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Writing About Music — Tupac

September 20, 2013

I always thought it would be pretty cool to be a music writer. So now and again, I am going to pretend that I am. I’ve chosen to write about rapper Tupac Amaru Shakur today. I’ve listened to a lot of his music and read a lot about him as well.

pac-tupac-shakur-music-gallery-pc-143318Tupac was a mere 25 years old at the time of his death. Before he died, he had become one of the most, If not THE most influential, celebrated, famous rappers, at least on the West Coast. He took the rap game to a place that it had never been before. Aside from being a hard core gangster rapper, Tupac wrote freely about how poverty and his lifestyle affected him mentally and emotionally. (“Shed So Many Tears,” “Unconditional Love,” “Life Goes On,” and many more.) I’ve read that Tupac was the first “emo” (emotional) rapper. He brought a style and lyrics not seen or heard before. He wrote about his love for his mother and other women he cared about (“Dear Mama” and “Wonder Why They Call You Bitch”). He wrote about being suicidal, predicted his own death. Tupac was a thinker and a poet, unlike so many other rappers today.

Onto his gangster rapper side… Tupac was at the center of one of the greatest controversies in rap, or dare I say, music. The war between West Coast and East Coast in the early nineties. There were disputed reasons for the start of this war. You see, Tupac moved around a lot. In fact, he started off in the East. He found his way to the Bay Area in California, and finally, settled in L.A. Rumor has it that Tupac felt slighted over a potential signing to a record deal in New York, where he was not the chosen artist for the contract, and this gave birth to his hate for East Coast rappers. He calls them all out in his records (Biggie, Jay-Z, Nas, The Lox, Mobb Deep). Listen to “Hit ‘Em Up” for one example of what I am talking about.

The two main figures in this beef were Pac and Biggie. They took shots back and forth at each other figuratively speaking on albums, and literally. In 1994, Tupac was shot five times coming out of a New York recording studio (“Hit ‘Em Up” also speaks about this). He was shot and robbed of his money and jewelry. Biggie’s song “You’ve Been Robbed” on Life After Death, which wasn’t released until after his death, describes this incident. Tupac emerged later from the hospital, bandaged and in a wheelchair with his middle finger in the air. It was the second five shots that killed him…

In Sept. 1997, Tupac was shot and killed at a stop light in Las Vegas. Was it the beef with the East coast? Was it his beef with the South Side Compton Crips? Was it a dispute from within his label? There are many rumors, controversies, and theories surrounding Tupac’s death. We’ve already spoken about the West/East rivalry, so I’ll tell you about how it went down with the South Side Compton Crips. Apparently, a crip had snatched a youngster’s chain from his neck, and when the kid spotted Tupac, he told him about it. Tupac went to vindicate the youngster. He is caught on camera approaching a man and saying, “Hey, you from the south?” When the man responds, “Yeah,” Tupac punched him in the jaw and laid him out. Theory has it that the Crips got back up (their guns), and later when they spotted Tupac at a stoplight, they fired shots from their SUV into Tupac’s vehicle, striking him five times in the chest and grazing his head twice. Tupac lived for seven days in the hospital before dying.

Another theory is that Suge Knight, owner of the Death Row record label and owner of Tupac’s contract wanted Tupac dead because Tupac was planning to leave the label when his contract ended and focus more on his own label “Amaru Records.” Supposedly, Tupac was complaining about the heat in the car, when Suge rolled down the windows and suggested Tupac remove his bulletproof vest, since they were almost there. Moments later Tupac was killed. Coincidence? Could be. Suge Knight is known for being a cutthroat in the music business, though it’s said he wasn’t as tough in jail, and it is possible that he wanted Tupac dead. But then again… Suge was money hungry, and why would Suge want to burn future chances of making money with Tupac? It’s true that Tupac was already famous and could survive on his own fame at this point, so he no longer needed Suge or anyone else to help him make his music or be heard. So did Suge feel slighted and want revenge? Were some of his enemies on the East Coast in Vegas that night? Did the South Side Compton Crips exact revenge for the beating and humiliation in the Vegas hotel lobby?

Tupac’s death never has and probably never will be solved.

There are other half-ass theories like the government put a hit out on Tupac because he was too influential, and the lyrics he was spitting were not agreeable to them (obviously). But I’m not buying it. It was something money/gang related that took this musician from the studios too early. He was very prolific when alive, so much so that records have been released after his death, of songs and verses he recorded long ago. It’s said that he wrote and recorded the entire double disc album “All Eyez On Me” in two weeks…damn.

Many people who listen to rap, or don’t, will tell you that Tupac was THE greatest rapper to ever live. Though some on the East Cost might say it was Biggie Smalls. Okay, they would. So in fairness to them, I will say Tupac was the greatest West Coast rapper to ever live. (Rap today is pretty much crap — auto tune wrought, no thought lyrically, over-formulaic, superficial crap.)

Back in elementary, I thrived on misery
Left me alone I grew up amongst a dyin breed
Inside my mind couldn’t find a place to rest
until I got that Thug Life tatted on my chest
Tell me can you feel me? I’m not livin in the past, you wanna last
Be the first to blast, remember Kato
No longer with us he’s deceased
Call on the sirens, seen him murdered in the streets
Now rest in peace
Is there heaven for a G? Remember me
So many homies in the cemetery, shed so many tears
–Shed So Many Tears, Tupac

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One Comment
  1. Awesome post from beginning to end! I have always leaned towards the Suge scenario, but I also think that there was more involved that no one will ever know. All Eyes on Me was one of my favorite albums. Back in the nineties, this would be blasting daily through my apartment – ‘Death Around the Corner’ and ‘Lord Knows’ were my all time faves!

    Like

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