Tupac Shakur and the Legacies
BY WAY OF conclusion, I want to offer another exemplary story, serving as a counternarrative to the St. Ides parable that opened this book. The chief protagonist is Snoop’s Death Row stable mate Tupac Shakur, the “bad boy” gangsta rapper who was fatally wounded in a drive-by shooting in September 1996. At first glance, his murder seems to provide a neat point of closure —falling as it does late in the final year of this book’s main time frame. To date the demise of classic gangsta rap to the high-profile deaths of key personnel would preclude the possibility of any upbeat or open ending to this story. It would point to the explanation that rappers yielded to the discursive, social, and commercial burdens imposed on them, that Tupac crumbled under the weight of his own publicity image. However, though there is a grain of truth in this dramatic resolution, it clearly fails to come fully to grips with the aesthetics, sociologies, and ongoing relevance of gangsta rap. Therefore, an exploration of Tupac, rather than presenting a “deathwardbound plot,” actually provides a way into summarizing and settling this book’s discussion of gangsta rap in relation to the changing terms and conditions of black cultural politics in the United States.