It would have been his 43rd birthday today.
Tupac Shakur was born on June 16, 1971 in the East Harlem section of Manhattan, NY. He was, apparently, given the name Lesane Parish Crooks at birth, but eventually took on the name Tupac Shakur to honor South American revolutionary Tupac Amaru.
From there, his rap career got started, and it didn’t take long for him to make a name for himself as one of, if not the heavyweight of his region. To get a good idea of how he got started, let’s first look at his first single, “Brenda’s Got a Baby”.
That was in 1991. He was 20 at that point, but it seemed clear that he had gone through things that most 40-year-olds couldn’t relate to. Throughout his career, he would discuss murder, violence, drugs, and a slew of other things. Yes, many rappers touch on similar (even the exact same) subjects, but few could put those experiences into words as beautifully as Shakur was able to.
Still, his first song to hit the top 20 didn’t really fall under the “I had a rough upbringing category. Off his second album, “I Get Around” was a song that was more of the “I’m awesome” variety. To be clear, this isn’t a play on the Beach Boys #1 hit from 1972. This is a song about sexual conquests and the successes Shakur experienced over a period of time. Life was good at this point.
Deciding the best song Tupac ever wrote is not an easy task, but it very well may be his first ever trip into the top 10 charts (editor’s note: it is for me). “Dear Mama” is a song that only Tupac could write and make a top 10 hit. Nobody in today’s rap game could rap for 4 minutes about their mother, no matter how much he/she loves her, and make it an anthem.
The music video was apparently shot with a Tupac look-alike while Shakur spent some time in prison. Still, director Lionel C Martin was able to bring out the best in the track, which included the song’s subject, Afeni Shakur.
That’s just one of numerous examples of how Tupac was able to write about stuff that others simply couldn’t. It wasn’t because others didn’t share the feelings that Shakur was going through, and it wasn’t because Shakur was lightyears ahead of everyone technically (just a couple years ahead). It was because, more than anyone at the time, Tupac knew how to put his feelings into words better than just about anyone else in the history of the genre.
Tupac died when he was 25. He would be celebrating his 43rd birthday today. It’s strange to think about what might have been had he (and Biggie) still been alive today. Would he have evolved for the better? Would he have settled down? We’ll never know, but the mass amount of music that he left for his fans is more than fair representation for one of rap’s all-time greats.