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Culture, Stereotypes, Tupac Shakur

Tupac at 40: What if He Survived?

For the past month, in anticipation of what would have been his fortieth birthday, I’ve become a obsessed with Tupac Shakur — torn between the very public shape-shifter that he was who scrawled THUG LIFE on his abdomen and the relatively young man who grew up without a father, and transitioned into manhood under the harshest of circumstances.

I became curious in Tupac insofar as he represents a litmus test on whether progress has been made in terms of reversing trends in black men’s life expectancy, incarceration numbers, and on the whole, having more options for manhood beyond the archetypal Thug or Gangster or in the extreme opposite, the bourgie Negro devoid of a political consciousness.

For Tupac, and many black men, there’s little middle ground in terms of life choices: It’s life or death; college or prison; hardcore or soft; a thug or a  (insert expletive.) Contrary to mainstream media, Tupac Shakur was a complicated figure who had so much more to give the world, if only we lived in a world where black men aren’t made to feel lucky if they live long enough to collect social security.

In an unofficial survey I conducted with a group of poets and writers, culture critics, and academics, I posed the question: If Tupac Shakur was still alive, what might he be doing?

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About Abdul Ali

I'm a fellow at American University studying creative nonfiction and poetry. I write across a few genres but it's all brought together by larger questions about culture.


One thought on “Tupac at 40: What if He Survived?

  1. I’m a huge Tupac fan & follower myself, and you pose a very good question. I think he would’ve calmed down dramatically, and practically eliminated his public outbursts and felonious behavior all together, but that militant spirit within him, that stems from the Shakur Family; his mother, Afeni, aunt, Assata, and stepfather, Mutulu, that would’ve taken center stage. I believe he would’ve become something similiar to a ‘new-age’/’modern-day’ Malcolm X. His primary role as a rapper, actor, and entertainer would’ve shifted and matured into a major activist, controversial writer/author, and/or public/motivational speaker, or something to that extent. I know many people will disagree with that, and always and only see him as another ‘gangsta-rapper/actor’ or just another ‘N’ that made it out the ‘hood’ only to allow his ‘hood-mentality’ be his ultimate demise–But he was much more than that, and already headed down the path I mentioned at the time of his death. . .He was already in the process of attempting to leave Death Row Records, he was already in the process of creating & building networks and foundations to support Black communities, several of which his mother now oversees, there’s already college courses at selective universities dedicated to the study of his life, music, and poetry. . .that’s saying an awful lot for him to considered or viewed upon as just another ‘gangsta-rapper/actor’, now isn’t it?

    Posted by F. Kenneth Taylor | May 29, 2012, 9:28 PM

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