Before They Were Famous: 2Pac

“Dear God, give us back 2pac and we’ll give you Justin Bieber…”

The words spoken by the blonde haired twink himself. And no doubt the world feels mostly the same.
But before Justin Bieber came along like a stealthy Backstreet Boy clone, Tupac was the notorious bad boy with some genuine intelligence and a harmonious voice in R & B.

He was born Lesane Parish Crooks, in Manhattan, 1971, but was renamed a year later to Tupac Shakur, after Tupac Amaru II, the Peruvian socialist and revolutionist. This kind of political influence was inherent in his family with his mother being a black socialist and a part of the Black Panther Party in Manhattan. The party has been known to infiltrate police buildings and government institutions and his family were part of the “Panther 21” court case. His mother was charged with one hundred and fifty counts of conspiracy against the US government and New York’s historical landmarks and was pregnant with Tupac when she was in gaol for using high powered explosives. At least 3 of his other family members were arrested for murder.

His family were poor and he lived in homeless shelters up to the age of thirteen. Tupac has stated that he kept himself busy with diaries and writing poetry to express himself during the tough living conditions.

Tupac got a break when he and his mother moved to Baltimore and he eventually got to study at the Baltimore School for the Arts where he studied poetry, acting, ballet, and jazz. After playing the Mouse King in the school’s production of The Nutcracker, Tupac was beginning to become popular and started to rap for his school friends under the name MC New York, along with his beatboxing friend, Dana “Mouse” Smith.

It was in Baltimore that Tupac was becoming much like his mother in politics and joined the Young Communist League. This led the way to him meeting his first crush, who was the daughter of the local director for the Communist Party of the USA. He then moved to California with his mother where he began to grow as a well-rounded artist in his high school. He continued to write poetry, performed in theatre, and wrote a respected paper on rapping and its influences, called, “Conquering All Obstacles”:

“Our raps, not the sorry-story raps everyone is so tired of. They are about what happens in the real world. Our goal is to have people relate to our raps, making it easier to see what really is happening out there. Even more important, what we may do to better our world.”

Tupac formed his own group called Strictly Dope, with his friends Ray Luv and DJ Dize. They played a local concert and Tupac was soon auditioned as a back-up dancer for Digital Underground. He made first appearance in their song, ‘Same Song’, and later lent his vocals in their album Sons of the P which led to him being signed to Interscope Records. Tupac made his first album with Interscope Records, 2Pacalypse Now, and was brought back into the political world when it was said to have influenced a teenage boy who shot a police officer.

“I just wanted to rap about things that affected young black males. When I said that, I didn’t know that I was gonna tie myself down to just take all the blunts and hits for all the young black males, to be the media’s kicking post for young black males. I just figured since I lived that life I could do that, I could rap about that.”

After being caught up in gang fights and the night life of California, Tupac was eventually shot, a bullet going through his right lung, causing him to internally bleed and die.

He was a man of extraordinary talent and influenced musicians, such as Eminem, Nas, Talib Kweli, and Game. He has influenced the R & B genre forever and has inspired young men and women all over the world with his music.

We’ll end this piece with some of Tupac’s poetry, with a poem called “And 2morrow”:

“Tonight I lay my head down
but the pressure never stops
knawing at my sanity
content when I am dropped

But 2morrow I c change
a chance 2 build a new
Built on spirit intent of Heart
and ideals
based on truth

and tomorrow I wake with second wind
and strong because of pride
2 know I fought with all my heart 2 keep my
dream alive.”

Happy Listening, Vultures.

Jacob Reid

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