Last week marked the anniversary of one of rap’s most notorious figures death. Tupac Shakur didn’t live long enough to see us communicate via emojis and Snapchat, nor did he live to see how hip hop has evolved from the days when he gave us some of the most respected rhymes to have ever escaped a stereo speaker. Only 25 when he was shot down and taken away, we never got to hear how he would’ve grown with the times. Would hip hop even be what it is today if Tupac hadn’t died that fateful day in Las Vegas? That’s like asking what rock would be like if Kurt Cobain was still around. It’s hard to even imagine because music is an art form that is always changing in one way or another. The rap of The Sugarhill Gang was far from what Tupac and others brought in the 90’s and artists today like Drake and Future are even further from that. Nevertheless, whether he’s here or not – the legacy of Tupac forever changed the landscape of the genre. His words were poetry written on the streets of a world many of his mainstream listeners knew nothing about.
Like many rappers who came before him, he wrote about his realities. Unlike other genres where symbolism and fantasy are all the rage, rap has always been about what’s happening right in front of you. Be in violence right outside your window or living it up showcasing that California does indeed know how to party. It was Tupac’s way with words, the way he eloquently carried himself as not only an artist but as a man, that led him to be considered one of the greatest to have ever been in the grand scheme of not only rap music, but music in general. Leaving this world too soon like the aforementioned Cobain, Biggie, Hendrix, Joplin and The King gave way for him to go out with more of an enigmatic sense. While it would’ve been interesting to see what he would up doing in 2016, we find solace knowing that at least what he left behind can never be replicated as it continues to be one of a kind art in its own right.
We talk to a local emcee each month here at The Hip Hop Shop and because they are all west coast rappers, it’s easy to say that they’ve all been touched one way or another by Tupac Shakur’s music. Whether it was his lyrics, beats or delivery – his influence is one of the binding factors to all of those raised out west on rap. Last week marked 20 years since he left, but really his spirit never even took a break because his music has and will continue to live on as new emcees come up every day out here in Southern California as well as elsewhere.