Tupac’s Conflicted

As a mid-90s kid consumed by entertainment and media, Tupac Shakur was inescapable. I saw his movies, ceased my channel surfing when crossing his music videos, and owned a few of his albums. All Eyez On Me went 9x Platinum and most of my 7th grade peers knew a line or two from it. Plus, I’d bet “California Love” is still played at high-school dances or any gathering that includes a lame DJ.

tupac

You know the headlines– the ridiculous east/west conflict, the charade with Notorious BIG, Suge Knight, etc. My favorite part of his legacy is the attacks levied by politicians who wanted to appear as though they were doing something while actually doing nothing. Tupac, Ice-T and a few others were key figures in the crusade against violence infused lyrics, especially imagery that included violence against cops within pop-music (mainly metal and rap). But, as Spike Lee points out, James Cameron can make a film where Mr. Universe rolls through a police station killing over a dozen police officers and no politician will have an issue with it. However, if a rapper happens to talk about killing a uniformed man, there’ll be hell to pay (i.e.the creation of silly parental advisory labels).

After digesting much of the respectable hip-hop and some of the commercial rap that has been in the air since Tupac’s murder, his views about women still stand out to me. I’ve never heard a more specific and telling portrait of someone’s mother than Tupac’s “Dear Mama.”

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And a terribly dated “Brenda’s Got a Baby” took melodrama and social awareness to heights that have yet to be surpassed. This track makes you believe that Tupac could have held as much compassion as a Women’s Studies professor.

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Hopefully that frustratingly long outro will never be surpassed either.

Later in his career, he tosses aside the sympathy and compassion to provide us with a justification for his industry’s objectification of an entire gender “Wonda Why They Call U Bitch.”

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The person who Tupac references at the end of the song, C. Delores Tucker, led a remarkable life. She was a committed humanitarian which made her a huge opponent of gangsta rap for obvious reasons (promotion of violence and reckless sex, etc). Unfortunately, she tried to go after rap music the same way Tipper Gore did metal and Dan Quayle did rap. They all should’ve realized, no matter how much you hate it, you can’t defeat commercial success.

So, there it is. When Public Enemy is topping the charts with Fight the Power, Tupac throws on his “social injustice” hat. Later when “Thug Life” was the yellow-brick road, he was the Wiz. Tupac’s conflicted.

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