Thursday, 16 June 2011
STILL I RISE: A TRIBUTE TO TUPAC SHAKUR (1971-1996)
It's been 15 years since we saw 'Better Days' , 'R U Still Down'?
BY TIM DAVID HARVEY
On September 13th, 1996 Tupac Shakur tragically died as the result of his injuries after being shot on the Las Vegas strip after a Mike Tyson fight. 15 years later on the 16th of June in 2011 (what would have been his 40th birthday) we mourn once again the loss of the greatest rapper/poet/prophet/activist of our generation, which today still feels as raw as the moment the unbelievable news broke. After mourning and blasting 'Staring Through My Rearview' as loud as we can out our cars (I see you), we look back and celebrate the man's life because even after 15 years we can't and won't forget.
15 years, 15 more and forever more won't make us forget about the greatest rapper of all time. Sure when your asked 'Who's the greatest MC'? You may reply 'Biggie, Jay-Z or Nas' but you know in the history of hip-hop there's been no one quite like 'Pac and there will never be another like him. As iconic in African-American culture as Michael Jordan. As iconic in music as Kurt Cobain or Marvin Gaye. From recited lyrics to tattoo's, T-shirts, posters, murals and the most evocative of memories. From every fan, the real G.O.A.T, Tupac lives.
15 years, 15 more and forever more won't make us forget about the music. The sound from '2Pacalypse Now' to right now. From the old school to the new. From Digital Underground's to time on Death Row. The 14 studio albums, 6 recorded before his death, 8 posthumous. How could we even miss a beat? From the club to the church and from the streets to the graves, Shakur lamented it all. He inspired, he showed love for his mama and he fought with the best and came out on top. Tupac could give it to anybody in so many ways, 'How Do You Want It?'
15 years, 15 more and forever more won't make us forget about 'All Eyez On Me'. An instant and timeless classic. Most artists these days would fall short on recording a double album (even Jay and Nas have found it tough) but obviously Tupac had a lot to say over two books after coming out of prison. You wouldn't be blamed if you confused 'All Eyez On Me' with his 'Greatest Hits'. What other rap album could boast as many diverse and prominent rap classics as 'Ambitionz Az A Ridah', 'All About You', 'How Do You Want It', '2 Of Amerikaz Most Wanted', 'Life Goes on', 'California Love (Remix)', 'I Aint Mad At Cha', 'Picture Me Rollin', 'All Eyez On Me' and so much more. No wonder 'Pac had everyone's ears as well as eyes.
15 years, 15 more and forever more won't make us forget about 'California Love'. A club banger so classic the love for the West Coast dedication never dies. Hate it now if you dare but what other hip-hop club classic stands the test of time? Even these days with ipod's, music downloads and throw away rap club bangers that saturate the music market 'California Love' still makes noise. To all the DJ's out there, you could throw this record on at any point in the night and people will go as crazy as the first time it dropped. What other record does that these days?
15 years, 15 more and forever more won't make us forget that when 2Pac was 'Against The Odds' and everybody he made one of his best albums in 'Me Against The World'. From 'If I Die Tonight' to 'Outlaw' Shakur showed everyone that he found his own. With timeless rap records like the title track, 'So Many Tears', 'Temptations', 'Dear Mama' and 'Death Around The Corner'. Tupac proved that if anybody in hip-hop had a songbook a impressive and as big as Bob Dylan's it was him.
15 years, 15 more and forever more won't make us forget about Makaveli and 'The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory'. Tupac's album under the name Makaveli was released just months after his death and is his most compelling and haunting set. We heard him 'Bomb First' and then after saying a 'Hail Mary' we learned how 'To Live & Die in LA', 'Against All Olds'. All throughout this we learned how passionate and determined this young man really was and ultimately we learned how tragic a time this was.
15 years, 15 more and forever more won't make us forget that not only was Tupac a brilliant rapper but a brilliant poet also. The lyricist and artist was 'The Rose That Grew From Concrete'. Even though Tupac came from dark times his words where still a thing of beauty giving light to ugly truths. We could see the 'Pride Of A Panther' and the blues of a thug. Most importantly though we read between the lines and saw the man himself as he put himself out there on paper. Resulting in something truly inspirational. Real 'Poetic Justice'.
15 years, 15 more and forever more won't make us forget about the acting. Whether 'Above The Rim', 'Gridlock'd' or with a little 'Juice' the always genuine and intense Shakur proved he could be a legend in two games like Pee Wee Kirkland. Even when 'Pac shared the screen with talent at the level of Tim Roth, Omar Epps and Janet Jackson he was still the films silver lining. Most rappers appear in movies because they can. Tupac was a bonafide actor however, he appeared in movies because he could.
15 years, 15 more and forever more won't make us forget the great life of one the most influential and inspirational figures of the 90's. 15 years, 15 more and forever more won't make us forget about the tragic death of this man. Taken way before his time, I guess the good really do die young. 15 years, 15 more and forever more won't make us forget however that resurrected through his music Tupac Shakur lives on in our memories and through speakers, every time we bang out 'Can't C Me' and every time we knock 'Rebel Of The Underground'.
15 years, 15 more and forever more won't make us forget about the lessons learned. What he taught us through his music and what we learned after his death. We'll never forget what we learned after his and The Notorious B.I.G.'s murders. We'll never forget how he 'Let The Knowledge Drop' and how he told us that 'Life Goes On', but we will still, always remember.
15 years, 15 more and forever more won't make us forget about the inspiration that this man brought. He spoke to everyone from the projects to the high-rises. He spoke about everyone, every injustice he saw, telling us "unless we're shootin, no one notices the youth". Through everything though 'Pac recognised the forgotten youth, telling us that 'Brenda's Got A Baby' and being there for everyone when no one else was. Telling us to 'Hold On, Be Strong' and to 'Keep Ya Head Up'. Even with our backs against the wall Tupac told us "Through every dark night; theres a bright day after that. So no matter how hard it get; stick your chest out; keep ya head up.. . and handle it". Even if we were against the world Shakur was right there with us.
15 years, 15 more and forever more won't make us forget about the influences this man has had on music and youth. Whether they look like it or not every rapper in one way or another has taken a page out of Tupac's rhyme book for inspiration. From Ja Rule to Kanye West, East, West and Dirty South . Half of these rappers wouldn't even be around without the influence and inspiration of Tupac, he paved the way. Sure one day one of these new up and coming rappers will join Eminem and outsell this West Coast icons 75 million albums but believe me know one will touch as many people as Tupac Amaru Shakur.
This is because 15 years, 15 more and forever more won't make us forget about the legacy left by this larger than life figure. The legacy that lives through his mother Afeni Shakur, through the 'Tupac Foundation', through his statues and countless murals and through his music. The music that grows day by day as new generations pick up copies of 'All Eyez On Me', or as the hundreds of remaining 'Pac lyrics are released. Through the music we'll always picture Tupac 'rollin' and 'As The World Turns' we'll never move on without him.
15 years, 15 more and forever more won't make us forget it's 'All About You' 2Pac, Rest In Peace and Happy Birthday!