From Kendrick Lamar to Black Lives Matter

Tuesday marks 20 years since legendary rapper Tupac “2Pac” Shakur was gunned down in Las Vegas at the age of 25. While his murder remains unsolved, his fans remain resolute in their dedication to upholding all facets of his legacy, including and especially his rap music but also his work as a social activist.

“Pac,” as his friends and fans affectionately refer to him, primary made a name for himself in the recording booth. His lyrical influence on his then-contemporaries as well as crops of new rappers in the interim and the present is still very apparent to this day, especially in California, where 2Pac called home. Fans of hip-hop music can look no further than Kendrick Lamar, a Compton native who last year on this date published in Pitchfork a heartfelt tribute testifying in part how the slain rapper “changed lives forever.”

He wasn’t lying. Lamar said his latest album, a Grammy Award-winning offering named “To Pimp a Butterfly,” was initially set to be called “Tu Pimp A Catterpillar,” a spelled out acronym for TuPAC.

2Pac’s legacy was not only rooted in hip-hop music, the musical platform and cultural lifestyle which gave him his humble start in rap as a roadie and backup dancer for Bay Area pioneers Digital Underground. Social activism was literally always in the blood running through his veins. He was born in jail to a mother who was arrested over her political views as a member of the Black Panther Party.

Specifically, Shakur took umbrage with the way police treated black people. If that sentiment sounds familiar, it’s because much of what the current Black Lives Matter social justice movement stands for is in line with much of what 2Pac rapped about and spoke publicly on. While many people have said that 2Pac’s so-called Thug Life movement was detrimental to black people and glorified violence, he said the term was actually an acronym — “The Hate U Gave Little Infants, F— Everybody” — to address systemic racism and its effects on society at large.

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