Written by Adonnis
Tomorrow is my 9,222nd day alive, and for me this represents a significant milestone that I have thought of in some way or another for almost 20 years. It is the day that my lifetime will exceed Tupac’s. To those uninitiated his name may elicit the image of just another “gangsta rapper” or perhaps they associate the name with a punchline to a joke. It can come as a surprise to those outside of hip-hop culture that he is so revered and heralded by his followers, to many of which, Tupac represented so much more than just a rapper. Through his music and interviews he came to be a mentor-like figure to me, largely responsible for forming my moral compass. As I acknowledge this moment of passage, I move forward with an renewed sense of appreciation for the gift I have of each day, something that can not be taken for granted given the context. This is a time of observance, personal moment for reflection and self-assessment.
I would need to cite nothing more than his catalogue of work to attest to his greatness but to explain the personal connection I had to look deeper. Through lots of introspection I began seeking an explanation – not for anyone else but for myself, and it all came to the very moment he was introduced to me, when my older sibling 10 years my senior, made an innocent remark; “Tupac still has new albums coming out”. As she walked off to browse the store, I began to ask my father about this. “Who’s Tupac and what’s the big deal about him having new albums?” Hearing his name drew a succession of questions for my young mind, what was the significance of him “still” having an album out? Tupac is a name? These questions leaving a gap in my mind for interpretation, the answer to each question only drew more questions on topics that were just being introduced to me.
I realize now that this was the first time that concept of murder was ever explained to me. All of this together creating the prime environment for what is known in the world of psychology as an “imprinting”. Until this discovery I had no reason to explain why I was so drawn to his name the very next time I crossed paths with it on a grocery store shelf, this coming in the form of a book titled ‘The Killing of Tupac Shakur’ by Cathy Scott. His name and image was already perceptible to me the second time I encountered it.
It stood out to me, I was drawn to it and my father got me the book. That was 2nd grade at that point I hadn’t been exposed to his music and perhaps it was qualified to me through the context in which he was presented in the book but I approached his music looking for and expecting greatness. I viewed him as a figure to be highly-esteemed before I ever knew his music. The Beatles are the only other entity to musically reach the level of regard I have for Tupac’s catalog, but I had to discover their greatness – nobody’s endorsement changed the way I evaluated them. I can’t think of anyone else who was pre-qualified for this stature in my mind, perhaps Michael Jordan in the sense that you were just aware of his greatness before witnessing it, perhaps reinforced by Space Jam.
I found Me Against the World in my sisters room, the intro to it stuck with me but the CD was too scratched to get much further than that. I was a fan of rap – mostly just Eminem by the end of 2nd grade which I discovered because Real Slim Shady was on crossover radio. That summer I went to the Up In Smoke tour and still other rappers were being introduced to me so other music was getting to me but those people didn’t enjoy the blind comradely that I had for Tupac, before I truly got into his work.
I would go on to read every book published about him before 2010, watch every documentary he was the subject of. I listened to his music religiously for many years of my early teens. Even today I can hear the frequencies of his voice from exceptional distances. I feel that I’ve grown to have a better understanding of the real Tupac through the many faces that he offered the to the public. This is the explanation I have to offer for those who wonder why this day means so much to me. This is the knowledge of myself that would’ve went unanswered had this day went by without notice. By going deep into my past, and analyzing the psychology of the very moment that a important figure in my life was created.