Nineteen years ago on Sunday, Sept. 13, Tupac Shakur took his last breath in Las Vegas, Nevada after being shot in an unsolved drive-by shooting. To this day, Tupac’s legacy lives on through current hip-hop and rap music. Artists such as Kendrick Lamar and J.Cole have admitted that Tupac Shakur was a major influence in their lyrics and sound.
Tupac was a rapper that understood the importance of the art form of writing rap music before rappers became conscious of their impact on society. He compared himself to an artist, and the songs he wrote were carefully crafted paintings. He spoke of the violence and abuse that happened in the streets; violence he even participated in. The difference between his songs and other popular hip–hop songs was the emphasis of the toll violence took mentally. He wanted to save people from violence rather than inspire them to take their violence to the streets.
Tupac’s lyrics were filled with drugs and death, but there was a difference between his music and mainstream rap music. He explained this in an interview with MTV in October of 1995, “Talk about murder and death and you don’t talk about the pain or you talk about killing and robbing and stealing and you don’t talk about jail and death and betrayal and all things that go with it.”
His focus was on the pain and suffering rather than many artists whose songs portrayed violence in a glorious, proud way. Many other rappers viewed it as an honorable way of behaving, almost if avenging death was like collecting a badge. He felt he was responsible for promoting a change within his community. He did this by inspiring young people to make a difference; falling into a cycle of drugs and violence is an inescapable trap.
Today there are many artists that share Shakur’s philosophy, but none more than Kendrick Lamar. Recently Lamar wrote a touching letter to Shakur, thanking him for inspiring a generation.
“I was 8 yrs old when I first saw you. I couldn’t describe how I felt at that moment. So many emotions. Full of excitement. Full of joy and eagerness. 20 yrs later I understand exactly what that feeling was.
The people that you touched on that small intersection changed lives forever. I told myself I wanted to be a voice for man one day. Whoever knew I was speaking out loud for u to listen.
Lamar exclaimed that Shakur once visited him in a dazed sleep and told him “Keep doing what you doing, don’t let my music die.” Kendrick feels he has the responsibility to inspire a new generation with his music. His goal is to continuously uplift his community while detailing the struggles on the way to the top.