2Pac never had the most complex lyrics. His rhymes, from a technical standpoint, rarely bent the listeners' minds in the way those of artists like Eminem and Lupe Fiasco often do.
But he remains one of rap's greatest orators ever -- both on the mic and off. He had a directness to his words, and a gift for contextualizing an array of topics in a way that was easy to digest.
As racially charged events and injustices have continued to grab headlines in the two decades since Pac's death -- and, particularly in recent months, with the deaths of Mike Brown, Eric Garner and, just over a week ago, Baltimore native Freddie Gray -- some fans have been longing for the late rapper -- a well-read and politically minded 25-year-old whom many believed had the tools to become a once-in-a-generation sort of leader.
2pac, can you come back now, we need change.— ∆wesome (@anthonypicasso) April 28, 2015
@2pac we need you back real quick— CROOOOOOOOOOOOOK (@JamesCrooks14) April 28, 2015
Times Like This We Need 2Pac.— SOYSAUCE BIzzLE (@ATL_Bizz) April 28, 2015
Dear god please send us another 2pac. Where are our civil rights leaders today?— Marc Moran (@MarcMoran) April 28, 2015
While we no longer have Pac, we do have the words and music he left us. And much of what Pac said has striking relevance today. Take, for instance, this clip from the 2003 film "Tupac: Resurrection." Here, he succinctly frames the repressive conditions that can cause a group of people to riot. It's more an attempt at understanding the actions than a justification.
It's this sort of take that helps illustrate that the rioting in Baltimore (the city, by the way, where the rapper spent much of his youth) on Monday night -- which left 15 police officers injured and led to 200 arrests, 144 vehicles set on fire and 15 building fires -- was not merely a reaction to the death of 25-year-old Gray, but borne of centuries oppressive conditions and institutional racism.
"Those people that were asking, they're all dead or in jail," Pac says in the "Resurrection" clip of leaders of the Civil Rights and Black Panther movements. "So what do you think we're gonna do? Ask?"
There are also Pac's quotes from a 1994 interview, which were recently used in "Mortal Man," the closing track to Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly:
I think that n---as is tired of grabbin' sh-t out the stores and next time it’s a riot, there’s gonna be, like, bloodshed, for real. I don’t think America know that. I think America think we was just playing and it’s gonna be some more playing but it ain’t gonna be no playing. It’s gonna be murder, you know what I’m saying? It’s gonna be like Nat Turner, 1831, up in this motherf--ker, you know what I’m saying? It’s gonna happen.