I didn’t think about this post until late Friday evening. However, I felt that it was something I should share. For my generation, Tupac Amaru Shakur was our John Lennon. There isn’t really anyone else to compare him to as far as influence, iconic status, and death,
I was first introduced to 2Pac by my mother. She had the cassette single of “I Get Around” and would play it on Saturday afternoons when we would be cleaning up our two bedroom apartment in Queens. Being a good parent, she wouldn’t play it repeatedly because the subject matter wasn’t what children should be listening to; but she liked the song and so did my sister and me. Eventually I knew all of the words and would be quick to rap “All respect to those who keep their hoes in check” and such when my mother wasn’t in earshot. My other introduction to 2Pac was me hating on him around 1993 when he was playing Lucky in Poetic Justice. I didn’t like him because he was Janet Jackson’s love interest and at the time I had a thing for Ms. Jackson who was in her prime back then.
I liked 2Pac like any other kid at the time. He wasn’t a fixture on the radio in New York back then because he was more or less considered a west coast artist and 98.7 Kiss FM and eventually Hot 97 were more inclined to play The Notorious B.I.G. and Method Man back then.
I was starting sixth grade; almost eleven years old when 2Pac died. My good friend from church Philliph and his mom was taking a group of us to go rock climbing at Chelsea Piers for his birthday on Septbember 13, 1996. I was sitting at the bottom of my steps on Francis Lewis Boulevard waiting for Ms. Cheryl and her son to come and pick me up. I wasn’t necessarily thinking about 2Pac at the time. We all knew that he had been shot in Las Vegas a few days earlier,, but we all just knew he was gonna pull through like he did previously.
We had a good time at Chelsea Piers. On the ride back to Queens, we were listening to Hot 97 and we noticed that they were playing lots of sad music. All of us in the car were wondering why they were playing songs like Boyz II Men Please Don’t Go. After the song went off, Angie Martinez made the announcement that 2Pac died at 7:03 PM from his gunshot wounds. There was a silence in the van amongst the handful of boys. We were all sad. I think we all were taking in the moment and etching it into our minds that we would never forget the moment that we found this news out. The whole ride back, that was all we talked about. We just all knew he was going to make it out of this; but he didn’t.
2Pac’s estate would eventually release a slew of albums and there would be questions and jokes if he really died. 2Pac was big when he was alive, but he became an icon after death. Like I said, he became John Lennon. For someone who died when I was in my tweens, his music old and new became the soundtrack to my generation’s lives well into our twenties. I stopped keeping track of the new Pac albums after a while because they felt watered down.
His words inspired many of us to write. I know a couple of people who started rapping, becoming poets, and even professional writers and journalists because of him. When I applied to Morehouse College, there was an essay portion that needed to be fulfilled. The topic was to write about a black man influenced us. As opposed to writing about Martin Luther King which I assumed most people wrote about being that he is Morehouse’s most distinguished alum; I decided to write about 2Pac. I wrote about him to set myself a part thinking that whoever reads this will be somewhat entertained because it would be the first time someone wrote about Pac to get into college. It was mostly creative writing. However, the more I wrote, the more the truth came out. 2Pac’s death had helped me find direction in life. I wanted to use my life and words to mean something to others and I did not want to die young. I wanted to steer clear of the streets or whatever. Coming from where I did, I have quite a few friends and acquaintances that have taken to the streets because it was there and many times seems as a means as well as a way to prove you were a man.
One other quick 2Pac story. When I first got to Morehouse, my roommate and I were cool, but we didn’t always see eye to eye. I think it was more or less that people who are alike tend to butt heads. A lot of my closest friends and I start off this way, and he was no different. In defiance to each other, we would both play our music loudly while doing work, studying, or whatever we were doing. One September afternoon, we were both at our desks studying and listening to our separate music loudly. I decided to play 2Pac’s When I Get Free p. 2. Almost in sync, so did he. When I noticed it, I looked at him and asked “Did you start playing this because I did?” He looked up and realized we were both playing the same song, laughed, and said “Nah, I didn’t hear you playing it.” That was the moment that we clicked and we never blasted our music simutaneously again. We became really good friends and we still are.
How does this tie into this blog? Not sure. I guess its part of my childhood. It was one of those defining moments that made me who I am today. I rapped for years. Listening to how 2Pac expressed himself unapologetically made it cool to be a thug and still sensitive. People respected that kind of honesty. While contradictory, it was incredibly human to want to tell women to Keep Your Head Up and then say “Time to make the bed rock, baby look how it rise.” No matter how it may look to some of the readers, I share my thoughts on this blog in the same manner. I write loving posts about my daughter and her mother while listening to songs like Swishers and Doja by UGK. A reader would be on the page looking at The Weekend in Pictures seeing picture of me in full on dad mode and to the right see a tweet that is pretty reckless and not at all something one would think someone with a fatherhood blog should say. However, that’s part of my spiel: I’m twenty-seven years old and giving multiple sides of my thoughts at this age are all part of letting people know who I am. It makes my words much more than words on a page. That’s what we liked and still like about 2Pac.