May 18, 2011
Today I found myself engaged in a conversation with a group of kids who attend a local continuation high school. We talked about the war, and their futures, and then somehow we ended up talking about the movie Poetic Justice. It was at this point in our chat that I had to show how much older than them I was because while I saw the movie with my older brother in the theater, it came out before any of them were born.
It made matters even worse when I began sharing memories with them about the day Tupac died. It was really interesting because they only know of Pac as a legend or some kind of symbol. They know him in the same way that I know Marvin Gaye and Jimi Hendrix. Tupac represents something instilled in them by their parents not as something they themselves discovered and learned to appreciate.
It’s crazy but I remember not really understanding Tupac’s music until the posthumous release of the Makaveli album. When Me Against the World came out I was merely a 12-year-old child. I had no idea that Pac was prophesying the rest of my life to a beat. All I knew was that it was one sad song after another and I wished my brother’s tape would break so I didn’t have to hear it again.
Makaveli made me stop in my tracks. By then I was a mid-teen and I had experienced a little something. So the first time I heard “Hail marry” I just had to put it on repeat (thank god we had gotten a C.D. player by then). In a few days I had memorized the whole song. Pac’s voice on that track was so eerie, so wise, and so profound that it made me go back and listen to all of his other music. It was only after he died that I realized how great he was and how truly righteous he wanted to be.
I tried to explain this to the students though I’m not sure they got it. A few of them just nodded their heads and one of them said “Yeah Pac shit be slappin.”
It’s fascinating how history works.
The Beat Within, that organization that does writing workshops with incarcerated youth, began after Tupac’s death. The founder was talking to young people in jail about it, and he realized they were so affected by his death that they needed to write about it. It is interesting to see the shift now, as the young folks involved in the program today aren’t nearly as connected to him. Still, they are involved in the program, and writing about the deaths that affect their lives. I feel like it’s kind of poetic in a way, that they may not be aware of it, but his death was a catalyst for the outlet they have today.