(ThyBlackMan.com) If Tupac Shakur was still alive today, he would be turning 46 years old on June 16th. On one hand, it’s natural to be somber that one of the world’s most influential icons and hip hop music’s most beloved act-dead or alive, life was cut short at 25. But on the other hand, it’s difficult to find too much sorrow in understanding Pac’s death. Pac at only 25, appeared to live a life that many senior citizens would envy. He wore his emotions on his sleeve, behaved in ways that appeared irrational, but well calculated and made music that touched millions. But his behavior was a product of him not wanting us to know the real 2Pac; articulate, artsy, having a love of literature and being an emotional creature. Ironically, this, coupled with him by-design intertwining the real 2Pac with the 2Pac he wanted us to see; the tough, outspoken, devil-may-care attitude who didn’t back down from anyone, made him unique. Granted, Pac knew he was playing a part. Once, in a October 1995 Los Angeles Times interview, Pac boldly stated he was playing a role as a rapper and had a job to perform.
“Let me say for the record, I am not a gangster and never have been. I’m not the thief who grabs your purse. I’m not the guy who jacks your car. I’m not down with people who steal and hurt others.
I’m just a brother who fights back. I’m not some violent closet psycho. I’ve got a job. I’m an artist.”
Even though Pac readily played a role to the masses, 2Pac, though, was all of us.
We all have insecurities that drive our behavior either positively or negatively. We all behave to the expectations of others, positively and negatively. But we’ve all been there when our insecurities have driven a wall up that blocked us from emotions, feelings, attachment and even blessings. For 2Pac, those insecurities of feeling inadequate from previous years of being teased in high school and not wanting the sensitive side to be fully restored to the public resulted in the nose ring wearing, tattooed having, bandana wearing image of 2Pac we still see as a reminder today. Pac, according to a 1997 Vanity Fair article covering his career, stated once to an old teacher that he had to display thug imagery because he in his mind, he figured “Who else is going to love me?” But still, Pac became synonymous with what gangsta rap represents; lyrics of bravado, ruggedness and violence flows through his discography. But songs of passion, emotional pain and sensitivity are also prevalent, too.
It was these conflicting images, whether in his music or his behavior, that makes 2Pac represent all of us. We all have a ruthless side, but we all have a soft side, too. We behave the way we are expected to. We also behave in ways that catch people off guard. Why? Because it fills a void in our inner-consciousness. For Pac, formulating his image with a mixture of who he wanted to be and who he really was made him acceptable to all branches in life.
His gangsta lyrics and persona appealed to the thugs in the streets. His songs adorning women appealed to those who withheld a soft spot for women, while tracks such as “Wonda Why They Call U B***h” resonated with the men who appeared to dislike insecure women who attempted to use and abuse them. The political 2Pac, with tracks such as “Keep Ya Head Up” and “I Wonder If Heaven Got a Ghetto,” will forever associate 2Pac as a man with conscious. This balancing act which trailed him outside of the studio could be debated as what caused his early demise, but it’s also what makes him so quintessential.
21 years later, screams of Thug Life, grown men wearing nose rings and a bandana tied on backwards are still prevalent today. 2Pac knew that he had to be an oxymoron to survive in the hip hop game; interesting and compelling people stick out, and 2Pac appeared to calculate this better than anybody. While the traditional consensus could state that if 2Pac never associated with the gangsters and hoodlums of New York and Los Angeles he would still be alive today, it’s hard to imagine his life playing out any other way. A gifted performer, actor and writer, 2Pac let the world know, through his persona, that thugs aren’t just sociopaths with little-to-no regard for the human flesh. Thugs are caring, nurturing, intellectual and have feelings, too. They mask their rugged shell with hurt pain. It was those type of insecurities that 2Pac possessed, that brought this thinking to the forefront. Without the will and desire to resort to an exterior, would 2Pac be the iconic figure he is today?
The way he lived and behaved in front of the lights, was something that wasn’t seen before in pop culture. He was the first urban superstar to truly crossover; his demeanor and dress were like the kids in the hood, he spoke as if he was primed for a top-tier college but his heart was like every other human being on the planet; filled at times with self-doubt, yearning to be loved. This is why I’ll always consider him iconic. When I see 2Pac, I see remnants of myself and a plethora of my friends; from college educated to those out fending for their lives on the street. I see my successful friends who have to behave a certain way to get where they want to be. I see the unsuccessful who have to have a facade so that those who are successful won’t have to question them. 2Pac isn’t the first nor last rapper to exercise his insecurities, but he was the one who made the biggest impact on the world because of it.
So for his 46th birthday, we should all remember the man that was unafraid of letting us know he was afraid. He was afraid of hurt, what people thought of him and their perceptions. He was afraid the real him wouldn’t survive without another extension of himself. He knew full well he wasn’t a gangster, but knew it was necessary for his persona. In the end, those same tug-of-war battles with himself curated an iconic rapper, actor and human being. We wanted to dress like him and we still do. We wanted to be political like him, and we still do. We wanted to be caring like him and show our emotional side at times. But we surely wanted to showcase glimpses of the thug in us, whether real or pretentious, just like him. 2Pac represents us, as a human race. We all have our issues which conflict us daily. We also have our issues that could bring more life or an early death to us. This is what made 2Pac special and an icon; he was willing to play a part, so that we as human beings can better understand ourselves.
Music Editor; Brad Washington
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