2pac-brendas-got-a-baby

The man. The myth. The legend.

In the realm of hip-hop, the heavily contested “Greatest of All Time” debate still wages on. But though artists like Jay-Z and Eminem have proven themselves worthy of being mentioned amongst the elite, there are none that compare to the legacy left by Tupac Shakur.

In death, this legacy has only grown. Yet for those not alive to witness his larger than life persona, it’s easy to forget just how influential (and entertaining) Pac actually was. Through his works as a poet, actor, and most importantly an artist; we learned to accept his contradictory nature and cheered as he tip toed on the fine line between self-proclaimed “thug” and modern day hero.

The son of a former Black Panther, we watched as he provided the soundtrack to a generation of impoverished youth looking for an explanation of their condition. We sang along and accepted his calls for the uplifting of black men and women in one breath, and turned a blind eye when he told misogynistic tales of groupie love in the next.

In the 18 years since his death, a new generation has risen, yet his legacy lives on.

On what should have been his 43rd birthday, we take a look at some of the quotes, moments and songs that not only defined his memory, but solidified him as Hip Hop’s own version of James Dean’s Rebel Without a Cause.

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Five Memorable Quotes:
5. “I’m 23 years old. I might just be my mother’s child, but in all reality, I’m everybody’s child. Nobody raised me; I was raised in this society.”

4. “I just spent 11 and a half months in a maximum-security jail, got shot five times, and was wrongly convicted of a crime I didn’t commit.”

3. “Basically it’s a hypocritical view, because what you’re saying is it’s okay for us to live in the dirt, in the gutter, in less than human conditions, but it’s not okay for us to tell people that we are living in these conditions.”

2. “Everybody’s at war with different things … I’m at war with my own heart sometimes.”

1. “My mama always used to tell me: “If you can’t find something to live for, you best find something to die for.”

Bonus: “Only God can judge me. That which does not kill me can only make me stronger. I don’t see why everybody feel as though they gotta tell me how to live my life.”

Five Memorable Moments:
5. Digital Underground (1989-1991)
Before he stood alone, he humped around with Bay Area group Digital Underground as a backup dancer and roadie after moving to Marin, California in 1988. In 1991 he got his chance to step up to the mic after being allowed to chime in on Same Song. The rest of course, is history.

4. Juice (1992)
The transition from artist to actor is something that has alluded many, yet for Pac it for seamless. Drawing on his early theatre training Pac flexed his acting chops alongside Omar Epps in this 1992 coming of age tale; art and life collided as Pac brought a chilling calmness to his portrayal of Bishop.

3. Quad Studio Shooting (1994)
There are many stories but little actual facts regarding the infamous set-up at the Manhattan studio which would result in Pac being shot 5 times during the robbery. Though he would miraculously survive the vicious attack, it would prove to be a game changer in his career. Unsure as to who had set up the hit, he would go on to lash out at those he deemed responsible; resulting in a highly public falling out with former friend and emcee The Notorious B.I.G. and Bad Boy entertainment. It would also result in one of the greatest diss records of all time.

2. Free at Last (1995)
No stranger to legal controversies, in ’95 he would face some of the most damning charges of his career after being accused of participating in the assault of a young woman. Though acquitted in relation to the sodomy charges, he would be sentenced to 18 months-4 and a half years in prison in relation to sexual battery. While in prison he would sign his infamous “deal with the devil,” signing with Death Row records who in turn posted the $1.4M bail. Once free, Pac would go on a personal vendetta, and the much hyped East Coast vs. West Coast beef was born.

1. Las Vegas-Death (1996)
In town for his friend Mike Tyson’s fight against Bruce Seldon at the MGM Grand, the trip would prove to be fatal. At roughly 11:10 pm a car pulled up alongside Pac and Suge Knight who were headed to Club 662. Following a hail of bullets, Pac would be shot in the chest, pelvis, right hand and thigh; but unlike the previous shooting he would not regain consciousness, succumbing to internal bleeding and other injuries approximately 7 days later.

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Five Memorable Songs:
5. “Hit Em Up” (1996)

Arguably the greatest diss record of our generation. Before the age of the Internet rhymes and reality often went hand in hand, and shit often got real. To date, this stands as the one of the most malicious diss songs in Hip Hop; reaching far and wide to Bad Boy, Biggie, Mobb Deep and more.

Lyrical Gems:

  • “First off, fuck your bitch and the clique you claim. Westside when we ride, come equipped with game. You claim to be a player..but I fucked your wife.”
  • “Now you tell me who won. They see me…they run.”

4. “Brenda’s Got a Baby”; 2PacalypseNow (1991)
A standout from his 1991 debut 2Pacalypse Now, it’s the heart wrenching tale of a 12 year old child raising a child, kicking off Pac’s reign of Hood Anthems.

Lyrical Gems:

  • “I hear Brenda’s got a baby, but Brenda’s barely got a brain. A damn shame, the girl can barely spell her name.”

3. “I Ain’t Mad at Cha”; All Eyez On Me (1996)
An All Eyez on Me stand-out released only 7 months prior to his death, it tells of the struggle to excel outside of the hood while staying true through it all.

Lyrical Gems:

  • “When I talk about money, all you see is the struggle/ When I tell you I’m livin large, you tell me it’s trouble/ Congratulations on the wedding, I hope your wife know/ She got a playa for life, and that’s no bullshittin/”
  • “Don’t shed a tear, cause mama I ain’t happy here/ I’m through trial, no more smiles, for a couple years/ They got me goin mad/ I’m knockin busters on they backs, in my cell thinking “Hell, I know one day I’ll be back”
  • “So any questions and they ask me if I’m still down/ I moved up out of the ghetto, so I ain’t real now?”
  • Now the whole shit has changed, and we don’t even kick it/ Got a big money scheme, and you ain’t even with it/ Knew in my heart you was the same motherfucker that, go toe to toe when it’s time to roll you got a brother’s back/ And I can’t even trip, cuz I’m just laughing at cha/ You trying hard to maintain then go head, cuz I ain’t mad at cha”

2. “Dear Mama”; Me Against The World (1995)
We might as well just give this track the crown; to date this stands as the pinnacle ode to Mother’s everywhere. Dedicated to his mother Afeni Shakur, it chronicles the hardships she overcame to raise her children in an urban jungle.

Lyrical Gems:

  • “And who’d think in elementary, hey ‘I see the penitentiary one day. Running from the police (that’s right.) Mama catch me put a whipping to my backside.”
  • “And even though I sell rocks, it feels good putting money in your mail box.”
  • “And even as a crack fiend mama/ You always was a black Queen mama”

1. “So Many Tears”; Me Against The World (1995)
The second single from Me Against the World, aided by a sample from Stevie Wonder’s “That Girl”, for many this stands as a testament to Pac’s storytelling abilities. Widely considered one of his best pieces of work, in hindsight it shows the thoughts of a man with little time left.

Lyrical Gems:

  • “Back in elementary, I thrived on misery/ Left me alone, I grew up amongst a dying breed/ Inside my mind couldn’t find a place to rest, until I got that Thug Life tatted on my chest
  • “Lord knows I’m tried, been a witness to homicide/ Drive-bys takin lives, little kids die/ Wonderin why as I walk by, broken-hearted as I glance at the chalk line, getting high”
  • “Disillusioned lately, I’ve been really wanting babies/ So I could see a part of me that wasn’t always shady.”