To celebrate the airing of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame induction this Saturday, 4/29, we’re running a series of essays and feature analyzing and highlighting the implications of who was inducted in 2017.
All jokes about T.I.’s questionable choice of Tupac-related wardrobe aside, it’s great that Tupac was finally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. No, really it is. But Tupac didn’t — and doesn’t — need the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
There’s an argument to be made that rap and hip-hop music probably needs its own hall of fame. This ain’t that argument. There’s another line of thought that maybe the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame should do a better job of defining and nominating acts that fall under its purview. This ain’t that, either. Tupac absolutely deserved to be honored as an inductee to the Hall, especially with such precedents as N.W.A., Public Enemy, and the Beastie Boys filling out the remainder of the of rap’s delegation to its canon. However, like those other illustrious names, his legacy was sealed long before he even became eligible for nomination (2Pacalypse Now turned 25 last year). Despite the discrepancy of genre title, Tupac Shakur was and is hip-hop’s last real rockstar.
First off, check the stats: Over 75 million records sold worldwide, seven posthumous studio albums, a filmography including one of the most chillingly iconic villains ever to grace the silver screen (“I don’t give a f*ck about you, I don’t give a f*ck about Steel, and I don’t give a fuck about Raheem either. I don’t give a f*ck about myself!”), a documentary, and a biopic to be released later this year — Tupac is a household name for any of those reasons. To even have had a life that warrants a biopic is impressive by itself. Tupac managed to captivate the imagination of the listening public with classic rap tales like “Brenda’s Got a Baby,” then put that attention into a stranglehold with his Superior Court front-step antics and incisive, insightful interviews.
It was Tupac’s polarizing, public persona that showed the first telltale signs that he might be just as important to popular culture as Ozzy Osbourne or B.B. King. Like many of the hell-raising figures who’d come before him, ‘Pac’s brushes with the law were well-documented and numerous. Assault charges, jail time, and lawsuits followed him like groupies; an infamous late-night encounter with one led to a prison sentence for sexual abuse that nearly derailed his career — the same sort of charge that might have ended it in the present-day social and political landscape. He spat at camera crews (resulting in iconic images emblazoned on trendy fashion designs today), he flashed cash and guns in crowds, he rolled with a massive entourage of well-wishers and ne’er-do-wells including his own employer, Suge Knight. The only thing missing was an electric guitar.