Tupac Shakur wasn't your everyday rapper. He was a movie star and a
tragic bad-boy figure, the kind that little girls fall in love with and
dream of saving from the streets and an early death. He was also a potentially mighty spokesman for mental liberation in the African-American community.
But Tupac didn't get the chance to transform his destructive mentality into a positive one. The decadent American popular culture took an already-formed
Malcolm X and turned him into a Malcolm Little. Born a revolutionary, of a
revolutionary, he died a fake gangsta born of a dope fiend.
In 1971, when Tupac was born, O.J. Simpson was still a football hero.
O.J. represented the respectful African-American who could live next door
to white America, even play on its golf courses. The Negro. But there was
another type that existed when America's O.J.s were
becoming police officers and civil servants -- the rebellious ones. The
Afeni Shakur, Tupac's mother, was a Black Panther, imprisoned on a robbery charge while carrying Tupac in her womb. According to a pastor in Harlem, when the 10-year-old Tupac was asked what he wanted to be, he replied, "A revolutionary."
And Tupac's first album ("2Pacalypse Now") is reminiscent of the kind of politically conscious hip hop music that made
Public Enemy popular.
But Tupac hit the
scene at a time when much of hip hop was leaning towards the Pulp Fiction
realism that spoke of drive-bys and dope deals. So Tupac did that too.
Eventually Afeni Shakur, David Hilliard and many other Panthers,
including Party founder Huey Newton, succumbed to crack addiction. And what happened to the black community in the absence of the Black Panther party
is what America now sees in the inner city. The
movie "Panther" suggested that the CIA introduced cheap,
addictive drugs into the black community as part of their
COINTELPRO program in the 1960s.
Recent stories documenting
connections between crack cocaine distributed in Los Angeles, the CIA,
and the Contras in Nicaragua in the 1980s lend credibility to that belief.
Now the vibe that controls the music is sex and violence, death at an
early age, and greed. My generation has been made into the image of the
powers that the Panthers fought. Real Gangstas conspire to steal
continents. Mini-wannabe gangstas sell dope to their own people, then rap about it for Time Warner. In a motorcade of "his boys," his "family," "killers and soldiers," Tupac
took four in the chest and nobody so much as got the license plate number
or chased the killers.
Had he lived, Tupac could perhaps have provided -- through his own experiences -- the most coherent explanation of the problems facing the black community. He could have told the world the truth about his
mother's addiction and the real causes behind it. He could have changed
his lifestyle and become like his godfather Geronimo Pratt, the Black Panther revolutionary who retained the faith. Instead we will remember him by playing his old albums and renting the two completed films he has in the can. Like Marilyn Monroe,
James Dean and Jimi Hendrix, Tupac will sell from the grave.
The black and brown babies born to the generation that "won" the civil
rights fight in the '70s had as much potential as any generation of young
Afrikans ever did. We were born the most free. What happened to Tupac, happened to us.
© Pacific News Service
"This is a time bomb waiting to go off. These mercenaries are all well trained, both as fighters and terrorists. While they are being kept under wraps now, the moment they are given the order to set off car bombs or carry out assassinations this whole mission could go up in smoke. These guys
should be rounded up and put on a bus out of here."
-- Unnamed Nato official on the perceived threat of non-Bosnian Islamic guerillas to U.S. and Western forces in the region. (From "Outsiders Bring Islamic Fervor to the Balkans," in Monday's
New York Times).