Sound On: Tupac Shakur
Photographer David LaChapelle – image and celebrity connoisseur, perhaps more than his mentor Andy Warhol – knew that Tupac Shakur was not into diamonds or bling blings, as his colleagues used to. But since in his baroque, imaginitive universe everything is subverted, in 1996 he decided to capture him in a bathtub, his naked body covered of gold, a handsome god waiting to be worshipped.
In the same year, the night between September 7th and 8th, that body was shot dead in Las Vegas: four bullets wounded his chest, pelvis, thigh, his right hand, also perforated a lung. Tupac officially died five days later. We still don’t know the names of the men who shot him from a car that night, at the crossroad of Flamingo Road, right after the match in which Mike Tyson knocked out Bruce Seldon at MGM Grand. But we know that event – sad peak of the blood feuds between East and West Coast – marked the loss of innocence in rap history, and the death of its brightest, most influential soul.
Yes, Kanye West’s lyrics are extremely lively, they seem to be written by Mozart. But what about Tupac, who whote his songs by taking inspiration from philosophers and writers such as Plato, Machiavelli and Shakespeare? ‘Picture paragraphs unloaded, wise words bein’ quoted’, he sangs with unexpected depth in Hail Mary, from his album The Don Killuminati, posthumously published as the end of a path in which music becomes the voice of the ones who live at borders.
Tupac was not a saint: in 1994 his run-ins with the law led to the very first celebrity court case, with cameras following him even when he found himself on a wheelchair the day after an assault. But in his career rises and falls always seem to alternate in order to find in music a reason and a chance. He was loved by Madonna, with whom he had a secret relationship at the beginning of the 90s: he left her because a white woman ‘would have disappointed half of the people who made me who I am’, as we read in a letter which has been auctioned recently. He was loved by Lisa ‘Left Eye’ Lopes from TLC, another black icon who would left us soon and tragically. He was respected by Grant Hill, the Detroit Pistons basketball player who was also abassador of a FILA pair of skeakers that made history right beacuse Tupac wore them. Inside the booklet of All Eyez On Me, the last record he released, he wears them on the streets of LA. ‘In time we learned to live a life of crime/ Rewind us back, to a time was much too young to know’, he sings in I Ain’t Mad At Cha, one of his very last music videos on MTV in which he acts as an angel. Images from the Nineties seem to fade on YouTube. But not music, not at all.