Sunday, September 13, 2009

What If 2Pac Was 38 Years Old?

I'll try to be brief and to the point with this. As may already know or have heard, today marks the 13th Anniversary of Tupac Shakur's passing. Each year this date (or his birthday) comes along, we hear the question "what if 'Pac were alive?"

I've heard people infer everything from rap music being better to universal health care being a reality in America if Pac was still living. I mean, of course I was sad the night 'Pac died. Hell, me and my homeboys rode around smoking and riding that whole night bumping "Made Niggas" (from the Supercop soundtrack, which we at the time thought was gonna be the last ever Pac song). But I can't really say I've given much thought into what would be different if "Pac were still alive?"

So when I hear people ask this question, I wonder what they really think would change. For some reason people seem to think if 'Pac was alive that Hip Hop "wouldn't suck" or "still be real." Its as if folks think Hip Hop whipping boys like Soulja Boy would never had been born if 'Pac was still walking the earth. Like he was gonna bust up in his mama house and make her have an abortion to save the sanctity of Hip Hop's future. I find that kind of thinking funny because people act as if wack rap music wasn't existing when 'Pac was alive. Or that 'Pac himself was going to thwart the growth of technology and keep people from making music and posting it on myspace and youtube.

When people infer that rappers would still "be real" if 'Pac was still alive, it also makes me wonder. Me personally, and of course no fault of his, but I think 'Pac's life and the access we had to it is what has led to rappers both stressing how "real" they are and why they try so hard to be "real" that they lie.

Think about it. Before 'Pac it was rare that we heard about rappers personal lives via the media or even in their own music. To this day I still don't know if Big Daddy Kane has children. I don't know how many time KRS-One has been to jail, if any. And I sure as hell don't know if Rakim has ever been accused of sexual assault or shot.

Rap post-Pac has been all about "the story." Rappers and labels alike peeped how people bought into 'Pac's story just as much (if not more) as they did his music. For example...I remember my mother coming home one day with a copy of Me Against The World. It could not have been mine...did she buy it? When I asked where she got it from, she said she borrowed it from some dude at work. I met this dude before. He was lame as hell, old and admitted that he only bought the CD because he was always hearing about 'Pac on the news. Dude bought into 'Pac's story at the time. I doubt very much that he owned Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. or even knew that 2Pacalypse Now even existed.

So that said, most rappers out today feel a need to sell a story moreso than music. Don't get me wrong there are some remarkable stories out there that deserve to be told and heard. But when it gets to the point that cats feel that just because they sold drugs to survive, didn't get along with their parents, been to jail or suffered some other societal ill that they need to rap, not rap well or good, but simply rap is where it gets shaky. Because 'Pac's life and the selling of it showed that people will buy into your life more than your music, we have a generation full of rappers trying to show how "real" they are moreso than how dope they are.

On the flipside of that, we have just as many rappers selling fabricated stories when they actually might be dope as a rapper. But because they might have worked a 9 to 5, earned a college degree, had both parents around and never got into the drug trade, they feel the need to act extra hard. Because as a general rule, you ain't supposed to be rapping if you had all of those things growing up...your supposed to be a DJ instead. (I keed I keed).

Another thing I wonder about is, if 'Pac was still here...I'm not convinced that he would still be rapping nor am I convinced that he would still be that good if was still rapping. On top of that...I don't think most of us would be riding with or for 'Pac the way that we do since he's been dead. I mean, look at the way we treat rappers when they get older. We tell them to sit their asses down. We tell them they're too old to be rapping. When we're not telling them that, we're just ignoring their asses all together.

'Pac being taken away from us at just age 25 has really made it tough for Hip Hop to "grow up." His death compounded with Biggie's death one year later has warped our brains into thinking that rappers shouldn't be rapping past a certain age. Because with those deaths, we remember both of them at their young primes, they never got old. So when we see uber-rappers from that era get a little older we don't know how to take it. Especially if they aren't rapping about the exact same thing they were rapping about when we first grew to love them.

If 'Pac was 38 years old and still rapping? I don't think much in Hip Hop would have changed honestly. The changes and problems that some of us have with Hip Hop today aren't here because 'Pac isn't here to correct and check them. Its because of the people who were here long before 'Pac and the people who were fortunate enough to have lived after him. Lying ass rappers would still be here. Rick Ross is not the first Boss to have fabricated their past. Drake and Ja Rule before him arent't the first rappers to Love Ladies. Hoes was shaking ass in videos before 'Pac died too...and I still like looking at ass now.

Bad parents letting music and TV raise children. Crooked cop and politicians. Fucked up neighborhoods. Yep. All here before 'Pac and were most likely going to be here if he was still living.

Now, I'm not trying to discount 'Pac's death. I respect the dead. I just think that most of the shit going on right now that some of us think 'Pac living would change...would still be going on. But I'm not going to sit here and act like his passing didn't have an impact in some sort of way...just not as much as some of my peers seem to think.

The shifts and changes were coming. Master P's marketing and over-producing laid the groundwork for the influx of rap music we have on our hands now. Puff Daddy's knack for making a party out of every moment and becoming great and being mediocre set the stage for good time songs outweighing songs of substance and cats wanting to be famous just for the sake of being famous.

As for the question of who will/can fill his shoes? My guess is as good as yours. At one time it was DMX...then Ja Rule tried to actually be 'Pac. I myself don't think 'Pac's void can be filled and I don't think anyone should bother trying to fill it. I encourage you, whoever you are, to yes, be inspired by 'Pac, but imitate him? No.

Right now...and this should come as no surprise...I think the closest thing Hip Hop has to 'Pac is my nigga Killer Mike. Anyone who is a fan of Mike like I am will most likely agree. But hell, some people may think its Bun B, some may think its Mos Def, some could say T.I. That's why I said my guess is really as good as yours and that cats should just do them and not try to be him.

None of us really know what Pac would be right now. He could be Chuck D or D-Nice, Ed Lover or Special Ed. Dr. Dre or Doctor Dre.

But yeah, my fingers are getting tired, I'm starting to ramble and this Giants vs Redskins game just entered the 4th quarter and looks like its going to be interesting. So, peace and leave your thought if you have any.


Incilin said...

Thank you for posting this. This is exactly how I feel when people talk about Pac and ad lib his future.

Wally Sparks said...

Wow.. great piece. Sounds like you have had this same conversation for the 13 year Tupac has been dead like I know I have..

Баян said...

long ass post, mane, u tired of typing?.. hell naw i'm tired of readin' LOL

nah, my post will be stupid
should he lived to this day i see Pac as either a big record label exec actin behind the scenes or some Hollywood movie star, it's sad he didn't get much chance to really develop as an actor, he was dope at it and u really could see progress over the course of those flicks he appeared in

Shawty Slim said...

*slow clap* Bravo Sir... Great article.

jahsun82 said...

great piece my man...agree esp about how we ignore rappers as they age...the death of pac and big leaving the genre in arrested devlopment...real talk

Hannibal said...

I doubt 2pac would still be rapping. To me it seems Mos Def's career would kind of echo what 2pac's career might look like: Critically acclaimed HBO movies and big budget non action movies (italian job), rare albums with limited publicity and music projects that border spoken word with some rock and rap. collabs perhaps. Remember that song from gridlock "life is a traffic jam"? I feel that is more where pac was going, that with making artsy movies. He would not be as militant or angry as people get tame when they mature. peace

jcmoss33 said...

He would be acting more than anything. Look at his album sales before he passed and afterwards. He took on almost mythical proportions posthumously. I mean, Pac was a dope MC but he wasn't the best with his lyrical wordplay as a Rakim, Big Daddy Kane or Andre but he made up for that with his emotion. In that regard, there was no one better. I just think the acting bug bit him and that's where he would have gone.
A lot of folks, too, weren't even really messing with Pac until the 3rd album. Come on, keep it real fans!!! Otherwise, those albums would have sold more at the time. Sales don't lie and those were good albums. PEace

achali said...

nice post. i'd like to see someone take a stab at a fictional piece more pro-actively answering the question you posed through creative speculation... know of anyone?

Beneficial said...

2pac's death biggies death which led to puffy taking advantage and shiny suits, which degraded the standards of the next generation. hence it stared a down fall of integrity which became normal as opposed to the "sell out" krsone and pm dawn come to mind.