Tupac is my favorite rapper of all time. I’m unapologetically a Pac Stan or maybe a Mockaveli? Nah? Fine, whatever. I had double copies of every Pac album and compilation (one to rock, one kept in the shrink wrap just because) until some dickhead broke into my car and took only those Pac albums. I still have the Thug Angel DVD box set that documented Pac’s life and his impact on the culture right next to my Tupac: Resurrection DVD. I remember Pac dying on a Friday and going to church on Sunday as an 11 year old and praying for his friends and family and shit. I read Got Your Back, a biography written by Tupac’s former bodyguard in which he tells stories of when he worked for dude. Damn. I knew I was a fan but this is the first time I’m writing all this down and I realized this was actually like a weird level of fandom. Oh well. Undoubtably, there are “better” rappers in terms of technicality and songwriting or whatever but Pac is the greatest to me because of the passion that he embodied. 50 Cent pretty much coined the term “aggressive content” which sounds mad corporate and corny but you do you, Fif. Tupac Amaru Shakur didn’t invent aggressive content but he gave it legs to stand on.
That’s the exact reason why one might argue that Tupac Amaru Shakur is the furthest thing from Aubrey Drake Graham, a man who cascades through the crowd on a stripper pole as he holds on with whimsical hope in his glitter filled eyes. Drake makes it easy sometimes to poke fun at his lotiony aura but I’ve been an avid fan since before So Far Gone all the way through Nothing Was The Same and beyond. It seems like there is a clear machismo sized divide between Drake and Pac but after being big fans of both I realize Drake is absolutely the new Tupac.
Say what you want about Aubrey and his never ending cartwheel of Haagen Dazs and pajamas induced music but he is not afraid to go against the grain. Now, there are artists that go against the grain for the sake of going against the grain and it always comes off as contrived and art is not received well that way. Drake’s music, as gluten free as it is, is authentic and personal. He writes about themes that are near and dear to him but still resonate with most of us because we’ve all dealt with love and the lack of love. His talent is in expressing all of that in a poetic nature that most of us aren’t self aware enough to express ourselves. That was Pac’s formula to a T, except it wasn’t a formula. Most people follow formulas to get certain results but Pac didn’t bother and his music comes off as anything but contrived. You hear him bleed and cry in his delivery and he never was afraid to appear vulnerable in his raps. People typecast Pac as the “Hit ‘em Up” “Ambitionz As A Ridah” Pac but forget that he was the most relatable as the “Keep Ya Head Up” “Dear Mama” Pac. He was a human being and human beings are not one dimensional as many artists and branding specialists would like you to believe. There is a dichotomy to both Drake and Pac’s music that is rare in that both sides of both rappers feels authentic.
These two are obviously creatively turned up and that started for both at an early age. We all know and mock Drizzy for his work as Wheelchair Jimmy in the Canadian teen drama Degrassi. What’s lesser known and lesser scrutinized is Pac’s work as a young actor. At the age of 12 he was pursuing acting and played Travis in a Harlem rendition of Raisin In The Sun. When he moved to Baltimore, Pac was enrolled at the Baltimore School for the Arts where he studied acting, poetry, jazz, and ballet. He played in Shakespeake joints as well as The Nutcracker during those times. You could switch out Pac’s name with Drake’s in this bio and we’d have a Tumblr up so fast that shits on his young thesbian ways, but Pac can do no wrong.
Pac’s aggression came at a time when the hood needed guidance and a voice. He became that. The culture resonated with him because he spoke for a generation with genuine concern and he was willing to back up his words for the greater good of the culture and wasn’t afraid of backlash. It might be harder to see but Drake is similar in that he channels emotion and concern without worrying about whether he comes off as cool or tough. He just wants to be real with himself and his emotions and that betters the culture because: how many of us are actually selling cocaine and waking up in Bugatti’s and whatever else? Of course Drake has his fair share of Versace rap but Pac really did start all this Versace shit; they both keep a down to Earth balance which we as the fans appreciate.
There is a lot of arbitrary similarities between the two as well. Both were signed by known Blood gang affiliates, both raised in a single mother household, both were into acting before and after music fame, both had an affinity for Jada Pinkett and the list goes on. None of this really means anything I don’t think and if it does let’s just attribute it to illuminati and call it a day. But the facts remain, we love Drake for the same reasons we loved Pac. Yes, Pac screamed thug life as he shot cops and left the hospital when he was shot 5 times because he was paranoid about being assassinated while Drizzy twirled and cried baby oil tears because his leg kind of hurt during a concert but yo… Drake got kids screaming YOLO like Pac had us saying T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E. (The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody) and that’s real.