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Four Reasons Tupac Wouldn’t Want To See The Year 2011

Four Reasons Tupac Wouldn’t Want To See The Year 2011

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The recent spoof claiming that the late Tupac Shakur was killed by Suge Knight got my mind racing back to 1996, the year that Tupac was murdered. Some might say that Tupac was the greatest rapper in history. I don’t agree, but then again, my pick for “the greatest” changes with my mood. I can say that I listened to Tupac every morning and found his energy to be contagious. He represented a type of fearlessness, creativity and (most of the time) intelligence that led him to sell 75 million albums worldwide (he makes more money as a dead man than most of us will ever make in life). I am not here to pretend that Tupac was perfect, for he was flawed in quite a few significant ways. But he was certainly a legend and well-ahead of his time.

As we approach 2011, the year that most of us thought would never arrive, I thought I would list some quick reasons that Tupac wouldn’t necessarily enjoy being here with us. Sure he would probably rather be alive, but he might be a bit disappointed with what he saw. Let’s start from the beginning, shall we?

1) The ridiculously screwed up state of hip hop: I dream of the day that hip hop is used as the powerful socio-political tool that it can be. Instead, the standardization of media outlets around the nation has led to hundreds of stations playing music with the same formula: money, sex, drugs, violence and wasting your life running back and forth to the club. Commercialized hip hop has become a recipe for black youth to ruin themselves and it shows in growing HIV rates, homicides, teen pregnancy, mass incarceration, drug and alcohol abuse, etc. The absolute worst thing that the powers that be in corporate America could do is provide a large and powerful platform to an artist as self-destructive as Lil Wayne (who doesn’t seem to care if he lives or dies). Intelligent and productive behavior has been abandoned in favor of a business model which teaches black males to marginalize themselves.

2) The state of the black man in America is getting worse: In one of Tupac’s greatest songs, “Only God Can Judge Me,” the rapper dropped this interesting rhyme:

“No more hesitation each and every black male’s trapped and they wonder why we suicidal runnin round strapped.

Mista, Po-lice, please try to see that it’s a million motherf*ckers stressin just like me.

Only God can judge me.”

Yes, I went to graduate school and got a PhD, but I understood those lyrics better than you can ever imagine. There were days in my teenage years when I was suicidal and frustrated by a world that is designed to exterminate me. I failed my classes in public school and saw my best friend shot in the head the same year that Tupac was murdered. When my friend was killed, the media ignored his death, writing it off as a drug deal gone bad (he wasn’t a drug dealer). At the same time, a white woman from the suburbs was killed and had her murder splashed all over the six o’clock news for two weeks. It was made clear to me right then that my life as an African American male was meaningless to nearly everyone.

The black male lies at the bottom of the barrel in every quality of life category imaginable. Brothers loved Tupac because he spoke up for us and reminded us to be strong. I sincerely hope that other artists will pick up Tupac’s mantle and speak for the black and brown men being subjected to egregious human rights abuses within the prison industrial complex (demanding that our politicians do something about this issue). Lupe Fiasco is the only high-selling artist who speaks on the importance of being positive and educated, and it’s sad that other artists like him can’t get record deals. Instead, they are told to rap about going to the club with a gun on your hip and having sex with every girl in the world while you’re high. While you can certainly hold these men accountable for their behavior, we must also remember that mainstream media serves as the world’s largest classroom, and black males are the only group presented with so many one-dimensional, counter-productive images of one another. In other words, black male professors, doctors and lawyers can’t get on CNN nearly as quickly as the brother who shot a police officer.

3) Materialism of his former colleagues: I have tremendous respect for Jay-Z’s music, but I can’t get into his intense, empty obsession with rubbing elbows with the powerful and important in America. For many artists, their claim to fame is how many fancy cars they own or how big their house is. Unfortunately, the bulk of our hip hop artists today have not climbed the ladder of evolution and self-confidence sufficiently enough to realize that your greatness as a man goes far beyond the size of your bank account. No man wants to be broke, but a selfish obsession with “stackin yo chips” makes you a non-entity in the history of human kind. Perhaps if Jay-Z knew that he was already an important human being before he got all the fancy jewels and expensive cars, he wouldn’t need these things to validate him. Yes Diddy, I’m also talking to you.

4) The way he’s been overblown and immortalized: Let’s be clear – Tupac was an amazing artist. But there are other artists since him who are just as talented. I hate what Lil Wayne stands for, but he’s incredibly good. Also, the rappers T.I., Nicki Minaj and even the old school rapper Spice 1 (among others) could give Tupac a run for his money. This idea that Tupac is The Pope and that it’s a sin to compare yourself to him is silly. He should be given his respect and that’s it. He wasn’t the last nor the first great artist in the deep and rich history of hip hop and I expect that he would be irritated by people trying to kiss his butt all the time. Whether we’re discussing Tupac Shakur or significant civil rights leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King, the best way to remember them is to carry on their legacy, not to sit back and worship them. We’re not waiting for the next Tupac Shakur; we’re actually waiting for something better.

I am roughly the same age that Tupac would be if he were alive today. The entire East Coast/West Coast feud was an overblown fabrication which led to unfortunate incidents and untimely deaths. I expect that the day will come when black men stop allowing media to control our reality and embrace the idea of thinking for ourselves and redefining what it means to be strong and capable. Actually, there are millions of black men who are already on that path, and I encourage them to use their voices with courage.

By Boyce Watkins, PhD


  • Calibwoy

    hahahah another idiotic article. but this time……she has a “PHD”!!!!!!!!!!! ooooh. impressve. youve done quite well for yourself boyce. hustlebunny?

    2pac is the greatest! period. with a name like bpyce ill assume your fav rapper is vanilla ice.


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