Had he lived, [artist id=”1021″]Tupac Shakur[/artist] would have turned 40 years old on Thursday (June 16). The sometimes enigmatic, always fiery rapper would have been a grizzled veteran looking back with nostalgia at the exploits that made him the model of hip-hop machismo and passion. But in an interview with MTV News in 1992, the late rapper expressed eloquently why he wanted no part of the “role model” title he was destined to be tagged with.
“I say I don’t want to be a role model in the song, because if I let somebody put the role-model label on me, that limits me,” Tupac explained, referring to his song “Ghetto Gospel.” “Because look at those words, ’role’ and ’model.’ Both of those are fake words, to play a role and to model, that’s fake. I’m real. Being real, I drink, I hang out, I party — I do things that a 21-year-old does. And even worse, because I didn’t have a childhood, I’m reliving my childhood. I live life to its fullest, I make mistakes, but I do some stuff that some college kids wouldn’t do, because I live from my heart. I have fun. I don’t want to be a role model, I just want to be real.”
If Tupac was anything, it was real. He openly admitted his flaws in interviews and his rhymes, and was known for being fiercely loyal, almost to a fault. The “California Love” rapper never wanted his success to prevent him from being relatable to his friends in the “outer city.” (“It’s the outer city because we’re always left out,” he said.)
Never forgetting where he came from was a theme heard throughout ’Pac’s music and was a trait inherent in people he saw as heroes. ” ’Role model,’ that’s the word that they make. In the outer city, we don’t have it,” Tupac said. “We had [Mike] Tyson, Tyson was the perfect outer-city hero because he was always on the edge, they always wanted to make him a different type of person. But he would never be that, he would always be on the edge, and they hated him for that. They punished him because he never legitimized himself. He hung in clubs. He was the only person I knew that had millions that hung around with rappers. The only black person I know that made it to that millionaire status and then treated rappers with dignity.”
’Pac continued, “Every entertainment person who has money looks at rappers as ignorant people with mics, holding our jocks, wearing Kangols and big gold chains. Mike Tyson was the only person I can remember being a millionaire and a real brother. And he was my hero, and I want to be like that. And I want more people like that.”
Tragically and ironically, Tupac would be shot multiple times on September 7, 1996, after attending the Mike Tyson vs. Bruce Seldon boxing match at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. Although one of hip-hop’s most recognizable stars would succumb to his injuries about a week later, his legend has only risen since his sudden death nearly 15 years ago.
Share your memories of Tupac in the comments below.