Biggie candidly said what we all were thinking. In one of his last interviews before his equally untimely demise, Tupac’s most renown adversary admitted to making light of the fact that the most impassioned rapper the industry has ever witnessed had been shot (again!). My recollections of the early 8th grade mimicked such thoughts. There really wasn’t much to the talk about except for the fact when Pac got out, there would be “all hell to pay.” Because, see, Death was Tupac’s muse; his predictable Saturday morning cartoon plot that allowed itself to get close enough only to be foiled again to expand the episode count. Never would the leading man die out in the show. The studio execs wouldn’t hear such nonsense and the same goes for real life. The superstar…the hero–anti or super–was supposed to see the fight until the end. And if he did go out in a blaze of glory, it damn sure wasn’t going to be at the ripe age of 25.
“I heard a rumor I died/murdered in cold blood, traumatized/Pictures of me in my final stage/you know Mama cried/But that was fiction, some coward got the story twisted/Like I no longer existed, mysteriously missing.” ~ “Ain’t Hard 2 Find”
With plenty of daylight to spare on the afternoon of September 13th, 1996, fiction indeed became a reality when Mr. Tupac Amaru Shakur succumbed from his gunshot wounds he had suffered nearly a week prior. Everybody knows the story of how he fought in Vegas with a Crip who allegedly came back with fatal retaliation. How Pac’s warrior spirit kept him fighting through excruciating pain in his stay in the ICU. I remember one of his closest friends, Yo-Yo, recounting his last days, in and out of a daze with blown-off fingers, still determined to rise up from the hospice life and resume his usual thug living. As the years distance themselves from monumental events of both the triumph and tragic, in memorials feels both commonplace and necessary. Yet, here we stand in the midst of a culture, brand and entity that still, 15 years later, isn’t ready to leave the funeral of one of its greatest impacts. But, just maybe, we’re closing on two decades after the fact and there isn’t a bit of enlightenment to come from them.
Now comes the time where the moral of the story is typically injected into the piece, but those fifteen years haven’t much to show for a humbling lesson. Those fifteen years of seeing Pac’s genetic code pollinated through various bandanas fixated on the heads of hopeful replacements and studio thug personas has been wacky as possibly imagined. Similar to the closing montage in The Wire, the game remains the game as descendants simply adhere to the old roles instead of building off the mistakes made by the father. They remember the ungodly fearlessness of “Bring the Pain,” not the more realistic, dying proverb of “U Can Be Touched.” If the cause and effect actions of the thug chieftain can’t provide a fitting example, is it out of context to say ‘Pac’s death is just a further (albeit more grim) form of entertainment?
“Dear Lord can ya hear me, when I die/Let a nigga be strapped, fucked up and high/With my hands on the trigger, Thug nigga/Stressing like a motherfuckin’ drug dealer…” ~ “Hellrazor”
Tupac lived the way he wanted and died the way he expected – figuratively young, dumb and full of rum. Had he survived the Las Vegas strip incident, the 40 year-old version of himself most likely would have had some words of reprimand for his days of past thuggin’. At 25, you’re just able to rent a car without the extra fees but still not old enough to grace the halls of a 30-and-up club nor see your grandchildren graduate from any institution–K-12. These fifteen years will soon turn to twenty, thirty and fifty but seemingly no amount of time can transform this tragic chain of events into a guideline for the betterment of the living.