On this day, June 16, in hip-hop history…
1971: Forty-two years ago, one of hip-hop’s most influential and tragic figures was brought into the world. On June 16, 1971, Tupac Amaru Shakur was born in the East Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan. Born to a family of Black Panthers, and named after a legendary Peruvian revolutionary, Tupac was destined to oppose the status quo.
His artistic abilities were discovered at an early age. During his high school years, he attended the Baltimore School for the Arts, where his reputation as a gifted rapper began. After displaying his rapping skills on a few guest appearances with Digital Underground (a group he started out as a backup dancer for), Tupac released his very first album, 2Pacalypse Now. The rest was history.
Tupac’s life was one riddled with controversy, legal trouble, and violence. His music, however, has left an indelible imprint on music lovers from all walks of life. The passion, skill, and honesty which fueled Tupac’s music has influenced artists from Eminem to Talib Kweli. His music touched on every aspect of life, from family (“Dear Mama”) to personal sadness and insecurity (“So Many Tears”). His extensive catalogue of work has allowed him to live on even today. As hip-hop lovers celebrate his 42nd birthday, one can only imagine what the music scene would be like if Tupac Amaru Shakur were here to celebrate it too.—Chisom Uzosike