Call it nostalgia, but between me catching Spike Lee’s classic film He Got Game on Showtime and thinking about my own Pops; my mind was flooded with remembrance of the amount of talented and charismatic musical artists our culture was blessed to have during that time. They included the likes of Ras Kass, M.O.P, Jay Z, Outkast, UGK, The Fugees, Nas, Ghostface Killah, and Lil Kim, and of course the late Great Notorious Biggie Smalls. However, one artist name that was left off my relatively short list of phenomenal artists purposely (in all earnest there is no category for this individual) was Tupac Amaru Shakur. In my honest opinion, Tupac was the personification and embodiment of complete ingeniousness; and without a doubt the single most influential artist during that time and quite arguably in any other time for that matter. His short live life was filled with extreme highs and gut-wrenching lows, with the latter making more headways in the national and world media outlets, especially the years leading up to his untimely demise. Though his lost was felt by millions of fans across the globe; what we lost in 1996 was more than an artist. What we lost was Ours. We lost our Rose that Grew from the Concrete.
I can remember the first time I heard my very religious and God-fearing mother listen to a hip-hop song in the mist of us kids like it was yesterday. Though cable television was around; I am quite certain of that. Though we did not have it, we were able to pick up the local music channel through UHF. For you “youngins” reading this post that is the knob at the bottom of the VHF knob…I digress. The song was “Dear Momma.” A tribute and praise to his mother for doing the best she could to raise him despite the many difficulties associated with being a single mother on welfare. This is what makes Tupac Ours. And before someone gets their BVDs all in a bundle and tell me that single parent household are also the reason for the many issues we face today; I get it and I agree. However, I will address that in a later post. This posts is not about that; at least not today. The fact that this Christian woman was unknowingly vibing (this was definitely not the lingo back then) to a guy who also recorded a song on the same tape titled Fuck the World, was both monumental and transcending. Can you imagine what would have happened to us if my mother would have gone out and bought Me Against The World? I shiver to even think of that. But this is what we lost in 1996. Tupac transcended genre, race, religion, gender, politics, and social ideologies to force the world to look in the mirror and face the issues and injustices which are still prevalent to this very day.
The year of Tupac’s death I was 16 years old and like any fan I took it hard. It was like losing Michael Jordan to retirement the first time; except you knew that Tupac was not going into a second career choice. Yes he left us with countless records, some which have gone on to sale millions of copies and garner him many accolades and prestigious titles and fame. But what we lost was our possibility to see our Rose continue to grow from the concrete and cover those cracked and rugged places and give our culture a chance to see a beautiful garden. We lost a chance to see a man who was chasing, no fighting for redemption and at the same time letting the world know that blatant honesty and truth to self is not to be compromised. A spade should be called a spade no matter how popular or how famous that individual is. This is what we lost in 1996.