4 years ago I would not have known about Tupac Shakur if I did not attend a school where they accepted a majority of inner city kids. And that is the truth from my perspective. I was not raised to know any rappers or hip hop aritist besides one Salt N Pepa song and I still don’t know a lot about music all that much.
However I do know that music is a major component to popular culture. People listen to at least one song a day. We are constantly surrounded by the music industry’s influence from the advertising to music video posts on Facebook. So after yesterday’s pop culture class I am left with sharing my peace about how I see the late Tupac Shakur and his influence.
My pop culture class is directed to be a discussion class that strips movies to their core themes that depict cultural movements throughout the American society. We discussed movies like Children of Men (2006), Amadeus (1984), Mulholland Dr. (2001), They Live (1988) and finally ended the semester with Foxy Brown (1974) and Tupak: Resurrection (2003). This class has reassured many thoughts that passed through my mind prior to taking it. But my greatest challenge I would say was opening my mind to Tupak Shakur. Now, I know what most of you are thinking, oh he is white and he doesn’t like Tupak, so he must be racist. Not true. I simply did not know anything really about why people know him and are moved by his story.
The ending semester picks were Moulin Rouge (2001) and a 3-part showing of a documentary about the Black Panther movement, Foxy Brown, and then the documentary on Tupac. I had already seen Moulin Rouge and was totally up for dissecting this post-modern film since I had an interest in musicals. But the class majority was in favor of Tupac and the documentary series. So I told myself, well it is an academic class, so why not learn something new, well almost new.
I had learned briefly about the Black Panther movement when I attended Milton Hershey School and from that discussion Tupac was brought up. I found out that he was murdered just after he was known to beat up a Crip member. So the knowledge did resurface throughout yesterday’s class, but I only knew minor details and I had no clue how powerful Tupac or his influence was on popular culture.
From the notes I took from the documentary, the most compelling part of Tupac’s story was his deep love for his mother. I instantly was attracted to this because I adore my mom. As I am sure most sons and daughters would be if they grew up with a strong maternal influence. This motherly attraction is the same for my inspirations: Ellen DeGeneres and Kathy Griffin. They openly are honest about how much they love their moms. Like Tupac, they want to share their love with the cameras and the fan-base. My mom had always told me, that you can really judge a boy’s character by the way he treats his mother. Just knowing Tupac wrote songs about his mom’s strength and beauty certainly trumps any media speculation of his intention to exploit women based on their looks or calling them bitches. I believe here, he knew what sold more and by popular choice in this sex driven culture, his more sexy music videos and songs about “bitchy” women were probably more relatable to his audience. Also, I’d imagine the rhythm of the word was probably more natural to use as oppose to a different word just to keep the pace and tone of the songs.
The exploitation was not the only thing being shown in the film, but also the outbreaks that Tupac had shown in regards to him fighting with a director and spitting in paparazzi faces and cameras. These conflicting scenes really jarred my reaction to Tupac’s character. I kept feeling like he is a genuine person, but he is doing all these negative acts. I simply was sitting in class befuddled as to why. Then it occurred to me that I was seeing a pattern.
Tupac was displaying what other celebrities with issues also depict–a stress that comes from being a genius. That was clearly displayed in the movie Amadeus. Here we have a very talented human being and all of a sudden obsession of fear consumes the mind and these beloved individuals morph into a whole different, rather opposing, character. Some resort to driving fast like James Dean, subconsciously bound to inner acting like Heath Ledger, and alcohol like Amy Winehouse. We should look at these talented individuals and wonder why they are no longer living especially for being rather young.
So I decided to overlook Tupac’s behavior and start understanding his human experience. He himself spoke about his interests in social matters. His songs even express that attraction. He knew that growing up in the ghetto that others will too feel hopeless. So he wanted to become an example and I feel like maybe he was trying to balance the identities of thug-life and a transformational life. When I try hard to show people the concept of change it often turns stressful and chaotic because not everyone understands it or seems to appreciate it.
But no matter what, the documentary shows that Tupac wanted to be remembered for his talent and inspiration and he does live on for his efforts. The story of Tupac truly enlightened my perspective on popular culture and how poverty still affects us today. There were many points where I wanted to cry for how passionate he was for his understanding of love. I feel bad I had no idea who he was before this, but everything comes at the right time. So, I would like to share with you this story because maybe you did not know about Tupac Shakur and his amazing story. I highly suggest watching Tupac: Resurrection (2003).
One thing we all adore
Something worth dying for
Nothing but pain
Stuck in this game
Searching for fortune and fame
–Fame by Tupac Shakur