Every generation has a variety of impactful artists that contribute to social change as well as to the evolution of music as an artform and a business. While comparisons have and will be made between artists of all mediums, the common parallels of different generations are predominant, but often times overlooked. The criticisms of this generation’s style and content range far and wide, from “they dress crazy” to “they are too graphic and violent” (it would take another weekly column written for a number of years to go into how graphic music has always been) yet these same critiques can be applied to almost any evolving musical genre of the past 100 years. Artists evolve with the times, yet the more things change the more they stay the same.
2Pac always had a larger plan to make a positive impact in the community, and music/entertainment was just a piece of the puzzle in the grand scheme of things. At a time when music coverage was becoming quite one dimensional, 2Pac helped to shine a light on a sound that had already evolved organically in California. Let’s be honest, after “The Chronic” and “Doggystyle” (Think “The Doggfather”) there was a “lull” in California – – let me say this now, I am NOT saying Cali fell off or that there weren’t some amazing records that came out at this time – – but during this time New York was killing it. Nas and Mobb Deep were dominating media coverage and radio. 2Pac knew how to create a media circus, he knew how to draw a crowd and draw attention to himself (even through negative events) but, he would take that opportunity to shift the attention to more positive matters.
There was a time where Florida was booming, and the center of music’s attention (think Baby and Wayne moving to Miami post Katrina dropping “LFLS”). Eventually we had artists breaking nationally, like SpaceGhostPurpp, but as a whole Florida was quiet. Soon after, we have Raider Klan making noise, Denzel Curry, Pouya, Wifisfuneral, Smokepurpp, Robb Bank$ etc. All this talent coming out of Florida, and all these guys making noise. But, one of these stood out a little higher, because of distorted, yet riveting beats, which developed a cult following, criminal accusations, and incarceration. At a time when the blogs and TMZ and the media outlets were supporting a very polarized sound, X found a way to commercialize and draw attention to a sound that had developed organically. From there, he was able to expand his sound, and reach, and start to do what he actually wanted to do from the beginning; Make a difference.
2Pac was accused, and convicted of sexual abuse, although he fervently expressed that he was innocent. While he rotted away in prison, “friends, family, and fans” alike wrote him off as a rapist and a criminal. X received the same treatment and more. Without even being convicted in a court of law, the court of public opinion labeled him a criminal, and a rapist, while maintaining his innocence. Like Pac, self admittedly, X stated that he was far from perfect but just wanted to make a difference in a world that often times seemed cruel. Tupac was an actor, a dancer, a poet, and an artist in general. In hindsight he really showed young, poor kids that they can make something of themselves and that anyone can be an artist. It’s okay to fuck up. It’s ok to be sad. Be strong. Don’t fall victim to the bullshit. The content parallels because of the impact made on such a large number of people of different social backgrounds. Not everyone loved 2Pac but those that did were impacted and influenced in a way not everyone can understand. The exact same thing can be said about XXXTENTACION. 2Pac dropped two of the most socially conscious albums anyone could ask for, but he wasn’t “dramatic” enough to draw attention. He made his hooks catchier (because at the end of the day let’s face it he was a star. A pop star) and became a “character”.
Tupac understood that hip-hop is like wrestling. Tupac Shakur and 2Pac were not the same person. 2Pac was a character created by Tupac Shakur in the same way that XXXTENTACION was a character created by Jahseh Onfrey. In order to protect the sheep you have to catch the wolf and it takes a wolf to catch a wolf. These men went into the wolf den in order to protect the sheep, at the end of the day they can both be considered martyrs. Both “characters” were perceived a particular way in order to draw attention to their message (cracking eggs if you will). It took both artists dying young and tragically to draw attention to the extremely positive impact of their music – – not to mention the eerie parallels of “I Ain’t Mad” and “Sad” by Pac and X respectively.
There are literally college courses across the country dedicated to dissecting the lyrics of 2Pac, because if you read between the lines, he was speaking to a people that had no voice at that time. He continuously spoke of social injustices and the things he wanted to do to change the world and be positive for the children and unite the hoods and unite the gangs and actually have PEACE. Let C. Delores Tucker and the media of the early 90s tell it and 2Pac was a criminal, a rapist, and “A poison to the youth”. Let me say this again, the music that Tupac Shakur created, as 2Pac, was considered filth and poison. Now, there are college courses devoted to analyzing the strength of the social and political commentary in his art.