Remember when rapper Vince Staples had the internet up in arms when he said that 90's hip-hop wasn't better than the 2000's and beyond? He took a lot of heat for that but I think people didn't understand where he was coming from. He wasn't talking about the content of the music. Even if he did say the content was better it wouldn't have been the end of the world because it's an opinion but he was talking about where hip-hop was and hip-hop wasn't accepted back in the 90's how it is today. In the 90's there were marches against hip-hop music. People bulldozing hip-hop cd's in the streets. Rappers in the 90's weren't selling out Madison Square Garden consistently like artists are doing today. The only artists on that type of level back then were MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice. I'm talking worldwide, diamond album, megastardom.
My favorite album ever is "The Chronic" by Dr.Dre and it sold millions of records but he wasn't selling out arenas like we seen rappers in the 2000's. Biggie's first album "Ready To Die" was flopping before his single "Big Poppa" saved the day and possibly his career. A lot of rappers in the 90's that are LEGENDS with legendary material were performing in hole in the wall clubs back then while being double and triple platinum. That is unheard of today. Those rappers paved the way for billions to be made in the hip-hop industry in the future.
N.W.A, Run-DMC, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Snoop Dogg, KRS-One, Wu-Tang, Tribe Called Quest, Biggie, Jay-Z, Nas, Kanye, 50, DMX, I can name so many more. They're all great. Legends no doubt. None of them have the impact of Tupac Amaru Shakur. None of them. Pac wasn't selling out arenas like a Drake or Kanye today but his legacy is on the Michael Jackson bar and that means so much more. I usually say no artist is bigger than hip-hop. Tupac was the exception to that rule. He wasn't a rapper. He was a symbol of strength for black children like myself in the 90's.
We all have Top 5's. It's hard for me to have one because I'm such a student of the game and I love hip-hop so much and for me to narrow it down to 5 artists is just very difficult. It's gotten to the point where I don't even include Pac in my top 5. Pac is in another atmosphere. I feel I would be insulting him by even grouping him in a top 5 with everyone else because he was nothing like anyone else. He was bigger than hip-hop. It was like he was a prophet or how Benny explained Babe Ruth to Smalls in "The Sandlot." "He was less than a god but more than a man."
In my article I wrote on the 20 year anniversary of "All Eyez On Me," I explained how I became a follower of Pac. He had that gift where if he spoke you listened. No matter if he was rapping or speaking during a interview. You stopped what you were doing and you listened. You could name so many rappers that could rap better than him but none of those rappers would have the same impact on your heart and soul. When Pac rapped his words stuck to you. This is why I tell artists I don't give a fuck about bars. Fuck your metaphors. It's about how you make your listener feel. Make them remember the moment when they first heard whatever song or album you released. Pac was the master of that. He helped me understand as a writer how beautiful simplicity is. Pac was just simple and straight to the point. He held no punches.
Look around at the game today. I'm not mad at it. It is what it is but I want anyone who reads this to think about this. Tupac died at 25 years old. The life he lived was so real and he accomplished so much you would think he was 40 when he died. Look at what these rappers rap about in their late 20's, 30's, even 40's compared to what Pac rapped about in his early 20's. This is why Pac is the greatest to ever do it. He made shit like "Keep Your Head Up," "Pain," and "So Many Tears" in his early 20's. In my early 20's I was worried about just getting pussy and doing dumb shit. Look at what these niggas rap about today. Most of these niggas damn near 40 rapping about bullshit. I loved how Pac knew with what he created came great responsibility. Rappers today feed you bullshit but don't want to be accountable for it. They don't stand for shit.
Almost all these rappers today are clowns and cowards. Hiding behind money. Not giving a fuck about the communities they come from. Kissing the asses of rich white men who don't give a fuck about them. Caring about high fashion more than these kids dying out here. Compared to Pac they couldn't be in the same room. I grew up seeing Pac performing in the hearts of hoods. Fuck a music festival. Fuck a arena. What about that kid starving who love rap music and cant afford to get concert tickets. Pac cared about that type of fan over anyone else. Pac didn't know the definition of "Subliminal" if he thought you was sucka he calling yo ass out on that shit. Friend or Foe. If he thought you weren't helping your community he calling yo ass out. Pac did not give a fuck. He made it known who he didn't fuck with and why he didn't. He rode for his beliefs. They hated honesty back then and they still hate it today.
Tupac honesty is what made him arguably the most relatable artist to ever live. He was a walking contradiction and he'd be the first to acknowledge it and tell you he was. He wanted us to all be peaceful but there were plenty of situations where he wasn't peaceful at all. He had songs uplifting women and songs treating women as objects. He always pointed out his own flaws. We're all imperfect but the key is how many of us admit that? I acted like Pac in my early 20's minus the accomplishments obviously. I was confused without any power so imagine how a 24-25 year old as the world's favorite rapper getting jail visits from A-list celebs and powerful gang leaders seeking his advice would feel. It was one of Pac's problems. He had the vision and some power but didn't know how to control it yet. He was still so young.
The way he lived and viewed life and the history of violence in America it's easy to see as an adult why Pac only lived to see 25. As a kid I thought he was immortal. I say this all the time. I didn't grow up seeing a Malcolm X or a Huey Newton. Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton couldn't do shit for me. Tupac was my activist. Tupac was my hero. If I could have anyone on this earth outside of my family to speak on my behalf it would be Tupac. If I believed anyone would be out marching for our people it would be Pac. You see all these police murdering our people today. Pac would be out there with us if he were alive today. Me and my homies loved him so much. We were all little Rah-Rah's from the song "Outlaw." If you asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. We'd tell you we wanted to be like Pac, a mothafuckin outlaw.
When Tupac was shot in Vegas, me and my friends knew he was good. He just had to heal up and he'll be back doing what he do. This was a man who we knew in our hearts couldn't die. When Sept 13, 1996 came. I remember it wasn't sunny outside. It was gloomy. I'm from U.City so everybody who lived in my section on Partridge Ave was outside. Everybody was crying. Tupac was the only celebrity death I've ever cried over and most likely it will stay that way. It was like someone just punched a hole right through my body. I just felt so empty. It was the first time I thought about death in my life. It was the first death that affected me in my life. It was the first time as a child I realized death is real and guaranteed for everyone.
My best friend was losing his fucking mind. I'm talking about balling. I was just crying very quietly. Just tears coming down. He was crushed the most though. It was so bad that over the next week after Pac's death we didn't even want to say Pac's name around him. MTV premiered the "I Ain't Mad At Cha" video the very next day and that's when it truly sunk in. Pac knew it was coming and how it would happen. To make a video of you dying from gunshot wounds and rapping from heaven is just so prophetic. We all ran outside after the video ended and talked about how dope it was. For that small moment we put our sadness aside and celebrated our idol's video that seemed like a farewell to all his fans and supporters.
So much has happened since that day 20 years ago. In my opinion 90's Hip-Hop ended that day. Yeah there were 3 years left but it was the end of an era. You knew Biggie was next. Everybody knew. They needed someone to blame and he was the scapegoat and months later he was killed also. Everybody was spooked. The atmosphere was just different. It was a feeling of "Now What?" You had No Limit, Cash Money, Nelly, Jay-Z, DMX, etc come close out the decade but it just didn't feel the same as that 90-96 period.
Hip-Hop without a doubt grew bigger since then but we never got that guy again. We got a bunch of people trying to imitate him but we never got that feeling again. The things that Pac went through and did in his career we will never see again from anybody. The movies, the music, he shot crooked police officers and lived to tell about it and we all know that shit not happening today. Getting shot and throwing up the middle finger while being lifted into the ambulance. The interviews outside the courthouse and calling out the flawed judicial system when he was being set up for that rape charge. He appealed to everyone just being himself and that's so hard to do. It's rare that I find someone who didn't fuck with Pac. Even if they didn't really fuck with his music they fucked with him as a person.
Outside of my pops and my uncles. Pac taught me to fight for what I stood on. How to be fearless. Love my black skin. Drink henny. Smoke weed. Be a man in the streets. Love where the fuck I come from. The older I got the more and more I understood his philosophy for life and how every word he spoke when he was alive was important. Some things he spoke on didn't come to fruition while he was alive but he definitely predicted a lot of shit. Further proof he was ahead of his time.
20 years later all his death made me realize is that we'll never see another man like him and it's sad because we need him now more than ever.
The mothafuckin Outlaw. I Love You.