It was the anniversary of Tupac’s death a few days ago. I mean, more like a memory of the day he died. And memories indeed.
The last time a great rapper died, i remembered Tupac for he always seemed to remind me of Pac even though he himself loved Biggy. I am talking about Da Grin who would sometimes tie bandannas, grin on his beats, and speak with the sort of honesty Pac did. And hey, he was in the hospital for days, battling, with fans praying for him. Just like Pac.
Of course, while he died as a result of complications arising from his motor-accident, Tupac Amaru Shakur was shot.
I must have heard his songs before i heard his songs.
Raised mostly on popular music, i learnt to flirt with most but love none. Until i heard a song by a rapper called Tupac. My cousin had come to our house that day with a tape/cassette ( i know!), saying in yoruba, “Won ma pa bobo yi, o ti bu won ju”. ( Meaning, they will kill this guy, he has yapped them too much). He slot the tape in, and it was ‘hit em up’.
First off, the first line said, and that was sort of an introduction to everything. To anger, to music, to my lifelong bystander-ish interest in hiphop, was ‘First off’. It sounded like something you would say to a friend, a course mate, a lecturer. It was a very general way of starting something, well, so personal. After ‘First off’, everything else went angry, and i became so fascinated that my cousin had to leave the tape with me.
Unilag was an eye... no scrap that, ear-opener for me. Having listened to r n b like most of my classmates in secondary school, it was almost a redemption for me, when i discovered what else was out there. My room mate in my first year in University would play the Cranberries, someone at mt fellowship would be listening to Seal with their earphones, my best friend at the time would listen to Alanis Morisette, a course mate would have more Tupac songs and albums by other artistes. And then of course there was Rick Dees.
And somehow, the music i heard opened up the things i felt.
Back then, i was carrying a lot of weight i did not even fully understand. Music was helping to process. With some i learnt anger. And i was amazed. I did not know you were allowed to express yourself so honestly in music. Some brought me peace. Others gave me an insight into one simple assertion- everybody hurts.
With Pac, i found a good dose of... all.
No, i had never been a victim of racial profiling nor seen the walls of a prison, nor been born to a mother that took drugs nor had to sell drugs, nor seen a gun before, nor worn bullet proof vests, nor been paid for sex . And yet, i could still relate to each song i heard. The things he spoke of were sometimes physical, but i could relate them to the emotional and the psychological. Yes, sometimes it felt like all eyes were on me, and i firmly believed only God could judge me. When people pissed me off, i wanted to defiantly tell them to picture me up, and i craved changes! Some songs i enjoyed as were. No need to analyse ‘2 of America’s Most Wanted’ or even ‘Hit em up’. I enjoyed listening to them and yes, every once in a while, we would dance to songs by Tupac at clubs.
When Tupac was shot, the news got here and somehow, like all those other fans who kept vigil in front of his hospital day after day, praying and lighting candles, i KNEW he would survive. ‘he has been shot before’ my cousin and i consoled each other as we waited for news to trickle in that Pac was better and alive and could rap again. Knowing how this went, it must have been foolish of me to, this year, have that same conviction when Da Grin had his accident. I KNEW Da Grin would rap again.
But he didnt. And neither did Pac.
My sister called me when she heard Pac died. She knew i would be crying. And i was. I was crying for humane reasons- mourning a fellow human being. But i was crying for selfish reasons- I would never meet him, never listen to new material that came from him, never see him on stage, never....
And there are times like this week that just went by, when i feel those pangs. Now though, it is just easier to like the music as much as i love it.
They say some people are Tupaclysts, i do not even know if i qualify. I do know that i have as many of his songs as i can get, and that i also have his poetry. I dedicated my Final Year Project in Unilag to ‘The Rose that grew from Concrete’. I learnt what ‘T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E’ meant, learnt his raps (‘Changes’ is the only one i have down perfectly though). I spent time watching ‘Notorious’ and hating how Pac was potrayed. Yes he was a thug, if you like, but he was a thug with heart. And while some might argue who the greatest M.C is, i know who brought passion and the most heart.
I doubt if one article could ever say how i feel. Infact, it almost seems wrong to try to use written words to express things felt. But still, i had to write.
Thank you Tupac for the music.