Today marks the sixteen year anniversary of the death of one of the most topical figures music, let alone hip-hop, has ever seen – Tupac Shakur. Loved by many and castigated by others, I’ve recently been revisiting his back catalogue and although he never made an absolute stone cold classic, none of the albums he released before his death either (including the Thug Life group he formed) are bad, and the one that immediately followed his passing, under the Makaveli pseudonym, is also solid. Posthumously of course he was nigh on horrendous but you can’t hate on him for that. Here’s the post I did on his Birthday where I tried to defend his legacy. He made great feel-good RnB inspired music, aggressive political full speed records with the Bomb Squad behind him and street focused wistfulness, all long before he met up with Suge Knight and Death Row Records or did a debut with Elton John from beyond the grave. If only more people knew about that side of his career.
What people also forget that on the exact same date, two years earlier, his rival and the man who he is always compared to, the Notorious B.I.G, released his debut album Ready to Die. Although at times flawed this was what Shakur never achieved, an absolute milestone in hip-hop and an album that still makes the hair stand on the back of my neck with some of the lyrics. Biggie was an absolute poet, no question, the opening salvo to ‘Warning’ is beyond brilliant and perfectly endemic of just how awesome he was an emcee. “Who the fuck is this, paging me at 5:46, in the morning crack of dawning, now I’m yawning, wipe the cold out my eye. See who’s this paging me, and why”. Seriously that is up there with William Blake.
Anyway, pay your respects to two of the most important figures in the music who are always inextricably linked even down to the finer details. And check Nick Broomfield’s documentary on their death if you haven’t already.