The Don of Rap People often complain about how obnoxious hip/hop and rap are. However, those same people that claim these things have not heard the beauty or rawness of what rap truly stems from, emotion. Tupac Amaru Shakur brings an emotion in his music and through that emotion he brings a heavy influence to the listener; everything from his deep, distinct vocals to his poetic words, not to mention his monumental beats and memorable music. Thus making Tupac Shakur the best rapper to have ever lived. However not everyone believes this. Some people believe that rappers such as The Notorious B.
I. G. and Eminem have qualified themselves as the best of all time. Some even believe that Tupac is not the best because he has a limited amount of music because of his death in 1996, preventing production of his music. There are also those who think that Tupac flip flops too much from east coast to west coast and his glorification of violence and abuse of women. The fact of the matter is that what Tupac said and rapped about had “thug-life” as a basis for rap a career; however, someone would have to listen to his music to see that there was more than violence but rather love.
In regards to another rapper being better than Tupac, one would have to look at arguably his closest competition. The Notorious B. I. G and Eminem are arguably the closest. There is a list of things that make a rapper great. That list consists of combining lyrical genius with an emotional voice, and whether or not they can collaborate those two things with memorable music. There is also something else that needs to be brought to the table when labeling whether a rapper is great or not and that is when there is a dominant, unique quality, something special that can set her or him apart from the rest of the field.
In Tupac’s case it was his ability to write Shakespearean-like poetry. In Tupac’s compilation of poetry in The Rose That Grew From Concrete, in a poem called “In the Event of My Demise”, he clearly let’s the reader know what he stands for, “In the event of my demise when my heart can beat no more I hope I die for a principle or a belief that I had lived for…”(p. 150). Furthermore in an interview on May 8, 2008 with Emmy winner Thom Sharp, who is currently my music teacher at CSUF, when asked how he would describe Tupac’s music, he said, “It is simply talented poetry. This is that emotion which he is capable of triggering in the reader or listener. He is essentially saying that whatever purpose he had lived for he hopes he brings with him in death because in his eyes that is a logical death and that his life had meaning and brought meaning to others. The question now is simply, “does Tupac accomplish these things? ” Yes he does and it stems from the life that he lead and what he went through. The life Tupac lead also set him apart from the other ‘thugs’ that surrounded him. Tupac is the only rapper who makes the listener feel like they are in the situation that he is portraying, whatever that may be.
Emmit Price, an ethnomusicologist of Northeastern University asserted in the Harvard Gazette on April 17, 2003 , “Tupac as a prolific artist driven by a terrible sense of urgency who struggled to unify mind, body, and spirit. ” Price commented further, “He was also very similar to the rest of us-a work in progress. ” Price is essentially saying that Tupac is on our level and wants us to feel that personal connection through the unification that he struggles with. This is an interesting statement and holds truth but more than that it is an important aspect as to why he is the best ever.
Even though listeners are not on Tupac’s level in a literal sense, they are mentally. He gets personal with the listener and that is something that his fans thrive off of, that personal relationship that the listener feels with Tupac. To those that believe that Tupac has a limited amount of music they are surely mistaken and simply uninformed. Ever since Tupac’s death in 1996, Afeni Shakur decided to do something about her son’s talent. According to 2paclegacy. com, “Afeni Shakur founded Amaru Entertainment/Records in 1997 as a way to legitimately release the huge catalog of unreleased work he completed before his physical passing. Of all of Tupac’s discography six out of his twelve albums were posthumous, meaning they came after his death. This is in large part because of his mother starting Amaru Entertainment/Records, but maybe more than that the fans that he has gained even after his death. After all he was the perfect example of death being another part of life. To prove wrong all those people who say he doesn’t have enough music, he is listed in the Guinness Book of Records 2003, “as the best-selling rap artist”. It also says, “US rap legend 2Pac has certified US album sales of 33. million up to the end of 2001, and has had more hits after his death (at the age of 25 in September 1996) than he amassed when he was alive. ” (p. 188). Those staggering numbers should quiet anyone that says he does not have enough music because apparently the people of the world can not get enough of him, before and after death. To illustrate further his role and importance in ‘gangsta’ rap, in a recent survey on the campus of California State University, Fullerton and at the Block of Orange, 68% of all respondents when asked who there favorite gangsta rapper was, if they had to choose would be Tupac Shakur.
This just proves that his music and spirit live on to this day through his always growing fan base. In regards to Tupac flip flopping too much from east coast to west coast and not being true to his “hoods”, this is what makes his greatness shine. The funny thing is that he does not disrespect other hoods, rather recognizes them and feels for their everyday struggles. He makes this evident in a song called “My Block (Remix)” off his album “Stay True”, “to all my blocks out there…Baltimore, The Jungle( in Marina City), Los Angeles, yeah that’s my block too. That is an important aspect to being a gangsta rapper in earning respect from everyone around him or her. That is how they build their reputation and gain their fans and with that one can and would see the haters fade away. That was his innate ability to just bring people of all types of backgrounds together. That is a talent and something that was all started from Tupac. When referring about his violence and abuse of women in his lyrics, one has to take a step back and put things in perspective.
In the Harvard Gazette on April 17, 2003, from the academic symposium entitled, “All Eyes on Me: Tupac Shakur and the Search for the Modern Folk Hero”, and the article by Ken Gewertz, a member of that audience that day asked a panelist about the issue of violence and abuse of women in his lyrics and Mark Anthony Neal of the State University of New York, Albany replied with, “Well he’s (Tupac) a walking contradiction, but because of that, he makes the process of being an intellectual accessible to ordinary people. This is a very valid point and just goes to prove the point of why he is the best. He shows he is the best because he wanted and wants even in death for his music to be for everyone and anyone; from the man on the corner working for a dime, or the business man in L. A. sitting at his desk working on his next big engineering project. It is for those people, it is for all of the people in this world.
Tupac’s experience is also something that made him the best; the word experience meaning life of the streets and the struggles and pain that he had to go through to be the best. All the fame that he gained through rap all came with a price. What other rapper or even person can say that they were arrested a dozen times in the same year, served a prison sentence in the same year and released a multi platinum record while serving that prison sentence in the same year. Here is the answer: no one!
Tupac was a leader and had many followers. Although he is known for that mentality of being ‘solo’ and ‘him against the world’, but what does one expect from an individual who came from a household with a mom as a crack addict and no father? He took it upon himself to make something of him self. And in this world and in this time of age there can be no better role model, no greater rapper, than someone who rose up against so many adversities when it is so easy to just quit.
From the police to the fame, it seemed as if he couldn’t be left alone. His yearning to be left alone is what ultimately led to his death. With his death also came a void for someone to fill in the rap industry, to take the torch and carry it. However, there has been a struggle for that leader/icon of rap to be produced since Tupac’s death in 1996. It is almost like he is still carrying that torch with him still on his back. He is still the icon and is still the greatest and most influential rapper of all time.