Birthday Love for 2pac’s Message of Strength and Resilience

The rapper, who was killed in 1996, would have turned 40 today. His legacy lives on.

By Jamilah King Jun 16, 2011

Today marks what would’ve been Tupac Amaru Shakur’s 40th birthday. The rapper was killed in 1996 when he was just 25-years-old, but his legacy is as strong as ever. To be sure, he was far from perfect; the recently uncovered interview that’s posted above was held while the rapper served a year-long prison sentence for sexual abuse — charges that he vehemently denied up until his death. Still, his musical catalogue ranged from radically political to stereotypically sexist, and the artist came to personify all that black men of his time were, and weren’t, expected to be: ballet dancer, thesbian, rapper, inmate, Thug Life extraordinaire, mama’s boy, shooting victim and, finally, martyr.

He did songs for women on welfare and was nearly two decades ahead of his time in calling for end of the war on drugs. But it’s the passion and clarity with which he delivered his messages that still resonates with so many. See his 1992 speech to the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement in Atlanta, where he talks about the legacy of the Black Panthers and the need for his generation to still rise to the occasion. Or his interview that Christmas with MTV where he marvels at his mother’s perseverance in raising two children in poverty. Or watch him as a 17-year-old in 1988, rocking the world’s brightest grin and a high-top, talking about his fears of adulthood. Since his death, Tupac’s messages have traveled everywhere from prison yards to city blocks to Harvard lecture halls.

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