2PAC – Why Ya’ll STILL Don’t Get him…

And since his name just got brought up in the last post, It’s only fitting that I take this time to show love to my Favorite Rapper of All Time, 2pac Shakur.

This is an artist who is commonly casually accused of being hypocritical, but quite to the contrary, if folk took the time to actually ‘listen to the music and not just skim through it’, they would hear that he is a much more well-rounded artist.

What Pac did was never failed to give you a concise, very self-aware marriage of all of the elements of his being. These are elements that can very realistically co-exist and were never big exaggerations of his intents or capabilities. He didn’t give you Italiano-inspired scenarios of fictional drug heists or dealings, he didn’t tell you how he was gonna shoot the club up or stick niggas who floss. He didn’t brag about having a homie who ‘kidnaps kids’ and ‘fucks them in the ass’, or how he’s the king of L.A. and a prophet of the streets.

No, instead, he told you he was just a “Young Black Male”, loving the Cali life that he adopted, and had adopted him, that he became a man under, a former criminal who hung with criminals who ‘never had a record until he made a record’. He told you he was one of you, just on his flyer shit, but that he Loved you and he wanted what was best for you. Without claiming to be some urban griot or street’s disciple, he managed to always fit in songs with a strong Pro-Black message or inner-city reality theme or even positivity in ways that never came off corny or preachy. The other key factor being that like all good artists, his songs were always relatable and catchy. You never felt like you were listening to Pac’s “deep” song or his message track.

Then, he told you how he loved his strong, real Women, but didn’t love a bitch. Then he proceeded to define what a bitch is so you’d know. This is why, the same man who made “Keep Your Head Up” & “Brenda’s Got A Baby” can make “I Get Around” or “How Do You Want It”. How does one cancel the other?? Is he being crude and asking them to give him head if he lends them his chain? One song is describing what he wants to do to a particular woman and asking her what she wants, the other is addressing groupies and how (ironically), he likes to know up-front if the sentiments are mutual so as not to get caught up in rape accusations or any stalker situations. How does this take away from a song which addresses growing up poor, Ghetto life, dying friends and women (who are not the objects of his affections or lust in this case) who are struggling financially and raising children on their own?? Or a song where he’s describing an incident of teenage pregnancy and tragedy? He even makes a call to men to respect and tend to their women more so as not to have them end up as the wayward groupies he talks about in the other song. Yet and still, these 2 angles have been constants in Pac’s music from the beginning of his career, he always separates the lines and makes it clear when doing so.

He even told you he’s a mama’s boy. And then he made the first and only significant Mother’s Day rap song.

He told you what he would do in retaliation for his life if  put on the line and against the wall. Lines like “We ain’t even come to fight tonight, but it’s my life or your life…” do not imply senseless, non-provoked violence. This is not “Gimme The Loot” or “Shoot Em Up”. The most glorified it ever got to is on “Me and My Girlfriend” and even that had a purpose, or in his more militant era (though he never really lost that sensibility) when he took out his anger on crooked cops and the judicial system on songs like “Violent” or “Outlaw”. Most of Pac’s volatile energy – which he is now most notorious for – was directed at his enemies, who, instead of being imaginary foes, were real people who he aired out on record. From unnamed street folks who he probably had bad run-ins with and wanted him dead, to Industry heads who knew something and betrayed him or displayed disgusting weakness toward him, Pac knew exactly who he was talking to. Even when it was racists and cops at the top of the list. The gun talk wasn’t used to promote street gang violence or random shooting or even basic crime. Pac would often depict and describe the horrors of the aftermath of drive-bys and shoot-outs in other songs. This was war for him, usually in a self-defense regard. To put it short, the guy wasn’t a Saint by far, but while most of your favorite street rappers have always claimed to be killers and murderers, Pac was just telling you he’s ‘not a killer but don’t push him’! Doesn’t sound so contradictory now does it? I’d kill a nigga too if I believed he set me up and left a bullet in my nut.

The gem of Pac’s music however, was that for all these sides that he displayed and made co-exist, he also had the special thing that took him above and beyond; creativity. Having the most vast body of work of any rapper before Lil Wayne, Pac did come from a performance background after all, and this foundation shined through as he wove tales where he assumed characters, voices and described intricate plots. As redundant as his music can sometimes be, he has to be one of the only rappers who has rapped about such a diverse amount of topics, from friendship to religion. His songs really were just hood poetry….The fact that he could get us to listen to a song like “Can U get Away”, about taking a girl away from her abusive boyfriend with the same concentration as a song like “So Many Tears” where he shares his paranoid thoughts with us is a testament to that. He really is responsible for inventing the rap ballad, or emo rap. Just look at the beats that he rapped over.

I’ll do another formal look at 2Pac’s style and impact on hip-hop next year when the 15th anniversary of his death rolls around (WOW). For Now, pull out whatever music you have of his and listen with new ears. For those of you who never paid him much attention, Now is a good time don’t you think?