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There are very few hip-hop artists who’ve left an indelible mark on culture the way Tupac Amaru Shakur has. As a matter of fact, I would venture to say that Pac’s impact is incomparable. It’s been 15 years (to the day) since his untimely death, and people are still playing his records as if he were alive today. That speaks not only to the high quality of the music that he shared with the world, but also reveals an almost prophetic vision that allows his voice to remain a relevant force in today’s hip hop culture. Artists everywhere, especially rappers, have been  influenced by the conflict between Pac’s brash, sometimes misogynistic bravado, and his compassion for others, especially women. The perfect example of this conundrum: Lil Wayne. From his interviews to his proud representation of the set in which he claims…there is no question who Lil Wayne’s favorite rapper was growing up. And for good reason.

Tupac became an icon at an early age, but never forgot from whence he came. That proved to be both a positive and a negative. While his beginnings kept him humble, they also kept him paranoid. It was that paranoia and inner struggle that sent him spiraling downward, until the night he was hit with the bullets that would eventually end his life, making him another example of tremendous potential gone partially unrealized.

There’s no telling how bright Pac’s star could have shined. Many argue that if Pac were still alive today, he’d probably have hung up the mic years ago, and have been on a path for box office domination… in the vein of Will Smith and others. I agree. While many rappers are becoming actors (successfully I might add) Tupac was an ACTOR who just happened to also be a dope poet…which led to the rapping. He was the embodiment of a true artist, one who was dedicated to his craft, and at times, even tortured by it. It was that inner turmoil that led to the production of some of his best work. Unlike his counterpart and one-time friend Notorious B.I.G., Tupac left no legacy behind in the form of children…but his legacy does live on through his mother, and probably most notably, his music and moments on film.

On a personal note, I was too young to really experience and truly grasp the depth of  most of Tupac’s music as a child. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to respect and appreciate him as an artist…and as an entertainer in general. After pouring over as much of his material as I could get my hands on, I can firmly say that Tupac’s catalog is by far my favorite body of work by any hip-hop artist, dead or alive. But beyond that, I’ve been inspired greatly by his gift of delivering words and his revolutionary mindset. It’s my hope that one day, the work that I do will inspire generations to come, much as Tupac’s work has done for us.

Here’s one of my favorite interviews from Tupac. He was 17 years old, eloquently discussing growing pains, responsibility and the power of a young generation.

“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside while still alive. Never surrender.”  – Tupac Shakur