“If Malcolm X had died at 25 he would have been known as a petty-hustler and thief. If Martin Luther King had died at 25 he would have been another random Baptist minister…” —Unknown
Almost every time 2Pac is brought up in conversation, it’s almost impossible for people to resist the urge to throw Biggie into the equation—no matter what the topic is.
It’s only natural that these two contemporaries are compared. The storied East Coast/West Coast beef, their supersonic ascension to fame and their star-crossed demises have forever intertwined them in hip-hop’s history books. But I’ve always hated this comparison.
Apples and oranges I’d say. These guys were as different as night and day and aside from their related drama, they’ve lived on in history for very different reasons. I think Shock G said it best:
“First of all, Biggie’s gonna win hands down when you’re talking flow… When people say ‘Pac is the best rapper of all time, they don’t just mean he’s the best rapper. They just mean what he had to say was most potent, most relevant, and that he was the better human being.”
However, the one thing that has always and will always set 2Pac apart from the rest is his story. There are many people out there who will claim that ‘Pac was a fake thug who changed as his bank account got bigger. I’d say he was one of the most complex people to enter the game and his story, a tale of lost innocence in the face of hardship, tragedy, and fame, is one of the most genuine coming of age stories I’ve ever witnessed.
Here are some of the moments in his life and career that added to his legend:
Tupac’s first on-camera interview
In the interview, he discusses life as a teenager in light of his philosophies on politics, race, and socioeconomic issues. One of the moments that resonated most with me is toward the end of the interview when he says that girls weren’t into him even though he treated them with respect and the guys they ended up going for were the ones that called them the “b-word.” This is one of the most candid videos of ‘Pac and the most innocent footage you’re ever going to catch of him. In retrospect, it highlights just how much he was changed by his experiences over the next seven years… especially in regards to women.
Tupac as Bishop in Juice
In his first starring role (remember him in Nothing But Trouble with Digital Underground the year before?), Tupac played the hell out of the character Bishop. We all remember the infamous locker scene and the lines:
“I am crazy. But you know what else? I don’t give a fuck! I don’t give a fuck about you! I don’t give a fuck about Steele! And I don’t give a fuck about Raheem, either! I don’t give a fuck about myself!”
This role confirmed his acting abilities and star power. Many critics would say that he began to live out the character of Bishop in his real life. Although he was known to stay in character while on set, for Pac it seemed that the world around him changed more than he himself changed. Nevertheless, as time went on and he began to resemble this character more and more, it became harder and harder to disassociate ‘Pac and Bishop.
Shooting in Atlanta
While in ATL, ‘Pac noticed two White men harassing an unarmed Black man. He came to the man’s defense and wound up firing at the two White guys, who turned out to be off duty police officers. Here’s the catch, ‘Pac got away with it! When news spread about this ‘Pac seemed untouchable. He shot two cops and got away with it? That was unheard of!
Speech in court
‘Pac proved his bravery by telling the judge he wasn’t even interested in his sentencing. Some may say that was reckless or disrespectful but for many others it was prolific.
“Hit Em Up”
I don’t know of any other diss track that gets me more amped than this one. Pac pulled out no stops to go at the Bad Boy Camp in “Hit ‘Em Up,” an incendiary instant classic.
Predicting his death: “I Ain’t Mad at Cha”
Obviously this isn’t something that we knew until he died but damn it if this wasn’t eerie, especially because the timing of the song’s release. This prophetic video played almost like his actual death and you couldn’t help watching the video, feeling as if ‘Pac were speaking from the grave.
There are plenty of other ‘Pac moments, the rally in Oakland where he pulled out a gun and got chased by a mob, his shout out at the Republican National Convention, him calling out the Hughes Brothers… can you think of anymore legendary ‘Pac moments? Holla if ya hear me. —Brooklyne Gipson