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Tupac Shakur: Two Lives, Two Worlds

By Maximillian Muhammad

The recent death of 25-year-old hip-hop artist/entertainer Tupac Shakur was a shocker indeed. I was surprised when he died after receiving four shots to the chest, since just two years ago he was shot five times prior to being sentenced to four-and-a-half years for a sexual abuse charge.

It's a sad time and day for a young brother with such promise and charisma to be taken before his time. It brings to mind the Bones-Thugs-N-Harmony hit song, "The Crossroads," ironically written as a tribute to the late rap entrepreneur Eric "Eazy E" Wright, who died of AIDS in March 1995.

Although, in the case of Tupac Shakur, I doubt his killer will ever be found, simply by the fact that he was a Black man. Remember Seattle Seahawk Brian Blades? He "accidentally" shot his cousin, Charles Blades, twice. Originally, Blades was found guilty, but the decision was mysteriously reversed. Blades spent more time with his agent than with his lawyer. Shakur's Death Row label mate, Snoop Doggy Dogg was acquitted, as was his bodyguard, in the shooting of another Black man, an Ethiopian immigrant.

Shakur's career started out in the funky, fun rap group Digital Underground. He then went solo; thus far, four complete albums have been released. Last year, his album, "Me Against the World" went number one with a bullet while he was behind bars at Riker's Island. The autobiographical work included the song "Dear Mama," all about his very own mother, who was a Black Panther member and single parent. Despite the obstacles, she managed to be a good parent to her child.

On the surface, he bragged about being part of the "thug life," yet there was much more to him than met the eye. He was a talented actor, appearing in the films "Juice," "Above the Rim" and "Poetic Justice." Two more movies will be released in the coming months.

People sometimes forget the many songs he wrote that addressed life's contradictions, rap classics such as "Keep Your Head Up" and "Brenda's Got a Baby." He used words like a poet-it was up to the individual listener to interpret them as he or she saw fit.

His most recent album, "All Eyez on Me," was the first rap two-disc set to sell more than six million copies. The president of his label, Marion "Suge" Knight, was driving the car in which Shakur was shot; Knight was only grazed on the head by a bullet. Some insiders are saying Knight may have been the target, but he's not saying a word.

Another in a long line of ironies is that Shakur was on his way to a party for heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, who, like Shakur, was coming to terms with being at peace with himself and putting his problems behind him. They both enjoyed money and fame, but piece of mind had eluded them.

Shakur's death reminds me of another artist who was taken well before his time; a soul who was trying to deal with a world that didn't make any sense. His signature song was "What's Going On." His name was Marvin Gaye. An artist sometimes lives the world he has created in his art. He simply cannot separate myth from reality. Shakur wanted to be it all-player, pimp, poet, politician-and he was outspoken to the end.

The media labeled his music as gangsta rap. I have to say, I can't stand such labels. What's gangsta rap? A true gangster wouldn't be on MTV, would he? Shakur was just as flawed as the next man, but he was only human.

Shakur accomplished much in his short life. He journeyed on roads few travel, and lived the life most only dream of. He said and did things that didn't sit well with many-be they right or wrong-but he was true to himself to the very end.

Tupac Shakur died as he lived--in a world that applauds horrors, degrades human life, takes no prisoners and worships dead presidents.

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