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Maybe Kanye West Really is the 2013 Tupac

Posted by CPT on 09/30/13 | Filed under Opinion, Kanye West, Welcome to Compton, Tupac
Kanye West Tupac Shakur 2Pac

So I’m sure by now most of Hip-Hop has viewed Mr. West’s BBC 1 interview with Zane Lowe, in all four parts. No doubt he spit some knowledge, as well as some nonsense.  His reaction to Jimmy Kimmel’s little skit doesn’t help matters either. One thing I noticed when watching Kimmel discuss he and Yeezy’s phone call the day of the now infamous Twitter rant, is him saying Kanye compared himself to Tupac, a lot. I’m sure many a ‘Pac fan was hit with the puzzle face when they heard that, but if you really think about it, they’re not as different as we’d like to make them.  Especially when you get Kanye truly engaged in an interview, that ‘Pac swagger is pretty pronounced.  Here's why...

Militant Parents: Kanye West’s father, and Tupac’s mother (and father, whom he didn’t meet until the age of 23) were black panthers.  Having a family history associated with the organization almost guarantees discussions of racism, classism, the hustlers mentality,  standing up for what is right and not what is popular, having a strong sense of self, and not being afraid of one’s own power took place at a comparatively young ages, and carried over into adulthood. Also, all of these themes are heavy throughout both ‘Ye and Pac’s music and interviews. 

Passionate Speech: Probably the most obvious comparison, ‘Ye’s interviews draw Tupac comparisons mainly because of delivery.  Yes, lately Kanye has been implementing that weird, hi-pitched, borderline nasally pronunciation, but when he’s discussing his passions and frustrations, that Chi-town accent can’t be repressed. Wide eyed with a piercing stare and enough conviction to make you second guess yourself, ‘Ye’s BBC interview conjures the spirit of ‘Pac in tone.  Tupac’s Lost Vibe interviews from 1996 are a great frame of reference here.  

Identified by “Rants” Offstage: Both Yeezy and Makaveli have more than a few recorded “rants,” which I put in quotes because both artists don’t consider what they’ve said to be rants more so than them speaking their perspective, uncomfortable truths that some people will get, and some people will not. They’ve both been noted as saying that their “big mouths” tend to get them in trouble, but that telling the truth (or at least their truth) is far more important than maintaining the status quo.  

First Gained Recognition in Music, Then Pursued Truest Artistic Passions Later: I know, this seems a bit general. Plenty of rappers went on to pursue acting, fashion, etc.  The difference is just how embedded Tupac was into his acting, and Kanye is with fashion and other visual arts. At the age of 12, Tupac appeared as Travis Younger in the play "A Raisin in the Sun", and later attended the Baltimore School for the Arts where he mainly focused on acting. Kanye has spoken of spending hours as a child drawing the clothing and kicks he couldn’t afford, and being naturally drawn to higher-end fashion than his peers.  He also attended Chicago’s American Academy of Art. Both Tupac and Kanye pursued their artistic passions after establishing themselves as iconic within Hip-Hop. 

Tupac has a number of noteworthy roles under his belt, especially my personal favorite, "Juice". Pac died before we could see his full potential as an actor, but what he did was powerful enough to have many speculating that he would’ve eventually been nominated and/ or won an Oscar if he were still alive. Kanye completed his 10,000 hour internship with Fendi and made his fashion debut at Paris Fashion Week in 2011. Granted, that collection received mixed reviews, and his 2012 collection was panned for being too derivative of Givenchy. However, we all know those Yeezy’s were a problem. The limited released Air Yeezy’s have a general resell value of $2,750, with one pair auctioning off for $90,000. 

Where They Diverge: Class
Tupac was born into the lower class, while Kanye was born into the middle class. Both artists were primarily raised in single-mother homes. Kanye’s mother was a university professor. Tupac’s mother, while a very intelligent woman, had bouts with crack and often had trouble keeping the lights on. While they both have the DNA of hustlers, it is evident through Pac’s earlier records that a lot of the wrong doing he did was literally to stay afloat, as opposed to Kanye’s situation, which while his family couldn’t afford everything he wanted, was at no point poverty stricken. Pac was wooed by the street world because of how close he was to it. Kanye never got close enough to the street life to be fully submerged in its culture.

Therefore, they both followed different slightly codes when dealing with certain obstacles.  This is not to say a lower-middle class kid will always talk about street life, or a middle-upper class kid knows nothing about it, but we can see where their environments informed certain decisions in adulthood. Also, an artist like Kanye, coming into his own eight years after Tupac had already passed, no doubt learned from that previous era. He’ll run his mouth in the spirit of ‘Pac all day, but he’s not about to sic 12 crips on Hedi Slimane any time soon, as ‘Pac did to the Hughes Brothers after a “creative disagreement” regarding his role in "Menace 2 Society", which obviously never came to be.

Differences in priorities and motivations can be debated as well, and I’m not even going to go down the road of comparing them musically, that’s a whole other beast.  This is just to say that I see how ‘Ye can see himself in the vein of ‘Pac with little-to-no ego involved. As for Michael Jackson??? I don’t know, son.  

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