I honestly cannot tell you how many times I have sung “Keep Ya Head Up” to myself in 2017. Tupac Shakur, his legal name, passed away 20 years ago last September. It is crazy for me to think that Tupac and I only overlapped in this world for a little over five years, and yet I grew up knowing his music. But, I also associate Tupac as much with the movie Juice as I do as a rapper. Juice came out the same month I was born, and yet I still watch that movie today. I love it in a way that I cannot quite explain. Maybe it is simply just how real the emotion feels to me that it keeps drawing me in so many years later.
Let’s talk about names, shall we? I think that names are a most fascinating thing because you do not get to choose your name, and yet your name shapes who you are so much. I noted that Tupac Shakur was his legal name, meant to imply that it is not a name he chose in fame. However, it was not the name originally printed on his birth certificate. After his release from prison, Tupac also adopted the name “Makaveli” after the Italian Machiavelli. I truly believe it is an absolutely beautiful thing to pick a pseudonym for yourself based on someone who truly inspired you. I liken it to choosing a confirmation name, for example. You don’t choose the name of some nobody, no-nothing; you choose the name of someone who is inspiring.
The thing that I love most about Tupac’s music is that I do not believe that it has inspired an uproarious movement like the music of NWA, for example. However, it is still relatable. Tupac rapped about things that plagued, and still plague, African-American people in America. He used his acting career on top of his music career to play strong men of color with weaknesses. His mother chose name for him that meant something to her, and he chose another name that meant something to him. Even though he went to jail for alleged sexual assault, he used the experience to learn and grow, rather than to bring him down. The persistence of this man to continue to do what he loved, and do it well, should be an inspiration to all.