Blasphemy: Tupac Decoded
Tupac Shakur was a warrior that stood firm on his beliefs, no matter the consequences. His image was often a misconception; his vision and actions were often misinterpreted. “Thuggin’ for life, and if you right, then nigga die for it,” Tupac rapped on “Ambitionz Az A Ridah.” Pac was not “thugging” because he was a murderer, thief, or a rapist. Tupac was a “thug” because he was rebellious. He did not follow the trend, he fought for his beliefs, and he never backed down. Pac took the cultural aspects from the Black community and the rest of America, combined them, and tried to succeed at displaying them in a fashion that would enlighten his people, bring unity to his country and most importantly, the world. The combination was political, savvy, defensive, disciplined, militant, and misunderstood above all. Centering on the album Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory by Tupac, rather Makaveli at that time; today we reflect and find truth in the man that is Tupac Shakur.
T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E. Most have heard the phrase, but are unaware of the acronym: The Hate U Gave Little Infants Fucks Everyone. Since his birth, Tupac’s perception on life would always be different from the majority. Tupac Amaru Shakur was born on June 16, 1971 as Lesane Parish Crooks to Alice Faye Williams and William Garland, his biological father. After Tupac’s mother and father separated, she kindled a relationship with a fellow Black Panther member, Mutulu Shakur. Mutulu was a prominent leader within the Panthers’ organization and became Tupac’s surrogate father when Alice became a member. Becoming one of New York’s Black Panther elites, Alice faced many hardships and legal battles, including bombing charges while with child. Alice used many aliases during her pregnancy with Tupac, for fear of losing her unborn child. While married to Mutulu Shakur, Alice changed her name to Afeni, and changed her son’s name to Tupac Amaru Shakur. Afeni’s inspiration for this name stemmed from an Inca chief, meaning “shining serpent.’
Being introduced and raised under the influence of the Black Panther Party Movement, his upbringing was political, and his foundation was militant. Tupac took on the likes of his mother, at a young age, and became very interested with the uplifting of Black people. As he became older his godfather, Elmer “Geronimo” Pratt, became the biggest factor within Tupac’s knowledge on what the movement actually was about and how the Panthers contributed to it.
In addition to the spirit of the Black Panthers embedded in him, Tupac Shakur was also a creative genius. He brought his information of the movement and culture to an art form when he attended the prestigious Baltimore School for the Arts. Tupac enjoyed the freedom to seek new ways of conducting things and expressing himself. “I liked school in Baltimore; we were exposed to everything, you know! Theatre, ballet, listened to different types of music; we listened to songs that became the soundtrack to my life. But at my homeboys’ schools it’s not like that. They don’t have trips to go see Broadway. They didn’t read books we were reading. They didn’t know what I was talking about when I was like, “Yo’ Shakespeare is dope!’”
This is when Pac turned his talents and expression into an art form. He began writing poetry, rapping, and even dancing. For Tupac, it was always for the expression, and to reach the hearts of the people. Rapping became his platform to reach the people, his people. When Tupac first began doing music he introduced himself as a political rapper, expressing his knowledge consumed from the Black Panthers to instill in his listeners. He begged the public to take heed and understand what the world was becoming. Pac believed that if we did not change the way our culture portrayed ourselves, we would bring havoc upon us from the highest in power to the lowest. This was his least effective method, although he earned mainstream fame. Pac still hadn’t achieved his goals, so he went back to the drawing board. Thug Life was born. Through this, Tupac wanted to display the most graphic details of our culture, positive or negative, to see how the world would react to it. In doing this he thought taking drastic measures would have a drastic outlook on our way of living to the world, so we may create a positive change.
Tupac emulated the method the United States Army, and media outlets used during the Vietnam War to show the horrific images of war, hoping the public eye would have sympathy and encourage those that had a higher authority to put an end to the gruesome bloodshed. Through Tupac Shakur’s heralded rap career, label conflicts, rap beef, acting appearances, media rants, and legal battles he still had higher purpose. He received immense pressure, even from the FBI, to settle down, enjoy the money, and live the rest of his life; but that battle would be much harder for Tupac than we could ever imagine.
Fast forward to 1996, Tupac Shakur starts Makaveli Records, and records Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory. Though this album was actually recorded, mastered, and finished in seven days, the title served a deeper meaning. This was Tupac’s shot at creation, to fully express himself; just as God fully expressed himself in seven days through his creation of the world. Inspired by Niccolo Machiavelli and Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, The 7 Day Theory portrayed the genuine expression of a man at a crossroads. Tupac had a choice to make: Peace, to settle, and live a life never seeing accurate expression; or War, to stand on his beliefs, guns blazing, ready to live or die with the results. This album served as his medium between the two. Displaying an image of himself being crucified, Tupac had the potential to be a savior, but his image was crucified through his own mistakes and the media’s portrayal of him. Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory was a reflection and a life-altering decision.
The Intro, “Bomb First (My Second Reply),” was Tupac’s first blow, a haymaker to the rap game; the follow-up to “Hit ‘Em Up.” “It’s not about East or West. It’s about niggaz and bitches, power and money, riders and punks. Which side are you on?” The conflicts were too personal for Tupac to ignore; instead, he attempted to KO them with one track, and move forward. “Hail Mary” was a Last Supper of sorts, but also an attempt for Tupac to cleanse his soul through prayer and prophecy. “And God said he should send his one begotten son to lead the wild into the ways of the man. Follow me; eat my flesh, flesh of my flesh.”
The third track, “Toss It Up,” begins with Tupac having some fun. The first verse is filled with sexual lyrics and goes into a lively, K-Ci and JoJo. This song was a statement though; ultimately, Tupac choosing war over peace. While attempting to toss everything to the sky and let the chips fall where they may, Pac could not refrain from the attack. Taking shots at Dr. Dre and Puff Daddy on the latter of the song, it became clear that peace would not be fulfilling enough for him. “Puffy, I read your little interview buddy, c’mon? You still ain’t touching us. All that peace talk? I don’t care if you kiss my ass from here to across the street boy, it’s on!”
“To Live and Die in L.A.” the name says it all. This song is a complete reflection for Tupac. As negative of a topic, Pac was still able to look back on his life and show the positive through the negative. “To live and die in LA, California; don’t care what you say about Los Angeles, still the only place for me it never rains.” This song also refers back to Tupac’s crucifixion on the cover of the album, the death of the artist formerly known as Tupac Shakur, and opens the door for Makaveli.
Niccolo Machiavelli, an Italian humanist, politician, and philosopher served as a great inspiration for Tupac. Just like Tupac, Machiavelli was vocal and spoke out against Pope Alexander VI and Cesare Borgia after realizing the harsh reality of their ruling methods. He was a man for the people. Also a war strategist, Machiavelli wrote about faking his own death to fool his enemies. His work was seen as blasphemous, but monumental. Tupac took what he learned from Machiavelli, and figuratively, attempted to apply the same methods to his tarnished image. Tupac, the “rapper”, was dead now; and Makaveli was alive.
Makaveli’s mission remained the same: to bring true freedom to the world. But this time, he was war ready; determined to take down anything in his way. Track 5, “Blasphemy,” was an all-out explanation from Tupac Shakur. Completely going against the grain and rules of modern society, Pac gave the reasons why he was a “mad man.” Tupac was a truth seeker, and through extensive research, he learned of the real evils that the Black Community faced. He learned of the lies fed to Black people that made us mental prisoners. The track starts with a preacher’s voice distorted, demonic, and cult-like. Tupac bears it all on this track: “Niggaz get off your ass if you plan to be rich.” “Keep yo’ enemies close nigga, watch yo’ homies. It seemed a little unimportant; when he told me I smiled; picture jewels being handed to an innocent child. I never knew in my lifetime I’d live by these rules.” Tupac explains the lessons he received from his father as a child, while too young to understand, it’d be vital to his future.
Prince Ital puts a melody on the chorus that may be the most important lines of the whole song, “Nuff of dem steal in the name of da Lord. Dem’ll tell nuff lie but how dem a bird in a cloud. Using da name of da Lord in vein, while de people in de ghetto, dem feel nuff pain.” Makaveli continues: “We probably in Hell already, our dumb asses not knowing. Everybody kissing ass to go to Heaven ain’t going. Put my soul on it; I’m fighting devil niggaz daily. Plus the media be crucifying brothers severely.” “They say Moses split the Red Sea; I split the blunt and roll a fat one, I’m deadly. BABYLON BEWARE!” “Coming from the Pharoah’s kids, retaliation; making legends off the shit we did.” “God coming, SHE just taking her time.” Tupac compares Moses splitting the Red Sea to him rolling a blunt; and refers to the Black youth as the Pharoah’s kids coming to take back everything taken from them: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. “The preacher want me buried why? Cause I know he a liar. Have you ever seen a crackhead? That’s eternal fire. Why you got these kids’ minds thinking that they evil.” “Should we cry when when the Pope die? My request: we should cry if they cried when we buried Malcolm X. Mama, tell me if I’m wrong. Is God just another cop waiting to beat my ass if I don’t go pop?” Tupac is now speaking out against the church, and everything that he sees as not true. “I leave this and hope God can see my heart is pure; is Heaven just another door?”
Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory continues on to track 6, “Life of an Outlaw,” which explains what it means to be an Outlaw. The Outlaw Immortalz was Tupac’s second attempt to get T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E. right. Outlaws are rebellious with reason. Tupac already felt that death was hastily coming upon him, but he wanted his impact and his work to last forever, immortal. “Truly effective, the shit you heard ain’t do me justice; got a death wish.” The Outlawz consisted of Makaveli, E.D.I. Mean, Hussein Fatal, Yaki Kadafi, Napoleon, Mussolini, Young Noble, Kastro, Komani, and Storm. “Cuz niggas ain’t ready; The Life of an Outlaw.” “Code 3. Attack formation. Pull out your pistols. Keep an eye out for the devils ‘cause they itching to get you.” “Never surrender. Death before dishonor. Stay free.”
The album progresses into “Just Like Daddy,” with Makaveli and the Outlawz using sexual references to talk about his life, the products of his work, and also looking back at his father figure, Mutulu Shakur who was a political prisoner. Tupac was on the same path; hence the eighth song, “Krazy.” Tupac is battling influence and being misunderstood. “Hand me a cigarette dawg! They got me feelin’ crazier than a motherfucker.” “Last year was a hard one, but life goes on; hold my head against the wall learning right from wrong. They say my ghetto instrumental, detrimental to kids; as if they can’t see the misery in which they live.” “No one can understand me—the black sheep.”
The ninth track shows that Tupac realized he wasn’t Krazy. Entitled “White Man’z World,” Tupac acknowledges the current situation of the Black person. Instead of pointing the finger at his white counterparts, he decides to write a letter to the Black woman, apologizing for the wrong turns on the road to freedom. “Nothing but love for you my sister. Might even know how hard it is being a woman, a black woman at that!” “Sometimes we overlook the fact that we be riding hard on our sisters. We don’t know the pain we be causing.” The background plays revolutionary speeches from Tupac Shakur, Minister Louis Farrakhan, and other Black leaders. He wanted Black people to understand the work needed to be done on our parts before we could attack the flaws of this system. “Use your brain. It ain’t them that’s killin’ us. It’s us that’s killing us!”
Track ten, “Me and My Girlfriend;” look past the violent lyrics, and view this song as the masterpiece it is. This song is the ultimate English lesson. Makaveli personifies his pistol into the perfect woman, his soulmate and support system. “Our first date, couldn’t wait to see you naked; touch you in every single place, I can hardly wait….to bust freely, got you red hot, so happy to see me. Make the front page, primetime, live on TV. Nigga my girlfriend, baby forty-five, but she still live. One shot; make a nigga’s heartbeat stop.” “My girlfriend, blacker than the darkest night.” “Picked you up when you was nine, started out my life of crime with you; bought you some shells when you turned twenty-two.” “I love finger fuckin’ you, all of a sudden I’m hearing thunder. When you bust a nut, niggaz be duckin’ or taking numbers.” “Much love to my one and only girlfriend, the world is ours; just hold me down, baby, witness the power. Never leave a nigga alone. I love you, black or chrome. Turn this house into a happy home; me and my girlfriend!”
Before the final curtain call, Tupac sends an ode to all of his political prisoners with “Hold Ya Head.” Tupac sends a message to them, his People, and himself to keep your head up through all of the adversity. “I wake up in the morning, mind state so military. Suckers fantasizing, pictures of a young brother buried; was it me, the weed, or this life I lead?” “Let these words be the last to my unborn seeds. Hope to raise my young nation in this world of greed; currency means nothing if you still ain’t free. Money breeds jealousy; take the game from me.”
Finally, the last track, “Against All Odds;” Tupac lets everything be known. Holding no punches, Pac decided that the truth would be free even if he wasn’t. This would be his final farewell to us, his family, before leaving to defend his nation. “I’m hoping my true motherfuckers know, this be the realest shit I ever wrote.” “I salute you my niggas. Stay strong. I ride for YOU. I rhyme for YOU. I roll for YOU. It’s all for YOU.” Rest freely, Tupac Amaru Shakur (6/16/1971-9/13/1996). Your teachings are more relevant now than ever. Most didn’t understand you. You simply sought to embrace all cultures and create a way for us all to have equal opportunities. “I ‘m not saying I’m gonna rule the world, or I’m gonna change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world.” #LIC