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Keep Tupac’s flame alive

Adam Llorens | Friday, September 14, 2012

Hip-hop, in its purest form, provides listeners with a glimpse into a society often excluded from the American political and social landscape.
Often misinterpreted as music solely pertaining to the subjects of money, cars and personal success, rap gives a voice to the thousands of people struggling in urban areas across the country.
No artist was a better spokesman for the forgotten people than Tupac Shakur.
Yesterday, the world celebrated the life and music of Tupac on the 16th anniversary of his death. Today, we remember the issues he fought for, many of which are still fought for today.
While the labels of thug, criminal and gangster may be the first you use to describe Tupac, consider adding trailblazer, activist and poet to your vocabulary. If this sounds doubtful, just break down the lyrics of “Keep Ya Head Up,” a social commentary about the lives of thousands of inner-city women working to make ends meet for their children.
Tupac preaches, “It’s time to kill for our women / Time to heal our women / Be real to our women.” He then adds, “Since a man can’t make [a baby] / He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one.”
While lyrics like these cannot be found in the latest track from Lil Wayne, listeners must understand the various intentions of rappers in the 21st century.  Nearly all artists today, including Lil Wayne, are in the game to sell records by giving their audiences what they want to hear.
In other words, they rap from their wallets.
Tupac was in the game to bring awareness and changes to problems plaguing his brothers and sisters. He spoke from his heart instead.
Examine the one-to-one message Pac gave his fans in “Unconditional Love.”
He says, “My mission is to be more than just a rap musician / The elevation of today’s generation / If I could make ’em listen / Prison ain’t what we need, no longer stuck in greed / Time to play and strategize, my family’s gotta eat.”
It’s obvious rap music isn’t made like it used to be.
While life goes on and rappers today continue to rake in millions, it seems as if Tupac’s legacy gets dimmer each passing year. 16 years after his death, the dark day has arrived where songs like “The Motto,” “Work Hard, Play Hard” and “Cashin’ Out” are considered standard hits in the genre, while poetic tracks like “Dear Mama,” “Heartz of Men” and “Changes” are labeled as endangered.
Prior to his death, Tupac asked how long the world would mourn him once he passed away.
The hip-hop community must take a page from Tupac’s playbook to keep his flame alive.
Otherwise, the doomsday of the genre draws nearer as rap continues to stray away from its soul.
“To all the seeds that follow me, protect your essence. Born with less, but you’re still precious. Just smile for me now.”

Contact Adam Llorens at     
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    The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.