Happy Birthday to the late LeSane Parish Crooks. The man known as Tupac Shakur was born on this day in 1971.

In my eyes, even today, Tupac is one of the most influential artists in hip-hop, rap, and music as a whole. If any artist said they weren’t influenced or at least inspired by the man, I would call them a liar; he was one of the biggest artists of his time and even now, almost 15 years later, people still vibe to his music. Tell me that while listening to “California Love” you can’t just stop what you’re doing and starting to get into the music; head-bobbing, terrible white person dancing, whatever, you can’t do it. Go ahead, I’ll give you a minute.

You know how people can always tell you an artist or album that they would listen to, even though they were terrified that their parents would flip out if they knew what they were listening to, but still did it anyway? Yeah, that artist was Tupac for me.

I think when I was in 5th grade or so, I was so obssessed enthralled with Tupac that I read a biography on the guy. People always saw him just as an artist that spoke about issues, and had illicit lyrics. The dude was an intellectual; he read The New York Times daily and just listening to his interviews, you knew the guy was a lot deeper than what he showed on the surface. I read that book cover to cover at least five times before I got to high school, which was only one less time I read Hoop Dreams, which was my go to book for, like I don’t know, forever. He read Machiavelli while in jail and even went by Makiveli as a homage to one of my favorite political theorists. Somewhat related, I was kind of pissed when Lil Wayne sang “Hail Mary” at his MTV Unplugged bullshit. Yeah, it was a nice ode to Pac, but I don’t think it hit the mark, at least for me.

I’m not really going into the whole he faked his own death thing because from the reading I’ve done, it sounds like he had hundreds of unreleased tracks that were obviously found/released after he died. People liken it to Machiavelli faking his own death, but Machiavelli never did that; he only advocated it in The Art of War. I used to cling to the hope that Pac was still alive chilling with Steve Bartman, Osama Bin Laden and Dave Chappelle but Chappelle resurfaced, Osama is obviously no more, and well, the only people that care about Bartman are Cubs fans. Who technically don’t count as people. White Sox, what up?

Obviously, Tupac has a lasting legacy as one of the greatest ever; some of this could be attributed to his untimely death, but while he was alive the guy made fucking good music. I have a friend that only listens to country music. Well country music and Tupac; I think that says a lot of the guys ability to cross over to many people, especially those that aren’t familiar with hip-hop. In some weird way, he made hip-hop more acceptable to all people, or at least closer to center stage with American music; along with Biggie, of course. Their deaths kind of ended the East vs West rivalry because people realized how pointless the whole dispute was.

I don’t know, it sucks that we still have the same problems now that were around them. Racism is obviously still around, at least subtly. Politics are still a problem. Basically, nothing has really changed that much, but to me he was one of the most high profile artists to actually speak on issues. Sorry for the rant and totally unformulated thoughts, I was planning on making this a short post but I kept typing. Shit, my bad. In a nutshell, if you get nothing else from my ramblings, just remember this; when Tupac and Biggie died, hip-hop died a little bit too. And for better or worse, it’s never been the same.