Have you ever wondered why music is important to you?
Scientists have all sorts of explanations, but you probably can’t live without your iPod, because the tunes you love speak to you. Those songs move you body and soul, and the singers say words you only wish you could say.
But despite the fame and fortune, the lives of those singers aren’t as great as you think they are–or were in the case of one rapper.
In the new book “Tupac Shakur: The Life and Times of an American Icon” (c.2010, Da Capo Press, $15.95/$20 Canada, 276 pages, includes index) by Tayannah Lee McQuillar and Fred L. Johnson III, Ph.D., you’ll read all about what this meant for Tupac.
Afeni Shakur (the rapper’s mother) was an activist. Born before the Civil Rights Movement, she joined the Black Panthers as an adult and quickly became a leader within the group. She conceived her first child while out on bail for conspiracy charges (she was subsequently found not guilty). She named the child Lesane but later re-named him Tupac, after a revolutionary Incan emperor.)
Although he was almost always homeless, had little to eat or wear, and thought many of the adults surrounding him were in trouble or in jail, Tupac Shakur grew up to be “a sensitive soul.”
He attended Baltimore School for the Arts, acted in plays, wrote poetry and was well-versed in Shakespeare. His best friend was a White boy named John.
And then, to protect Tupac and his younger sister from violence in New York, Afeni sent them to California to live with a friend who turned out to be an angry alcoholic. Because he knew little about sports and a lot about literature, Tupac was preyed upon by rougher boys near his new home.
Trying to fit in, Tupac briefly dealt drugs. He couldn’t play basketball, but he was “stunning on the microphone,” which gained the attention of a White woman who took him under her wing. She nurtured Tupac’s talents and guided him, and within three years, he was a star.
But although Tupac’s career was on the rise, his life was out of control. Because of the lyrics, his songs were banned and vilified. He began hanging out with people who were into drugs and guns. He was shot, spent time in jail, and was shot again.
And in the end, Tupac’s music couldn’t save him.
Ostensibly a book about the life of a musician “Tupac Shakur,” that is merely half the story. The other half of the book is a reiteration of history and 1960s culture, tedious biographies, and plenty of repetition scattered around in chapters. True, authors McQuillar and Johnson include a thorough examination of the infamous feud between East and West coast rappers. But although well-done, it wasn’t enough.
The “extras” simply overshadowed the good in this book. I would have been happier, if “Tupac Shakur” had stuck with the story of the late rapper.
Consequently, if you’re looking for a definitive biography on the musician, this book isn’t quite what you want. It’s okay, but overall, “Tupac Shakur” just doesn’t wrap it up enough.