We Really Need Tupac Right Now
If only for the movie roles
A reality TV personality is winging it in the white house, an immigrant crisis is sweeping the west, sensitivity and political correctness are plaguing American universities, marijuana is becoming legal across the US and still 2.3 Million Americans are incarcerated, the first large scale, tangible effects of climate change are being felt, and we’re living through a second civil rights movement catalyzed by the exposure of police killings of minorities.
I don’t know how Tupac would feel about any of these things, but I know he would be in the middle of them all… if he were around.
I so desperately want to know how Pac’s appearances on Kimmel, Maher or one of those shows with the grey haired guys on CNN would actually play out. My instinct tells me it would riveting. And yet, my imagination can only go so far as to conjure an image of him on a late night couch, smiling, or scowling in a debate box on cable news. What would he say?
If you could take all the indecipherable, though admittedly hilarious, Lil’ Wayne appearances on ESPN, and replace them with Pac appearances. Would you? I would.
And that’s not to mention the music (duh), the movies, hell, I bet Tupac would have his own Podcast in 2017, “The Pac-cast”. What I wouldn’t give to hear that guy shoot the shit with Rogan, Simmons, or Tippet. Plus, you know he would have made an appearance in the Fast and Furious series by now. He might even have taken Tyrese’s role. Wait, wait… no. Tyrese needs to keep that.
To be able to watch Tupac navigate the evolving entertainment industry would be fascinating. We’ve seen how well Snoop’s done even while being marginalized for his stigma of stoner-ism. Dr. Dre has taken a very different — far less vocal — path through his professional life to the tune of three Billion Benjamins for selling Beats. And still, neither of them has been highly outspoken on political issues — especially in Dre’s case — opting instead for a more Michael Jordan-esque, “Republican’s buy sneakers too” approach. How Pac would have maneuvered his way through our ‘Netflixed’ and ‘Spotified’ postmodern culture would have been textbook material. Something his poetry already is.
There are so many things outside of politics that I would want to hear Pac vent on. For instance, David Stern’s implementation of a dress code in the NBA and the ensuing cult of fashion that’s gripped the league; if the Oscars are black enough; Kanye, leather yoga pants and the concept of genius; simulation theory; Lavar Ball; terraforming; ‘flat earthers’; charismatic megafauna; fake boobs; … the list goes on.
Yet, as we know, Tupac was not only an entertainment icon but also a cultural icon. He was to rap what Neil DeGrasse Tyson is to science: a definitive voice. Someone who could reach through social silos and shine a spotlight on the truth.
Wouldn’t it be nice to have the Neil DeGrasse Tyson of rap around in 2017? Someone who could deftly bounce from lighthearted jokes about butt cheek injections to serious discourse about American elections. Woah, just writing about Tupac is making me rhyme!
Ultimately the question inevitably becomes “who is the Tupac of 2017 gonna be?” Sure that’s a silly question, but if you’ve read this far, I don’t think one more silly question will deter you. Of course, we don’t know where Tupac’s life trajectory would have taken him, or whether he would have been highly engaged with social issues. Still, I’d put hypothetical money on him being on the front lines. He seemed too iconic, too vocal, too socially conscious and self-aware to not be.
So who’s it gonna be?
Certain people in rap — and throughout the entertainment landscape — have stepped up to send messages regarding the socio-political climate.
I’ll never forget the stirring performances of “Fuck Donald Trump” from YG and G-Eazy last summer at a Seattle music festival. Those songs electrified and galvanized the crowd. Even Macklemore got in on the action bringing G-Eazy on stage during his headlining set for one last rendition of the pep rally pump-up joint. Yes, they were preaching to the choir. A choir that voted at less than a 50% clip during last year’s presidential election.
But at least they were preaching.
Are any of them 2017 Pac though? No.
Killer Mike has been a powerful voice against Trump and in favor of an economy geared to work for all Americans i.e. Bernie Sanders — a politician whose motivations seem, refreshingly, to be couched in morality. Too bad he’s 75. But I’ll save the “I Feel Like We Really Need a Younger Bernie Sanders Right Now” bit for another article. At rallies, on TV, on radio and podcasts, Killer Mike has spoken strongly on behalf of a politically marginalized community never eschewing his artistic or cultural identity to make a point.
To be clear, every community that is not white males over the age of 35 is politically marginalized. It only takes a wide shot of any congressional gathering to see that… (You might want to put shades on, this gets pretty white)
Killer Mike’s voice as a political playmaker has even rekindled my appreciation for his voice on record. I hadn’t been much of a Killer Mike fan since the days of ‘A.D.I.D.I.D.A.S.’ Remember ‘A.D.I.D.I.D.A.S.’?
In fact, looking back, Big Boi’s progressive references to equality regardless of sexual orientation in the first verse (1:10) and Killer Mike’s own allusion to an underground market of pharmaceuticals created by a profiteering health care industry (2:08) may have foreshadowed Killer Mike’s eventual championing of the most progressive political voice of our young century. But you would’ve had to be very sharp to catch that back in 2003.
So is Killer Mike 2017 Pac? I’m a fan but I still say no.
By the way, I just want to say a preemptive “You’re Welcome” to Killer Mike, G-Eazy, YG, Neil Tyson and any other celebrities who I compare to Tupac in this piece.
Other entertainers have spoken up on political issues as the ‘soap opera-zation’ of politics has heightened awareness of the house of cards that our freedom rests on. Sarah Silverman, Mark Ruffalo, Bryan Cranston, Robert De Niro, Lee Daniels, John Legend, Young Jeezy (whose Twitter profile name “Sno” is one of my personal favorites), Mac Miller, and Usher come to mind.
But none of them embody the charisma, ferocity, or ability to seamlessly navigate the diverse socio-political media that Pac seemingly had. While many celebrities have a platform comparable to what Pac’s was, I would argue that none have the voice — couched in compassion — that was always able to represent minority communities and still capture the ears — and the hearts — of white America.
So who is the Tupac of 2017 going to be?
Kendrick right? Maybe. But his ‘press-shy’ personality and tendency to channel all his more fundamental social commentary into highly creative abstract forms makes me doubtful.
Drake? He’s got the acting chops — kind of. But no. Plus he’s Canadian.
Jay Z? Too business oriented.
50 Cent? Is 50 alive? Where’s 50? No.
Joey Bada$$? Almost, but the platform isn’t quite there.
Mensa? Even closer, but again, the platform.
Staples? Too funny. Seriously, he should hit up Netflix about a comedy special. I hear they’re payin’.
Since you’ve made it to the end of the article, I’ll reward you with a guess.
Chance the Rapper.
He’s got the platform, the chameleon like media skills, the independent thought. He can speak to the Jesus-lovers, the urbanites, the acid-droppers and the Colbert-watchers; and they listen. He’s got no corporate strings attached. Sure he’s a little too ‘quiet musical savant’-y and maybe he lacks some of the ferocity that Pac embodied — okay he definitely lacks some of the ferocity that Pac embodied — but if anyone can think outside the box of the fame economy it’s a guy with an album titled “Acid Rap”. Gun to my head? I’m picking Chance.
I’d parlay that with 2Chainz, given the right odds.
The real answer however, is: I don’t know.
But, I feel like we really need Tupac right now.