Any true poet will tell you; it isn’t always about the words you use but how you use them. That’s an excellent way to ascertain the impact of Tupac Shakur on hip hop. The lightning bolt for much of the genre’s prolific wildfire, 2Pac has often been both lauded as one of the greats and derided for his below-par bars. It’s a common facet in any art form, but, for some reason, Pac seems to suffer harsh critique more than most.
We should be able to put all that debate behind us however by revisiting the acapella version of Pac’s seminal single ‘Changes’ which isolates his vocals and lets us witness his sensational poetry. Not just the words or the rhymes he uses but the fire-breathing authenticity that permeates his performance with every vitriolic bar.
One of Pac’s most famous songs was released after his death. Such was the power of Tupac that a single like ‘Changes’ can still affect the world he left behind. The words Pac spits not only highlight the direction his star was heading in – socially conscious and ready to fight – but the leaps and bounds we still have to take.
Following the inauguration of Barack Obama, the world languished in the joy of singing the famous line “we ain’t ready to see a Black President” but now, in the post-Trump world, it still feels like there is a long way to go before the need for this song diminishes.
Pac’s lyrics seem to land even harder when he spits: “I see no changes, all I see is racist faces/ Misplaced hate makes disgrace to races/ We under, I wonder what it takes to make this/ One better place, let’s erase the wasted/ Take the evil out the people, they’ll be acting right/ ‘Cause both Black and White are smoking crack tonight/ And the only time we chill is when we kill each other/ It takes skill to be real, time to heal each other.”
It’s a powerful reminder of the poet Pac really was. Quickly losing his penchant for bravado and bling, Pac soon became a patron for the oppressed and saw his position as vital in lifting his brothers and sisters from the gutter. Sadly, he never got the chance to fulfil his potential.