9.07.2006

Us Against the World


It has been 10 years since one of hip-hop's greatest faced the bullets that would ultimately end his life seven days later (enter Tupac 7 day conspiracy theorists).

Each generation is left with a single moment that supposedly shapes what that generation becomes defined. These moments range from the assassination of JFK, the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and most recently 9/11. The moments are poignant due to the imprint that is left in the memories of those that are conscious of the events as it had taken place. Tupac's death might not have left the same political and social impact as some of the aforementioned events, but for much of the hip-hop generation, it is one of those moments that still and will forever remain in our conscious.

I can still vividly recall the moment when I learned that Tupac was shot. It was the beginning of my 8th grade school year, and I was mowing the lawn the lawn for my parents. Nearly finished mowing the lawn, I see my older brother pulling up to our house in the 1987 Ford Tempo GL (that gangster ride was my first car). Broham parked the car right by where I was, and yells out from the car, "Tupac's been shot!" The first thought that ran to my mind was, "Oh shit, not again." I finished the yard work, with the news stuck on my mind, but also thinking about how Tupac would recover just as he had done before and that he'll come back stronger and angrier than ever.

Unfortunately, seven days later, I was wrong, and the man that shaped much of my ideas as a youth was gone. As much of a big Tupac fan as I was and still am, I'll admit that he was not the most talented rapper lyrically or even flow wise. But, the power that made and still makes his music resonate was the ability that he possessed in igniting thought among a population that much of the "conscious" rappers today fail to capture. If it hadn't been for Tupac, I probably would not have gained the desire to learn more about the struggles of the Black Panther Party, the incarceration of Mumia, Assata, Geronimo Pratt, and countless other revolutionary voices. His anti-authority stance and disses against C. Dolores Tucker appealed to me as a youth stuck in a very uptight small suburban-rural city. Although I maintained a very conservative political stance throughout my junior high and high school, up until community college professors allowed me to fully see how the power structure in America really existed, the lingering "fuck the system" mentality was always in the back of my head.

We shouldn't get it twisted though, as Tupac music wasn't even close to being free of mysogenistic and homophobic lyrics. What he yelled in his songs were a reflection of the patriarchic and sexist society that he was raised. Although they were inspirational in how much of my political ideals were eventually formed, it wasn't Public Enemy, NWA, X-Clan, or Poor Righteous Teachers that directly pushed me to be against our oppressive system. It was Tupac who had the most direct influence, with his rebellious middle finger salute yelling, "Fuck the world" while still telling the kids to "Keep your head up."

So 10 years have passed (murder still unsolved), there is still the cultural war against rap music, along with full scale institutional programs targeting hip-hop artists as well as more problematic programs that target the youth, with which the hip-hop generation is composed. And just like the aftermath of Katrina and with the approaching 5 year anniversary of 9/11, it seems as if America has become intent on moving on a downward spiral away from progress.
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Random tidbit of information, the image of Tupac that I used above as actually taken from an image I took from Google that was being hosted by our favorite right wing neo-conservative Pilipina pundit, Michelle Malkin.

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