Keep Your Head Up

On my generation’s equivalent of Pearl Harbor Day, another tragedy weighs equally heavy in my thoughts. It’s been 7 years since Tupac Amaru Shakur’s murder and, sadly, not much seems to have changed.

Not in hip-hop, or the world in general, for that matter.

We’re no more or less safe today than we were on February 26, 1993 or April 19, 1995 or September 8, 1996 or March 9, 1997 or September 11, 2001.

Hopefully, we’re a little more aware of our place in the world and that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction and that every cause has an effect and that there is rarely such thing as truly innocent bystanders. Our lives today are the result of our [in]decisions yesterday and the day before that, etc, etc, ad naseum.

None of us are innocent bystanders. At best, we might claim feeling helpless and be honest about that feeling being rooted in complacency.

Anyway, I’m feeling a little melancholy and disconnected today and I dug up something I originally wrote for my zine, zuzu’s petals, back in the fall of 1996.

Tupac Amaru Shakur

Keep Your Head Up…

Friday, September 13th, 1996, I was at the Back to School Jam at the Nassau Coliseum. It was halfway into Nas’ set when the music stopped. There was an uncomfortable moment that always comes at a Hip-Hop concert during pauses in the music. Seconds passed before, Hot 97’s Ed Lover (formerly of Yo! MTV Raps) stepped out onto the stage. He solemnly quieted the cheers and yells. He had an announcement. At 7:03pm EST, Tupac Amaru Shakur had succumbed to the injuries sustained in a shooting the previous Sunday in Las Vegas, NV.

Tupac was dead.

He requested a moment of silence that all, except for a handful of idiots that can be found in any crowd, respected. My head was bowed. No matter your feelings for the man, he deserved that much. With a thank you, Ed Lover left the stage and the show went on.

Something was different, though; something, an almost palpable something in the air had changed. The strangest feeling came over me there, surrounded by the crowd, momentarily lost in their own thoughts. It was a sort of numbness, a vague sense of loss, a collective sense of mourning. In the middle of that crowd, I felt alone and exposed…

Although I had never met Tupac Shakur, he had affected me through his music, his films and his personality. Brenda’s Having a Baby was the first time I can remember being aware of Tupac. The video was on either BET or MTV, I forget which. The song was haunting; from the honest, gritty lyrics to the sorrowful chorus, Tupac had grabbed my attention.

Underneath the Thug Life exterior was the heart and soul of a poet. His poems were the often harsh tales of the life of a young black man searching for the answers. If he ventured into sensationalism, it was always with one foot in reality. He was a storyteller, expressing the fears, hopes and dreams of a generation without a voice. A generation that wasn’t represented by Kurt Cobain and friends.

Isn’t it interesting that the suicide of a drug-addicted, white alterna-rocker was worthy of martyrdom and the media-awarded status of a generational icon while Tupac’s murder has been seen as, among other things, deserved?

Hip-Hop lost one of its greatest talents. It’s a shame that we’ll never find out what else he had to offer the world. R.I.P.

[Originally published in zuzu’s petals, Autumn 1996]


So Many Tears
Tupac Amaru Shakur

I shall fear no man, but God
though I walk through tha valley of death
I shed so many tears
Please God walk with me…

back in Elementary, I thrived on misery
left me alone I grew up amongst a dying breed
as my mind couldn’t find a place ta rest
until I got that Thug Life Planted on my chest
tell me can ya feel me ?
I’m not livin’ in tha Past, Ya wanna last
Be tha first ta blast, remember Kato
no longer with us he’s deceased
call on tha sirens, I seen him murdered in tha streets
now rest in peace
Is there heaven for a ‘G’ ?
remember me, so many homies in tha cemetary
shed so many tears

[Chorus]

Lord
I suffer through tha years
and shed so many tears
Lord
I lost so many peers, shed so many tears

Now that i’m strugglin’ in this business
by any means, label me greedy gettin’ green
but seldom seen
and f**k tha world cuz i’m cursed
I’m havin’ visions of leavin’ here in a hearse
God can ya feel me ?
take me away from all tha pressure and all tha pain
show me some happiness again
i’m goin’ blind
I spend my time in this cell, ain’t livin’ well
I know my destiny is hell, where did I fail ?
my life is in denial
and when I Die, baptised in Eternal Fire
shed so many tears…

[Chorus]

Lord
I suffer through tha years
and shed so many tears
Lord
I lost so many peers, shed so many tears

Now i’m lost and i’m weary
so many tears, i’m suicidal, so don’t stand near me
my every move is a complicated step
ta bring me closer
to embrace an early death now there’s nothing left
there was no mercy on tha streets
I couldn’t rest
I’m barely standing, bout to go to pieces, screaming peace
and though my soul was deleted, I couldn’t see it
I had my mind full of demons tryin’ ta break free
they planted seeds and they hatched sparking tha flame
in my brain like a match, such a dirty game
no memories, just misery
painting a picture of my enemies killing me in my sleep
will I survive till’ tha morning ta see tha sun
please lord forgive me for my sins
cause here I come…

[Chorus]

Lord
I suffer through tha years
and shed so many tears
Lord
I lost so many peers, shed so many tears

Lord knows i’ve tried, been a witness ta homicide
drive-bys takin’ lives, little kids die
wonder why as I walk by
Broken hearted as I glance at tha chalk line, gettin’ high
this ain’t tha life for me
I wanna change
but ain’t no future right for me
i’m stuck in tha game
i’m trapped inside a maze
see this Tanqueray influenced me ta gettin crazy
disillusioned lately
i’ve been really wanting babies
so I could see a part of me that wasn’t always shady
don’t trust my lady
cause she’s a product of this poison, i’m hearin’ noises
think she’s f**kin’ with my boys, can’t take no more
i’m fallin’ to tha floor
beggin’ for tha Lord ta let me in Heavens door
I shed so many tears…

[Chorus]

Lord
I lost so many peers
and shed so many tears
I lost so many peers, shed so many tears

I suffered through tha years and shed so many tears

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