Have you ever pondered what it would feel to be in the presence of arguably one of the most influential rappers of all time? Well so have I. Better yet one of the women who brought to the world the biggest hip hop icons of all time. Luckily for me I got the chance to do the latter and it was quite an experience. The icon in question was Tupac Shakur and the woman was none other than Afeni Shakur.
Like most rappers, their circumstances and environment growing up greatly account for their rap careers and indeed their resonance with those growing up under similar circumstances. For those unfamiliar with Shakur’s background, he grew up from an early age with people who were involved with the Black Liberation Army and convicted of criminal offenses and were imprisoned. Afeni Shakur was quite an honor to meet and the setting for this meeting was Snoqualmie Casino.
At this point it’s important to state that it would not have mattered if we had met in the middle of the Mojave Desert in a hungry and thirsty delirium, I would be just as excited. First, she acted as her own criminal defense attorney after being accused of taking part in numerous bombings as a member of the Panthers. Afeni founded the Georgia-based Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation, which provides art programs for young people, and Amaru Entertainment, the holding company for all Tupac's unreleased material. She however presents herself as a cool, collected and highly reflective woman despite her numerous challenges.
As we sat across each other the slot machines rattled in the background, people laughed and chatted away oblivious of her presence. ‘Dear Mama’ was released as the album’s first single in February 1995. It would go on to be the album’s most successful single, topping the Hot Rap Singles chart and peaking at the ninth spot on the Billboard Hot 100. This was directed at the lady sitting across from me. I asked if this motivated her to preserve Shakur’s legacy to such an unparalleled extent but her motivation was that her son’s legacy needed to be shared, to give hope to those that grew up under similar circumstances to those like her son who needed ‘a leadership void amongst hip-hop artistes’.
His mother founded the Shakur Family Foundation which sponsors essay contests and offers undergraduate scholarships. Her son spoke with brilliance and insight as someone who bears to witness to the pain of those who would have never have his platform and this clearly was forged from his mother and other figures that surrounded him. Afeni is an intellectual, focused and strong willed who still remembers to make the most of life. ‘Dear Mama’ depicts this and pays homage to all mothers struggling to maintain a family in the face of poverty, and societal indifference.
So what did I get out of this meeting? That perseverance is molded from hardship, that suffering does build character and that bravery is infectious.
CEO of BYTE ME