When I was in High School the guys I was friends with were into classic rock. I listened to a lot of Pink Floyd, Zepplin, The Doors, Grateful Dead when I was with them. We would rock out and learned a great deal about that era of music.
But when I was on my own, for some reason, I somehow became enchanted with rap. I got involved with it. It talked about places and a life I didn't know anything about growing up as a young, faithful Mormon living in suburbia with a mom, dad and 4 sisters. Gangster rap and that lifestyle was something totally alien to me.
I remember listening to the Beastie Boys while I sat outside of my sister's closed bedroom door. It was the mid 80's so I couldn't have been more than 7 when License to Ill came out. I remember being in 3rd grade and 2 Live Crew dropped Me So Horny on the radio waves. But while riding the bus to school, I heard the unedited version. It was filthy, something I wasn't used to. I blushed.
My next experience with rap was when MC Hammer blew up in 1990. Please, Hammer Don't Hurt Em was the first tape I ever bought. On New Year's Eve 1990, we had just moved to California and our parents surprised us with a visit to our old house which hadn't sold yet. So I was in the basement of that unsold house in Medfield Mass, radio on, listening to the countdown of the top 40 songs of the year. All I had hoped for was that U Can't Touch This was #1. It was! I was thrilled. Shortly thereafter, Vanilla Ice got huge and I bought that tape. The first 2 albums I had ever purchased with my own money were rap. I was 11.
I got a job in 1994 at Thrifty's selling ice cream. I worked with a dude there, I can't remember his name, but he made me a mixed tape full of local Bay Area rappers that I had never heard of before. Luniz, RBL Posse, and others. Rap was growing on me.
It wasn't until my Junior Year in High School when I realized how much I liked rap. Dre, Snoop, Ice Cube, Too short, E-40, Mack 10, ...the west coast rap game had me. The east/west rap war was real to me. I chose a side. I was throwing up the Dub because I felt affiliated somehow. Sure I was just a skinny suburban white kid in one of the wealthiest places in the USA. What did I know?
When 2Pac came out with All Eyez on Me that was it. It had everything I needed. The beats and sounds were right on the money. Tupac's delivery was uncanny. He spoke from the heart. I think I connected with rap because they were speaking from the heart. They were emotional about the life they were living, the situations that were surrounding them. I liked rap for the same reasons I like Les Miserables, Pink Floyd's ablum, The Final Cut, and ended up listening to Dashboard Confessional. That raw sense of feeling was what captured me. I know that sounds crazy but I think its true.
I listened to that 2Pac CD (yes, I was now buying CDs) relentlessly. I had my favorites: Ambitionz az a Ridah, California Love, How Do You Want It, Life Goes On, No More Pain and 2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted. Those were the jams for me.
Then, Sept 7, 1996, 2Pac was shot in Las Vegas after a Tyson fight. I heard about it on the radio before school. Seven days later he died. I was sitting in my car, Wild 107 was on with the Dog Pound morning show. They made the announcement that he died. I couldn't believe it. I sat there in amazement. How could he not pull through? What had just happened?
Things got real. I felt the loss. I sat there in my car for several minutes processing it. Looking back at it, I didn't realize how big of an impact his music had on my life. He was a John Lennon or Marvin Gaye to me; he was my Elvis. I got out of my car, I was late for class. On my way I happened to walk by the flag pole. There was Old Glory, hanging there, limp in the morning air. I stopped, looked at the flag for a few moments.
I lowered it half mast, secured it and walked to class. I don't know if anyone noticed it that day. If they did, I'm almost 100% sure they didn't know why the flag was at half mast. But that is a memory for me that doesn't really fade with time. Sentimental? For sure.
As my high school days came to a close yearbooks got passed out. I remember signing people's books with Pac's quotes. "Remember me smilin/with Gs in my pocket/have a party at my funeral/let every rapper rock it." It would be fun to see the different inscriptions I left for people.
So tonight being the anniversary of Pac getting shot I thought it appropriate to send some love in his direction. He may not be a role model in many sorts, but his passion and drive are something to admire.
I still love rap. That mid-90's era is the golden age of hip-hop. I know that the message isn't a great one most of the time but I can appreciate it for what it is and not what it celebrates in many instances. Thank you Tupac for your contributions to the music world and to some great memories. Rest In Peace fool.