Drake was still proving himself as a rhymer when he spit that controversial bar on 2009’s “Fear.”
Drizzy went on to explain that he’s more likely to shed tears when Jay Z passes because of everything he’s learned from Hov’s bars throughout his life. But while many took the line as disrespectful to Pac, Drake was accurately describing the disconnect many millennials feel when it comes to legends of past generations.
The majority of today’s artists and fans weren’t even 10 years old when Pac passed. And no matter how many times an old head tells you how bad Mike was in his prime (Tyson, Jordan or Jackson) it’s impossible to fully grasp the impact of anything you didn’t witness firsthand.
20 years after his murder, Tupac’s legacy is even more complex than those of rap’s other fallen icons like Big L, Big Pun and The Notorious B.I.G. While most of his peers made their marks primarily with their music, Pac was a multi-dimensional star who showed just as much potential as an actor and activist as he did as an MC.
But Pac is more of a mythical figure than a tangible icon for many of today’s rap fans. He’s taken on a posthumous cult status similar to Bob Marley‘s, with a fan base that stretches far beyond traditional Hip Hop heads and hits much deeper than music.
His charm and passion came across in every word he spoke and helped him recruit an army of diehard followers who will defend his legacy until their own death. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t have flaws:
Many rap purists have caught flack from Pac’s soldiers for critiquing his skills as a lyricist. While Pac was no slouch with the pen, he never put the efforts into wordplay and lyricism that many Hip Hop heads consider the standard for greatness. His volatile style and contradictory messaging are also commonly-mentioned flaws that some feel taint his claims to the greatest rapper of all time title.
But whether you were drawn to Pac for his music or simply for what he stood for, you can’t deny how intriguing he was. From his obsession with Machiavelli and the illuminati to his familial roots with the Black Panthers, Pac may have been the most interesting rapper to ever live. While that doesn’t make him the best, it gives him an intangible advantage in a game that values realness over everything.
Before reality TV, Pac mastered the art of turning 15-seconds of fame into a lifetime following. And although the Gemini appeared to have multiple personalities at times, he always felt authentic. From his days as a roadie with Digital Underground to his final months on Death Row Records, even if he wasn’t the biggest star in the room, he found a way to steal the spotlight.
Pac was bred to be a performer, attending performing arts school with Jada Pinkett-Smith as a teen and staring in a handful of legendary roles during his short time in Hollywood. So while his legend may not live on through his bars in the same way Jay, Big and Nas’ will, his status as one of the greatest is undebatable. His DNA lives on through socially active MCs like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole and emotionally expressive artists like Drake and Chris Brown. So it doesn’t matter if you’re Drizzy or Funkmaster Flex, don’t get gassed into thinking Pac is anything less than one of Hip Hop’s greatest legends.