Every year around this time many of us within Hip Hop take some time out and reflect on the life and times of Tupac Amaru Shakur as commemorate the anniversary of his tragic death Sept 13 1996. With each passing year its interesting to note that as a younger generation grows older, icons like 2Pac don’t seem to mean as much. For example, I’m not sure I heard anyone shout him out during the MTV VMAs.. Not sure if people took time to acknowledge him during the red carpet interviews or if anyone bothered to ask their thoughts. Did anyone ask ‘What do you think 2Pac would be doing if he was here?’ ’What do you think 2Pac would say about our current economic situation?’ ”What would Pac have said about that preacher wanting to burn Qu’rans or all the hoopla made at Ground Zero about that Mosque/ Community center? What would he have said about the looming sentencing trial for the cop who killed Oscar Grant or the riots that have taken place in LA after cops shot an immigrant? What would Pac have said about all those homes being destroyed and people killed during the tragic fire in San Bruno which we are now finding was because of negligence by PG&E? Considering that’s an area where a lot of people of color live, do you think Pac would’ve been screaming on that? Such speculative question gets asked because it’s all but absent from those who are privileged to have access to a mic.Pac like so much of our history has been made disposable and I’m not quite sure what to make of it. Is it our fault as elders for not bringing him up enough and keeping his and the memory of other past icons alive? Have we grown so that we now see him through a different lens and maybe don’t hold him up as high anymore? Did we put too much on him?
In looking back I think what folks admired so much about 2Pac was that he gave voice to an underclass of people. He gave voice to the those who we call the ‘Have Nots‘. What’s ironic is that in 2010 we have more ‘Have Nots then ever before, but instead of kicking up dust and challenging those in power about the injustice of such conditions, we now have folks looking for answers in corporate lackeys masquerading as rap stars or corporate backed pundits who know of Pac but would never dare embrace his fearlessness and boldness in seeking change. Still others look for the Glenn Beck, theTea Party Movement and maybe Congressman Ron Paul to give them voice.
When Pac died at age 25 he was just beginning to find his voice and there’s no telling where he would be in 2010. There’s no telling how he would’ve ultimately have used his platforms and popularity and how things would be different as a result..The young Black male who he claimed to have spoken for would be older now and we would hope that he would be speaking and doing things to change the wretched conditions so many find themselves in.. Alas we can only speculate, but we should not underestimate the differences one man or woman can make.
Moving forward we understand that every generation has their heroes and sheros.. I’m from the public Enemy era, the folks who were my interns back in the days came up under Pac.. Many of them have maintained that fiery spirit 13 years later..My question today is who inspires that in today’s generation? Who is speaking truth to power and kicking up dust? Or have we retired that as a viable method to get things done?
As I was watching what appeared to be a very lack luster VMAs last night I kept asking myself where are the fire-works? Who’s the person that’s gonna leave us with something to talk about for years to come? The closet we came was when Drakeyelled out Free Lil Wayne. Many were hoping we’d have that moment with Kanye Westwho came out wearing a red suit that drew comparisons to late comedian Richard Pryor on Sunset Strip. He’s always one to be counted on to say something provocative. His performance was mesmerizing. But we didn’t get much from Kanye other than him rapping about what a jerk he was .. Instead it was singer Taylor Swift who was famously interrupted by Kanye during last years awards, kicking up dust by doing a song where she took aim at him.
As Kanye closed the show I kept wondering if this generation of Have Nots had someone speaking for them on these national stages.