Twenty calendars have been hung, flipped and thrown in the trash since your flesh walked amongst the soulful and soulless. Where did the time go? Time hasn’t healed the wound of your passing. There’s still a bumblebee sting felt each time the anniversary of your death rolls around. Your praises are sung, your music is played, tears are dropped - hip-hop as a collective community reminisces over you. Some say you never died, that you concocted the ultimate escape. A plan that would make El Chapo’s prison breaks look like a simple magic trick. I don’t believe the theories, old friend. Denial is for marriages being broken by infidelity, not death. It happens to kings, tyrants, damsels, scholars, mages and rappers - it will happen to us all, but you did something that doesn’t happen to everyone, you survived the times in spirit instead of flesh.
The dark liquor that sits still in this clear glass is a product of your influence. You were the unofficial voice and face of Hennessy and the reason that we sip each drop as your lyrics play in the background. Do you remember Nas? Of course, he’s one of the many names you dropped on the realist song you ever wrote. I wish you two could’ve done more than reconcile before your passing. You would’ve made magic if given the chance. He’s the current voice of Hennessy’s latest campaign, and I can’t help but think the job is his only because your voice was silenced. The woes of leaving the earth too soon. I do wonder what companies would’ve eventually aligned with you. You were a walking billboard, a brand ready to crossover into selling and not just buying.
Hip-hop is not the same as you left it. Many believe that you would hate the current state of affairs. You came from a different generation of rappers; you didn’t have the Lil Canoes and Uzi Verts during your day. You also didn’t have the Kardashians or WorldStar, social media or rap blogs; your influence on the world is strong but there’s no predicting how the world would’ve influenced you. In all that has changed in 20 years, there’s a lot that hasn’t. Police officers are still abusing their power against people of color. I imagine you would have wept tears in Ferguson, in New York, in Baton Rouge - everywhere blood has been spilled and lives have been lost on this country’s soil. Watching your old interviews, I can’t help but think what you would say in these trying times.
Would you march with the new organizations or build your own? Would you bare arms or bare signs? What Would Tupac Do? That is my question.
When I first sat down to write this letter I thought about how you were almost born in prison. You were nearly born in a cage, and yet the man who murdered you never spent a day behind bars. I walked the Vegas strip this year and wondered how no one saw your murderer. The strip is a parade of pimps, hustlers, tourists and nightingales all roaming through hotels and bars searching for Lady Luck with every dice rolled, every card flipped, every levered pulled. Yet, in this cluster of madness a gunman escaped. I walked through MGM wondering about your final thoughts as you ran through the hotel. You were a man who seemed to always find laughter and trouble with the ease of a child finding a three-leaf clover. Where did your fear go? Did all the songs about murder, heaven, and enemies prepare you for what was lurking around every corner? You seemed ready to stick a rifle in the reaper’s mouth just to see if you could.
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You never cared about being the best rapper. When I listen to your music, I don’t hear an artist trying to be the best who ever lived. I hear pain, pride, perseverance and truth. You wrote your truth. The honest pen writes in blood, not ink. Your blood pumps through every song. That’s what people miss the most about you, an artist who didn’t care about anything but staying true to the voice telling him to sing those words. Never biting your tongue meant that you became a target - attracting enemies, a bullseye rested on your back - but you never ceased barking about the ills.
You weren’t here to make anyone feel comfortable. No one could tell you what to say. There are a few rappers who have adopted your fearlessness. I think of YG, another rapper from the West Coast, and his song “FDT.” I could hear you appearing on the remix with a middle finger raised high. You would appreciate YG; his song “Who Shot Me?” is very Tupac-esque. You understood the paranoia of being shot, and how it affects your mentality. For all the new rappers you might dislike, there’s more than a few you would champion.
There's so much to discuss with you: Kendrick Lamar, Black Lives Matters, Barack Obama, Jay Z, Kanye West, Black-Ish, Drake, Bill Cosby, and iPhones. Too much for one letter.
But I have to ask, did you find peace? You never seemed at peace.
You could have happiness, moments of bliss, but peace of mind is something that I feel wasn’t gifted to you very often. That’s what is overlooked when you’re being honored: how all that you wrote and said came from a place of hardship and turmoil. You carried the weight, bore the stress, and pushed through when a weaker man’s knees would’ve buckled. I admire your strength more than any rap or rhyme. You were strong enough to stand by your convictions and fight for all that you believed in. I hope to find the same strength. You had moments when your emotions were too extreme, that you went too far, but if you wouldn’t have been extreme then you wouldn’t have been Tupac.
I hope this letter finds you in a place of peace. You deserve in death what you scarcely had in life.
By Yoh, aka Yohkaveli aka @Yoh31.