Tuesday marks 20 years since legendary rapper Tupac "2Pac" Shakur was gunned down in Las Vegas at the age of 25. While his murder remains unsolved, his fans remain resolute in their dedication to upholding all facets of his legacy, including and especially his rap music but also his work as a social activist.
"Pac," as his friends and fans affectionately refer to him, primary made a name for himself in the recording booth. His lyrical influence on his then-contemporaries as well as crops of new rappers in the interim and the present is still very apparent to this day, especially in California, where 2Pac called home. Fans of hip-hop music can look no further than Kendrick Lamar, a Compton native who last year on this date published in Pitchfork a heartfelt tribute testifying in part how the slain rapper "changed lives forever."
He wasn't lying. Lamar said his latest album, a Grammy Award-winning offering named "To Pimp a Butterfly," was initially set to be called "Tu Pimp A Catterpillar," a spelled out acronym for TuPAC.
2Pac's legacy was not only rooted in hip-hop music, the musical platform and cultural lifestyle which gave him his humble start in rap as a roadie and backup dancer for Bay Area pioneers Digital Underground. Social activism was literally always in the blood running through his veins. He was born in jail to a mother who was arrested over her political views as a member of the Black Panther Party.
Specifically, Shakur took umbrage with the way police treated black people. If that sentiment sounds familiar, it's because much of what the current Black Lives Matter social justice movement stands for is in line with much of what 2Pac rapped about and spoke publicly on. While many people have said that 2Pac's so-called Thug Life movement was detrimental to black people and glorified violence, he said the term was actually an acronym — "The Hate U Gave Little Infants, F--- Everybody" — to address systemic racism and its effects on society at large.
Complex pointed to the lyrics in one of his signature songs — "Trapped" — as proof of this. "They got me trapped, can barely walk the city streets without a cop harassing me, searching me, then asking my identity," he rapped on the "2Pacalypse" album released in 1991. "Hands up, throw me up against the wall, didn't do a thing at all, I'm telling you one day these suckers gotta fall…"
Those words are now borderline prophetic as the issues he rapped about a quarter of a century ago are still very real and being highlighted by Black Lives Matter and its supporters.
And if anyone thought his legacy was showing signs of slowing, think again. Last year, the Grammy Museum opened up an exhibit called “All Eyez on Me: The Writings of Tupac Shakur,” a play on the name of the late rapper's certified diamond double album released seven months to the day before his death in 1996.
And later this year Hollywood is set to release a biopic — also called "All Eyez On Me" — as another testament to his lasting influence on pop culture.
You can watch two trailers for the movie below.