The 20th Anniversary of Tupac’s Makaveli
Twenty years ago, hip hop lost rap legend, Tupac Shakur. Known mostly for his hard hitting lyrics and storytelling skills, the rapper was also known for passion and activism towards the plight of the black community. Even though his life was short-lived, the legacy he left behind lives on in music and artists today. November 5th marks the 20th anniversary of his 5th studio album, Makaveli. This era of Tupac was filled with good music, controversy, and unfortunately, an untimely death. Nineteen ninety-six was the year that Tupac’s raised music to new heights, accomplishing feats that had never been conquered before. Also, solidifying himself as a legend and icon within music and around the world.
Makaveli, or The 7 Day Theory, was a game changer for hip hop as Tupac recorded and mixed the album in seven days. According to his peers, the album wasn’t meant for release the following year, but was pushed up following his death. Recording an album in that limited time period is risky, yet his hard work seemed to pay off as it went on to be certified 4x platinum in 1999. Everything about this album signaled a change within the emcee, from its creation to the title to the artwork, as well as, the music. Makaveli was a nickname that Pac had adopted after his release from jail and was an ode to the writer, philosopher, and historian Niccolo Machiavelli. Spelling it differently, Tupac was on his way to creating his own record label under the same name. Musically, the album seemed darker in tone and themes and his album artwork seemed to reflect it. The cover is a painting of Tupac, naked with only a bandana and his jewelry on, nailed to a cross. Aligning himself on the level of Jesus, it seems that he’s trying to give the message that he is a martyr, whether for music or the black community is uncertain. The eeriness of it all is so profound, seeing as how the album was released two months following his death. The album seems to focus a lot on survival, whether that be surviving against enemies, surviving struggle and oppression, or what helps one to survive. He references his beefs with a multitude of rappers on “Against All Odds” and “Bomb First (My Second Reply)”. He speaks on the plight of black people and offers encouragement in “White Manz World” featuring Big D and “Hold Ya Head.” He even has a few songs for the ladies with “Toss It Up” featuring Danny Boy, K-Ci & JoJo and Aaron Hall, “Me and My Girlfriend”, and “Just Like Daddy” featuring The Outlawz. For an album that was recorded in such a short time span, it doesn’t sound rushed and is very focused.
Although Makaveli was a huge success, it wasn’t the only music he released that year. He released his fourth studio album earlier that year, All Eyez on Me. Once again, Tupac was changing things by being the first artist to ever release a double disc album. The album was a total of twenty-seven songs that included classics, “California Love”, “How Do U Want It”, “Ambitionz Az a Ridah”, and “Picture Me Rollin’”. The album sold over 500,000 copies in its first week and was his second number one album on the Billboard 200 charts and the Hip Hop/R&B charts. It was his bestselling album, selling 5 million copies by the end of the year, and also garnered him a MOBO award, Music of Black Origin, for best video for his single “California Love.” He also released a diss track in June titled “Hit’em Up”, which was a direct target to Notorious B.I.G. and Bad Boy Records. The song is considered amongst the greatest of diss tracks ever made and helped to fuel the beef between the East and West Coast. Tupac won a Soul Train Award for Best Male Rap album for his third album, Me Against the World and scored two Grammy nominations for “Dear Mama” and Me Against the World. He also starred in the movie Bullet, released one month after his passing. Tupac was on top of the world, setting new trends and making history in a multitude of ways.
With so many good things happening for Tupac, it’s unfortunate that this year also included his untimely death. There was still so much left to celebrate and look forward too as the new year included the release of Gridlock’d and Gang Related, films he was also featured in. Regardless of the unfortunate circumstances, Tupac left so much to be remembered by. There are his movies, his music, his videos, his poetry, and more than anything, the intelligence and passion he left behind in many of his interviews. Happy 20th Tupac! May he rest peacefully.