Tupac Shakur’s Legacy 15 years on

Tupac was a big contradiction. He was a thug but also a moral revolutionist, he was obdurate but also loving, he was a genius but also foolish. Despite the negatives, he is still seen as an inspiration and an icon across the world.

Yesterday, September 13 2011, was the 15th anniversary of Tupac’s death. Born in 1971 in Manhattan, New York, Tupac was raised in humble conditions; he was underprivileged but was on a quest. 25 years later his quest would abruptly end – perhaps too soon.

His short sojourn in this life embodied the struggle of many Americans. He experienced everything from: growing up poor, being shot five times and surviving, going to jail for molesting a woman and becoming a self-made millionaire. The disparity in his life serves as a reminder of how human beings are in search for meaning and love but don’t always know how to get there.

Tupac was unique and he was special. It’s surprising that somebody who died so young could leave such a profound legacy and be described with so many superlatives.

His music – but in particular his voice – was distinctive and instantly recognisable. 50 Cent wrote in the 2009 book How To Rap: “Every rapper who grew up in the nineties owes something to Tupac. He didn’t sound like anyone who came before him.”

Before his death, Tupac released six studio albums – with the 1996 All Eyez on Me release going 9x Platinum. Subsequently, eight albums have been released since his death, leading some conspiracy theorists to deduce that he is still alive.

Although it is pretty useless speculating the heights he could have reached if he were alive today, it seems fair to suggest he would have transcended his delinquency and immaturity and turned into a great ambassador for black America. He had all the ingredients: courage, intellect and eloquence.

But, judging by some of his songs, like Letter to my unborn, it was as if Tupac knew he would die young – he had a date with destiny.

Tupac was far from perfect, in fact, he was often crude, obscene and arrogant. But the very best of his character and personality are worth reflecting upon – despite the ubiquitous mantra: ‘he is dead! Get over it.’

Strangely, nobody seems to say that about Malcolm X. Malcolm faced many of the struggles Tupac did but was fortunate enough to live an extra 14 years, and so mastered many of his flaws. Tupac, however, wasn’t so lucky. But his short life still represents that beacon of hope that more or less everyone can take something from.

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