I’m mystified whenever I listen to Tupac Shakur’s music and hear the fast and slow cadences in his voice, the poetic rhyme that is ever-present in his writing, and the sheer beauty of his raw, gritty lyricism. Not many artists can claim to be poets, actors, and musicians all at once, but Tupac was all of that and so much more. He was the embodiment of duality in representing the good and bad that can be fostered in urban communities, in fact this same duality can be found in all of us. Some of Tupac’s run-ins with the law and violent lyrics aimed at police officers are laced with threatening language, but this is a minority of his work, most of his music is full of love.
Recently, while listening to Tupac’s 2001 album Until the End of Time, the album’s likewise titled song “Until the End of Time” maintains all of the classic qualities that makes a Tupac song, a Tupac song: inflection, self-examination, and honest lyricism. “Perhaps I was addicted to the dark side Somewhere inside my childhood witnessed my heart die” lyrics representative of the struggles that young men often witness in urban upbringings, featuring heartbreak and honesty captured within the opening first two lines of the song. “And come to know he’d do the same thang if he could ’cause in the hood true homies make you feel good And half the times we be actin’ up call the cops Bringin’ a cease to the peace that was on my block” an insight into the occurrences that the artist and people like him (presumably his listeners) must face in their lives.
Until the End of Time was released posthumously, during a string of album releases that led fans to believe that maybe the rumors were true, maybe Pac was alive in Cuba or some other foreign country enjoying his millions. How else could an artist create such a mammoth music catalog in only twenty six years of life? How can an artist create a GREAT musical catalog in such a small amount of time? Well, Tupac was bigger than any single category, he was an artist and visionary, ahead of his time and his peers in every way possible.
But, and for some consumers this is a big but, Tupac Shakur’s many run-ins with the law and occasional songs laced with violence are too much to bear. For the casual fan, friendlier artists like Outkast and The Fugees are more digestible. I’ve often thought about how I should internalize and cope with this delicate balance of black and white, the shades of grey, as Tupac’s fiery admonishments of “So let the Westside ride tonight Bad Boy murdered on wax and killed” and exclamations of Tupac’s sexual escapades with Biggie Smalls’ wife are blasted through my ear drums. Then again, one must sometimes take the good with the bad. The good in Tupac’s music overwhelmingly outweighs the bad.
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