Harlem man Tupac Shakur’s recording career lasted just five years before he was murdered in 1996, but it is the rapper’s influence from beyond the grave that will be celebrated when he is inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Friday.
Arguably bigger in death than he was in life, Shakur will be only the sixth rap act to be voted into the Hall of Fame in its 30-year history said a source.
The Hall of Fame described him as “an international symbol of resistance and outlaw spirit, an irresistible contradiction, a definitive rap anti-hero.”
That is a big claim for the Harlem-born son of two Black Panther activists who spent time in jail for assault and released just four albums before being killed at age 25 in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas that has never been resolved.
Rap too has evolved, becoming the second most popular music genre in the United States after rock, reflecting and challenging social inequities in its lyrics and music videos, and inspiring symposiums at prestigious universities such as Harvard.
Shakur has sold 75 million albums, mostly from seven posthumous releases, and although his sales figures will never match those of 21st century hip-hop kings like Drake, Kanye West and The Weeknd, his influence remains profound.
“For anyone who is serious about learning about hip-hop, there are certain people whose music you have to deal with and Tupac is one of those people. You can’t say you are knowledgeable about hip-hop if you don’t know about Tupac,” said Todd Boyd, professor of cinema and media studies at the University of Southern California.