I remember my Freshman year in high school where I was attending an all-boys Jesuit school and given an assignment in Theology class to take a song that I am currently listening to that was near and dear to me and write about and present it. I decided to use the title track of Tupac Shakur’s album “Me Against The World” as the song I would use for my paper. Keep in mind for this assignment we had to play the song out loud for the class before we presented our paper. Think about how shocked the class and my teacher (who was a Jesuit priest) was when Tupac and Dramacydal (soon to be known as the Outlawz) came blaring out of the speakers. Keep in mind I was the only black person in the class and this was 95 and Hip hop was getting popular in the mainstream at the time. So Tupac music being presented to my class at that time was more than an eye opener. I stood up at the head of the class with a stoic look on my face like “Hell Yeah”. I began to breakdown the song to my class and took questions about my presentation from my teacher and the class and the last words of my presentation I didn’t know would mean so much after his death. I said that “Tupac Shakur ghetto schizophrenia but that also is what makes him a genius.”
This Sunday will mark the 42nd birthday of the Tupac Shakur (2Pac) who is arguably the greatest hip hop artist of all time. Tupac’s influence runs longer than the Nile River and I like have written previously a lot of hip hop artist would be working at Jiffy Lube if 2Pac was still alive. Tupac was an enigmatic figure that some present day rappers have patterned their careers after. Tupac’s untimely death was not only a cautionary tale for ghetto youth but also the culmination of how ghetto schizophrenia if not kept in checked can be your destruction.
I didn’t know what I was saying about Tupac when I called him a brilliant ghetto schizophrenic. Many schizophrenics are geniuses that just can’t harness the difference between real and fake. John Nash the Nobel Peace Prize Winner and subject of the film A Beautiful Mind was able to harness his schizophrenia to change math. But, what ghetto schizophrenia? It is mostly in the same vain as the psychological term on schizophrenia. But, in this case is the inability to understand the real and fake of being “hood” but still trying to operate in a capitalistic, Euro-centric, and hegemonic society. Tupac’s ability to harness his ghetto schizophrenia is in what many ways made him genius but his inability in many ways of knowing when to detach from ignorant behavior was also ultimately his downfall. Tupac gave his heart and soul to hip hop through his art (be in rap, poetry, or acting). And in many aspects he was just like his sign a Gemini was always two different people but the same person at the same time.
Tupac’s determination, work ethic, personality creativity are aspects of his character that many people can learn from him. In Part One of this piece I am going to discuss one side of the reality of Tupac. These are just a few things that shows one side of his influence.
Tupac was one of the few MCs who were able to convey respect and love for women without losing any edge of respect.
-“Brenda’s Got a Baby” is a story that many people had never told at the time…let along a rapper. People think Precious was a heartbreaking story but I would venture to say you never heard this. There is nothing more heartbreaking and shocking like this Tupac song that displays how some young black girls have to come up.
-“Keep Your Head Up” was one of the first theme songs for women that displayed how much a man understand all the things they go through in this world. You can’t get an anymore uplifting song about black women.
-“Can You Get Away” was a song made for TLC’s Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes in reference to her abusive relationship with Andre Rison. It was one of the first time’s a rapper would confront the idea of physical abuse of women in romantic relationships. Only Tupac could do this is a cool knight and shining armor fashion without coming off corny.
-Who can forget the most honest and real ode to a mother with “Dear Mama“? This song displayed the idea of how much a man loves his mother regardless of the things she has been through. Many black men have been put in situations where their mother’s were there everything and Tupac was able to convey this from the perspective of a black youth.
One of the things that are the most admirable about Tupac is that he spoke his truth. He wanted to be a light of truth for black and disenfranchised people.
-Tupac wasn’t scarred to speak his opinion about the state of Black America and society regardless of what people thought about him. His speech during the Indianapolis Black Expo is nothing more than epic and many of the things he said had people shocked but was what many black leaders didn’t want to acknowledge.
-I previously wrote Yummy Sandifer and how it affected me but Tupac was THE ONLY known rapper who really talked about address the problem of Yummy Sandifers being cultivated in the ghetto. he spoke on many of the ills and issues that most rappers would just rap about in a position of praise instead of critique.
-Tupac was able to walk that tight rope of dropping political jewels in songs for people to think about and ponder. Many thugs were educated about the government and political structure in America. The heaviest evidence of this is in the posthumous song “I Wonder If Heaven Has a Ghetto” .
Tupac could tap into the emotions and internal struggle that almost any person can understand and relate to. We all try to walk around like we have this life thing all figured out when we truly are lost and searching for solace.
-Tupac joined by The Outlawz on “Black Jesuz” is a hood spiritual that tackles the ideas of religion and believing God while growing up in poverty and being a son of slave. The song is one of the most slept on but poignant songs from Tupac because it talks about how religion doesn’t traditionally acknowledge black faces and that poor people need explore our representation of God.
-Tupac was able to tap into the sadness and struggle of life in “So Many Tears” and “Lost Souls”. Many times growing up as a man regardless of all the things we go through that we can’t cry and understand that the pressures of life can be bearing down on you. Growing up in the hood or even in business and corporate America those that are perceived weak can be those that are taken advantage of. But, Tupac should many men (and women) that you aren’t less because you are through pain.
Tupac any many ways is one of the most profound philosophers of the modern era. But, as I have described earlier there were many aspects of Tupac where he didn’t understand when he needed to keep it real and when he was keeping some things wrong. Many of us don’t understand how to tote the line and constantly battle have a battle between who we are and who we want to evolve in being Tupac was no different.
Stay Tuned for Part II as I will talk about the other side of Tupac Shakur’s character and some lessons we can all learn from his life…
Make sure you check out this week’s episode of the “Straight Outta Lo Cash” Radio Show. This week’s show “The Unwritten Therapy” with special guests Geno Brooks and Kim Williams. You can also subscribe to the show on I-Tunes or listen on your Android, I-Phone, or I-Pad with Stitcher Radio.