Saturday, April 9, 2011

That's Why I Got Gang Related

Things come to my mind randomly. That seems to be the only way I remember most things from my past. Maybe it's that way with most people. I'm not sure. I do know that my wife has a much better memory when it comes to her childhood than me. She remembers entire events. Me? I just recall a snippet here, a snippet there. I'm kinda jealous of that actually. I'd like to remember more.

Anyway, back to Hip Hop. Tonight I was thinking back to the first time I heard 2Pac's R U Still Down? discs for whatever reason. As I remember, without ruining the memory by bothering to check facts, it was released not too long after he died. Maybe a year or so. I was on a trip with my dad and siblings and we were coming back from a minor league baseball game. An evening game. I went to a lot of those when I was a kid. It was pitch black on the road, and I was in the back seat with my older brother. We were in our teens. I was tired of whatever CDs I had brought, so I asked to go through my brother's case. Remember when you had to travel with a portable CD case and a bunch of CDs? Shit, you remember doing that with tapes and a Walkman?

I flipped through and came to a favorite of both of our's since we both first heard/saw his solo record "Trapped" in '91. 2Pac. I hadn't heard it yet because he was hogging it! I put the disc in, and even though it was assembled by others with unreleased material in whatever order they thought fitting, I was taken through an experience. By the time my favorite track on the 2-disc set, "Nothing 2 Lose" came on, I was in a zone. I still remember hearing that opening for the first time; the Ice Cube sample on the hook. Pac started his verse the same time the beat dropped. "The only way to change me is maybe blow my brains out..." Wow. What a way to start a song! 2Pac really had that gift though. He knew how to grab listeners' attention and captivate them. You didn't wanna miss a single word. That was his talent. The ride home flew by for me. I didn't even realize where I was because I was hanging on every word.

That's why I get a little bothered when people today downplay his relevance. True, he was not the most gifted lyricist on the mic as far as wordplay and punchlines. His approach was more direct. It was about the poetry, the flow, and the meaning of what he was saying. He had a real purpose behind what he was saying. You could tell with a lot of his songs that he wanted to use them to reach people. And, he did. I can honestly say that he was truly the voice of a generation. A generation of many. My brother and I did not live a similar life at all to that of 2Pac. But, still he reached me. Still, I related to him. To what he was saying. His message. I can only imagine what those experiencing a similar life to his had felt. But, I think even that was his intention. I think he wanted outsiders to understand people in his position. I think he wanted to inspire those he was speaking to and educate those in a different position.

And, he influenced Hip Hop so much. You can still hear echoes of him in today's Hip Hop from any region. And, my guess is you always will. So, take this post as a reminder to you of just how important 2Pac is to the history of our culture. Pull out some of his stuff this weekend and reminisce.
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