it couldn’t be contained any more. Hence, at the end, White has failed both the Freudian academic and Machiavellian fan. Yet, he hasn’t failed Shakur, who expressed himself in a way that justifies White’s observation. In White’s words, Shakur saw himself as a music-Hollywood victim deceived and manipulated and turned into a moneymaking machine.

Shakur regretted his role in rap as the industry made profitable fodder of them all. Fodder is what Shakur saw in his mirror every time he reflected on his achievements. White cites a conflict between a “political desperation and their material yearning.” Shakur was a failure to himself because he came in the game as a voice but ended up as an ATM for moguls like Suge Knights and friends. As White reveals in the book, Shakur was nothing close to a businessman but a young Negro engaged in an endless search of joy at the midst of a “moral impasse” caused by a version of American Apartheid. This is where the psychology creeps in. Shakur was not a hell-of-it rebellion, but a defense mechanism with which he concealed his vulnerabilities, which bordered at the periphery of penal
dismorphophobia. These hidden fears are what I call the Vu-In complex. This means the Vulnerability and Inadequacy complex. The two concepts represent the deeper fears that none of us ever want to feel, especially while others are watching.

White frankly puts it: Tupac himself bequeathed to the hip hop nation the same irrational bluster that he could depend upon to GET ATTENTION. Although I agree, I must emphasize that Shakur rebelled because he had to – it was a let-out of his deeper fears despite his intelligence. The Vu-In complex can strip a person naked to the level that they don’t see the contribution they make in society. White admits that Shakur carried the weight of a disenfranchised black American youth, which unlike their British counterparts “felt additional weight from the race-based system of oppression and discouragement.

White continues to probe and prophesy: Tupac’s death raises questions about the future of Black popular music. Well, today it is clear that since Shakur’s early death, the only rapper who brought an advancing conflict to the future of Black popular music (not Black popular musicians) was the White Eminem. He is the replica of Shakur’s legend expect for a few excusable features on the race frontier. So far, Eminem, real name Marshall Matters, has been the only rapper who managed to stay on the emotional side of hip-hop. That’s what Shakur was
all about, a point which confused the critic in White as he typed away at a failed academic observation. While he acknowledges the enigma of Tupac, later known as Makavelli, he however persists to demean the Tupacism that defined Shakur in the media and all entertainment circles.

What White fails to acknowledge is that Shakur was not a multi-media entrepreneur, but poor poet touched by the malice that blanketed the entire world without any finger being lifted to bring change. Thus, although he wanted to be known to his enemies as a moneymaker, Shakur’s lyrics always betrayed the activist in him. From my personal observation, if Shakur had a choice of healing AIDS or owning a billion dollars, he would have chosen the former. His was a heart plagued by injustice. His rough persona manifested beyond control when he joined Death Row after months of incarceration. It was as if jail had murdered the activist in him, a symptom of trauma similar to that suffered by rape victims, whose Vu-In complex manifested even the worst. After jail, also as revealed by White’s critique, it was like Shakur was now on a vengeance tip. Such behaviour was never seen when he was shot five times. Me Against The World sounds like a scary title but it carries a voice of a nigga searching for help. However, a less scary title, All Eyes On Me, sounded like a nigga bitten by a human snake; a nigga searching for no explanation but vengeance. And Death Row happened to be there at the moment, a point well depicted in Chapter 16.

There are scarring moments in White’s book when you realize that Michael Jackson’s sister, Janet, now married to Jermaine Dupree, ill-treated Shakur when she insisted he get an Aids test before acting out a meager love scene with her on Poetic Justice. Just like the bitches in Shakur’s early development, this lady demanded he get tested although she wasn’t really going to have sex with him. Perhaps unlike White, who is quick to judge, we can only assume that Jackson had a secret plan to seduce Shakur into boning her for really, perhaps after the film. It was this kind of attack that made Shakur a rebel; it protected or defended him from the world of criticism, provoking his Vu-In complex to complicate him to a level only Brenda Fassie could reach.

Yet, due must be given to White for including Dear Mama in his critique. Although he purposefully, or now truly academically portrayed Shakur as suffering from a quasi-Oedipal complex, including Dear Mama invoked feelings of sensitivity that truly marked Shakur’s mental disposition. Those who know the song know the impact it carries – to a level that no song in the world dedicated to a mother can match Dear Mama. This is a point White’s academic criticism fails to overwhelm. White goes on to explore Shakur’s body and love for Gangsters and obsession with West Coast. As you page though the barbed wire diction you realize that this book has been well written, something that would have equally upset the late Delores Tucker as much as Shakur’s songs pretended to.

At the end of the day, White is a hell of a writer, but more so for academics more than for fans. He raises good questions while of course making bad judgments and giving weird analogies. If I were you I would get the book as soon as possible, it beats the theories that Shakur is alive. 11 years down the line, indeed 9 bullets couldn’t drop him, he took ém and smiled as he entered a rest he needed as revealed in the introduction of the book when Afeni Shakur meditated on her son’s passing.

Isn’t it something that Shakur shared a birthday with the birth of freedom? Think about it while you rummage your way through them book shops. As for this one, be prepared to read, it’s not an easy read – had to pop a few just write the damn review. 4kof

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