June 16th marks the birthday of Tupac Shakur; he would have been 43 years old today. Growing up in the 80’s-90’s, 2Pac was easily my favorite rap artist of all time. A tragedy in his legacy is that he was largely misunderstood by many, and too often simply written off as being a thug. Au contraire, 2ac was very wise beyond his young years. He was named after Tupac Amaru, an 18th century South American revolutionary who was executed after leading an indigenous uprising against Spanish rule. His parents, Afeni Shakur and Billy Garland were active members of the Black Panther Party in New York. His godfather was Geronimo Pratt, a political prisoner who needs no introduction. His stepfather Mutulu Shakur was once on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted Fugitives List. He considered Mumia Abu-Jamal one of his mentors. Undoubtedly, 2Pac grew up with heavy influences; he was raised with a revolutionary mentality.
2Pac’s rap group was named “The Outlawz,” a group whose significance may have been commonly overlooked. Each member of “The Outlaws” took on an alias with a double meaning:
- 2Pac – Alias: Makaveli – Named after Niccolo Machiavelli, a political military theorist, historian, playwright, diplomat, and military planner who once wrote about a military strategy of faking one’s death to fool enemies. He is known for writing “The Prince” and “The Art of War.”
- Yaki Kadafi – Named after Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.
- Kastro – Named after Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
- E.D. I Mean – Named after Ugandan president Idi Amin.
- Hussein Fatal – Named after Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
- Napoleon – Named after French leader Napoleon Bonaparte.
- Big Syke – Alias: Mussolini – Named after Italian leader Benito Mussolini.
- Mopreme – Alias: Komani – 2Pac’s stepbrother who was named after Iranian political leader Ruhollah Khomeini.
The group members named themselves after leaders who were often painted as rebels and dictators mainly because they didn’t subscribe to Western philosophies; they also never allied with the United States or any Europeans countries. 2Pac openly spoke out against the system, so the name “Outlawz” fit their anti-Western theme best.
I vividly remember this interview with 2Pac speaking about the Church, one of the biggest businesses in the World, and the irony in its lavish buildings. “There’s Homeless people out there. Why ain’t they letting them stay there?” -Tupac
Here’s another sample of some of 2Pac’s lyrics from the song, “Blasphemy”:
I really believe Tupac would have been the next revolutionary leader for his generation had his life not been cut short. Tupac was shot and killed at the tender age of 25 years old. To put that in perspective, when Malcolm X was 25, he was still transitioning from his “Detroit Red” phase. We can only imagine what Tupac’s next phase could have been.
The following video is a recorded conversation between Tupac Shakur and Sanyika “Monster Kody” Shakur. This contains strong language, but it reveals the mentality Tupac had as he quickly ran through a few of his goals for the community.