Tuesday, June 16th marks Tupac Amaru Shakur’s 44th birthday. Before his untimely death, Tupac Shakur was not only a significant contributor to hip hop, but I would argue, a symbol of freedom within the African American community. As his lyrics pointed out, he was present during a time when African Americans were aware of the injustices within the United States and the effect that this had on their history and their senses of self.
Tupac challenged white supremacy and white liberalism within the United States and used his warrior-like personality to motivate and inspire the urban youth to fight against the oppression that history had created. Often depicted as highly violent, Tupac and his T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E. was actually an attempt to embrace practices that would reduce black on black violence in the United States. He fought to restore dignity within his fellow African Americans and his idea of the Thug acted as a rebellion to the white liberalism that had oppressed African Americans for years.
Tupac truly used hip hop as the transgressive social movement that it was meant to be. Even after he hit the mainstream music scene, Tupac was still able to keep hip hop as a social movement for people to connect to, not just move to.
Tupac will live on in the hearts and minds of everyone for a very long time. No one has any idea what good he could have done in the world had he lived to see his 44th birthday, and we never will know. But he was still able to leave his mark and is still loved by so many.