September 7, 2012
Sixteen years ago today I read in a USA Today that Tupac Shakur had died. His work as an artist meant so much to me at such a young age, and his passion inspired me. The two greatest influences on my thoughts/perceptions/personal philosophies of the world up until my freshman year of college were Aristotle and Tupac. Growing up, I swore that one day I’d pick up where he left off— not necessarily as a rapper, but as someone who cared about his communities, his culture, his art, and who lived it passionately, giving everything. Now it’s 2012; sixteen years since his fight was over and I am now (barely, but still) at an age older than he ever lived to see.
I’m not sure I’ve fully lived up to that promise yet. I’ve done a bit, but I’ve not as Kevin Powell might say, “carried my weight.” I look around, and I see an America— a world— which isn’t living up to its potential. Specifically, I see a Black American community (myself included) that’s not. Now I’m not trying to deify you or anything, but I think you were an important icon, an important person who had aspirations that weren’t just your own. There were a few detours and decisions that probably weren’t the best, but we all make mistakes. We must withhold judgment, and measure all men and women by their actions fully. I still respect your work; I’ll always respect your work. You are Hip-Hop. You are what hip-hop was; you are what hip-hop became; and for the foreseeable future, you are what hip-hop will be. You were subversive, multifaceted, passionate, proud, and despite what any naysayers might say, lyrical (feel free to challenge me in the comments; if it’s an intelligible comment, I’ll respond). Thank you for being a flame that burned bright. Thank you for showing me so much in your work and helping me to learn how to think critically, adding several perspectives to my world. Thank you for asking a lot of us. Thank you for helping me cope with my mother’s death. Thank you for helping me ask a lot of myself. Thank you for helping me believe in unconditional love. Thank you for helping me want to share my words with the world. Thank you for reminding me to keep my head up and take it one day at a time. Thank you for helping me believe that it’s all worth it. Thank you for the days I skated across sidewalks and asphalt confident-happy-rapping. Thank you for leaving a legacy. One day I’ll see you in heaven, and there won’t be any cracking concrete or broken bottles or used needles or shootings or dilapidated railroad tracks or abandoned buildings with cold hands inside trying to warm by a fire. No one will need to dream of escape or wanting more, and we can both be at peace knowing: one day, in their own ways, everyone will make it.