Tupac Shakur is one of the most influential rappers of all time, known for his progressive lyricism, impactful sound, and role in shaping the direction of hip-hop. Although he died in 1996, he continues to be a source of inspiration and fascination to audiences around the globe. Noisey was provided previously unreleased handwritten poetry through our friends Citizens of Humanity by his first manager, Leila Steinberg. The poems, written over a three year period starting when the rapper was 17, offer a glimpse of Tupac before many people knew him. With the hope of beginning to understand the significance of Tupac Shakur on today's modern world, we asked writer Jeff Weiss, who co-wrote 2Pac vs. Biggie: An Illustrated History of Rap's Greatest Battle, to pen an essay on why we care.
If you want to understand 2Pac, abandon the delusion that there’s one 2Pac to understand. Some called him a chameleon, but its better to process him as the rap game magic lantern—a vessel to project any shape, impeccable at throwing shade. Revolutionary ideals and gangsta nihilism were props, sincere and passionate ones, but capable of being discarded when it came to shoot the next scene.