Alta Live: The Legacy of Tupac Shakur

Twenty-five years after his murder, legendary rapper Tupac Shakur looms larger than ever.

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When it comes to an artist like Tupac Shakur, there’s much to discuss. Santi Elijah Holley and Dave “Davey D” Cook dove into Shakur’s life, both in the past and, via memory, in the present. “Oftentime, when we hear Tupac, we don’t talk about the legacy of the Shakur family, which I think is integral to really understanding him. Nowadays, there almost seems to be a revision,” Davey D, who knew Tupac before he died, said. Holley, who is writing a book on the Shakur family and how those ties affected Tupac’s music, shared some of the family history with Alta Live to contextualize the artist’s work and politics. “He came out of a very radical Black liberation tradition, and he was raised that way, and I wanted to show that because I think it gets lost a lot of times when people talk about Tupac,” Holley said.

Holley and Davey D went on to speculate about the enduring influence of the artist’s work, particularly his brief but impactful film career and the themes he dealt with—mass incarceration, police violence—that continue to be relevant today. “We’ve all projected Tupac in the afterlife. So everybody has these projections of what Tupac would be doing in 2022, what sort of individual he would be, and they project a lot based on how they perceived him in the past,” Davey D said. “We, now, made such a hero, a legend, an icon out of him,” Holley added. “We want our late heroes to be just one thing, we want them to fit into one box. This is who they were, this is what they represented, this is who they were their whole life, without some dips and going around. But finding your way, finding your voice, he was going through that in real time.”

Check out these links to some of the topics Davey D and Holley brought up this week.


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