Every year on this day especially, I find myself explaining to people how Tupac Shakur influenced my life. It seems odd to most people that a person, obviously worlds apart from my path in this world, could mean so much to me. So I’ve decided rather than write a poem, only to have people think I took it from another person, I would write it in this way.
My goal in this life is simple. I want to leave this world a better place than it was when I was brought into it. At this point in my life, I don’t know as to the degree of influence I will have, but I do know that each and everyday that is my goal. Tupac was a man who had this same goal in mind. I am not a gangster, a rapper, a musician, an actor, a politician, a music mogul, a revolutionary, or a Panther, like the people he connected with in his day-to-day life, yet somehow I connected with him through his words without ever meeting him.
I don’t know exactly when I heard Tupac’s music for the first time. I have always listened to an extremely wide variety of music all of my life…
…my young teenage years were no exception. I was already listening to Digital Underground, so probably “Same Song”, or possibly “Trapped”, was the first song, however I was young and not really hearing him. It was around the time of the Thug Life:Vol. 1 album and the Strictly for My N.I.G.G.A.Z album that I really started hearing what Tupac was talking about. Not to say that I didn’t understand that this man was different from other rappers when I heard “Brenda’s Got a Baby”, but understanding that he was here to elevate the level of consciousness of an entire generation didn’t hit me until Me Against the World.
To me, other artists at the time, like Guns N’ Roses, DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, Nirvana, Ice Cube, Boyz II Men, Babyface, etc., are great musicians, and were all a piece of the emotional puzzle that growing up was, but Tupac was all of these pieces in one person. I needed the rebelliousness of an Ice Cube, Nirvana and Guns N’ Roses. I needed the happiness of DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince, but also the loving, respectful insights of Boyz II Men and Babyface. I had heard a piece of each of that throughout the first three albums, but for me to be able to share it with my parents in a way they would be accepting of, Me Against the World encompassed all of these things. Without even listening to the album, the track titles alone exemplify this diversity. “Me Against The World”, “Fuck The World”, and “Temptations” all describe what it is like to be a rebellious teenager. While on the other hand, “So Many Tears” and “Dear Mama” are the softer side of being a teenager, the side that is scared to grow up. Here was someone that made it okay to care, to not care, to cry, to laugh, to do right, to do wrong, overall to just be yourself, no matter what you were feeling. No other musicians had that at the time, maybe not even now.
One thing that I often think about when thinking of that time in my life is the path that people take. I see people from my past that seem to be in the exact same place now as they were back then. I see people who have grown up, or rather aged, very quickly, often not by choice. I also think about people who listened to a lot of Nirvana, I am a big fan, but given the choice, I chose to follow Tupac instead. I wonder where I’d be, being so passionate about music, had I chose to follow Kurt Cobain, and Nirvana. Granted, Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters have become everything and more than what Nirvana could have ever become (in my opinion, due to the positivity that their music contains), but what if the role model I chose had killed himself?
To be continued…