It was the Spring of 1997.
A few minutes before, I had just got into it with my old man (RIP) during a conversation we had on a payphone. After almost 18 years of dealing with my father’s bullshit and bullying, I finally stood up for myself. I finally told him to f**k off – in so many words. And right there, still dressed so fresh and so clean in my crispy prom tux, I took off in the silvery late model Cadillac that was rented especially for that occasion with Me Against The World playing as loud as I could turn the volume knob.
At that point, Pac had been rockin’ wit’ Deathrow for at least two years, but there was no way I could see myself riding in rebellion to All Eyez On Me or The Don Killumanati. And not because either of these records were bad records, but because these records, in my humblest of humble opinions, felt like forced music that was a result of Pac’s relationship with Deathrow Records and the street shit that came along with it.
I don’t know if it’s because Pac was angry from all the years of shit he had been subjected to up to that point – or if Tupac felt that he owed Deathrow in loyalty in exchange for them rescuing him from the annals of prison life – but one has to acknowledge that there was a big ass shift in the personality of Pac.
It’s like Paranoia sank in. From what? Who knows?
But prior to ’95, I would have easily pegged Tupac a conscious rapper. The definition of which was described quite perfectly by Andre 3000 when he said, “I’m not a hood nigga, but a nigga from the hood.” And there, right then, you can understand the philosophical differences between the newer, aggressive Pac and the older, less aggressive Pac.
Still today, it remains a highly debated barbershop argument on whether Tupac is the greatest emcee ever. Niggas will damn near get into a fist fight over such debate. But what is not debatable is that Tupac is the most influential Hip Hop figure that ever existed. Hands down.
Well. Shit. We can say it was because he was genuine and real and all of the above, because it was true…but even then, it’s really not all that complicated.
In the end, Tupac was simply likeable.
He was liked because he liked you in return. He accepted you. He could relate – to you. And to fully wrap your head around this mystery of his persona, just think of the fact that Pac has been dead for over 20 years now and many of us have aged and gone through various maturity levels and changes since, yet still, we are somehow entranced by his conviction that he had at such a very early age.
Dead at only 25 years old, Pac had what seemed like a bundle of lifetimes balled up into one fiery spirit. And like moths to a flame, we just couldn’t keep away.
From 2Pacalypse Now and Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z and Me Against The World, he was the nigga from the hood that was encouraging you to do more and be more and to not fall into the trap that kept so many people around the way imprisoned by their own actions.
But by the time his Deathrow years rolled around, Tupac somehow became unlikeable, to me at least – mostly because he stopped liking and accepting everyone. Hell, it seemed like at one point, he had a beef with the whole world. It was as if he became a walking contradiction. He became the hood nigga he warned us about when he was still likeable and relatable.
And that’s what drives me nuts the most.
A man that seemed so far ahead of his time still needed time to grow up. He became a victim of his own youth and inexperience. He let his anger and rebellion consume him – just like it does in many young, Black men – and he died because of it. The poetic justice of it all is that though we dearly loved Tupac, we didn’t need two Pacs. One, the one we were first introduced to, was just fine. But now, it’s far too late to say so.