Monday, July 26, 2010

Tupac: The Thug That Danced Ballet

When most people think of rapper Tupac Shakur, the first thing they think about is his music. His hard-hitting lyrics opened people’s eyes and ears to the perils and predicaments that inner city youth face on a daily basis in the U.S. by appealing to both the mainstream music world as well as the streets he represented through his music.

The second thing people think about when they hear the name Tupac (or 2pac) is his life as a “thug.” From the “Thug Life” tattoo across his stomach to a prison sentence to the drive-by shooting that took his life, Shakur firmly planted himself in history as someone who would be forever respected as a gangster and revered as a visionary in the rap industry.

What most people have never heard is that Shakur spent three years of his youth enrolled in the Baltimore School for the Arts, “where he studied acting, poetry, jazz, and ballet. He performed in Shakespeare plays, and in the role of the Mouse King in The Nutcracker.” That’s according to Wikipedia, but I also wrote a 22 page paper on Tupac in college and found that info in about a dozen other resources.

Which brings me to my point. On one hand, you have an idolized, revered and respected rapper who universalized the Thug Life mantra by which he lived. On the other hand, you have a gifted student of the arts who ultimately aspired to act in major films (as he had begun to do before his murder) rather than rap and who had not only studied jazz and poetry, but had even danced ballet in The Nutcracker. Upon first glance, it would seem there’s a major disconnect between the two.

While plenty of concepts could be discussed in this overview – don’t judge a book by its cover, the importance of image and branding, etc. – the one I’m going to focus on is this: behind every great and noteworthy personality lies another layer (or 3) that we may never have realized existed. It is within those deeper layers that the greatest people of a generation find their separation from "normal" society. It is more than a book and the pages inside the cover. The intangible details are the fibers that make up the paper itself.

With Tupac, the cover of his book was “Thug Life” and what that lifestyle entailed (danger, street respect, fearlessness). The pages themselves were his upbringing in the arts and his ability to convert a performer’s passion into an image that he went out and lived every day. The sinewy fibers of Tupac’s deeper layers were the fascination, respect and adoration for fine arts (which few people ever grow to love so wholeheartedly) as well as his ability to turn that fascination into a constant quest to prove and improve himself on a personal, internal level that the public never saw.

The question I have for you is this: What is the substance that makes up your pages? What do your sinewy fibers consist of? What is the focus of your heart that the outside world rarely, if ever, gets a glimpse of? If you don’t know, do some soul searching and find out. And then let me know in the comments if you’re willing to share.

9 comments:

m!les said...

A lot of people are surprised to learn that George Washington was actually an accomplished medium. In the Revolutionary War, he would read the fortunes of injured soldiers for money. When a reporter mentioned the high mortality rate of an injured soldier, Washington just smiled and responded, "That's why I ask for the money up-front."

Okay - that was not true.

Mike Billeter said...

m!les - Was ALL of it untrue, or just part of it?

Dubie said...

What is the substance that makes up your pages?
mostly love, questions, poetry, mystery, Stephanie
Stumbled across your blog and liked these questions and felt they deserved answers.

What do your sinewy fibers consist of?
Mastery

What is the focus of your heart that the outside world rarely, if ever, gets a glimpse of?
Struggle, sadness, ecstasy, reality

Mike Billeter said...

Dubie - Thanks for opening up your answers to the rest of us. That's some heavy stuff (in all the right ways). It both intrigued me and inspired me. Love the answer of "Mastery" as it makes me realize how important that is to any of us with a vision for what we want our lives to be.

Thanks for stopping by. I really appreciate the answers and I'll be sure to check out your blog as well. Have a great rest of the week.

Anonymous said...

2 pac was the realest to ever come into rrap. he admitted all his of his previous life and would shoot you if you got smart with him and threatened his life. tupac would have broke your jaw if you where to question his credibility. real talk

Anonymous said...

As for me, fulfillment is a major substance that makes up someone's page.......if tupac wasn't a fulfilled in his career as a rapper, we would be highly considered a nuisance in the society,even in the hood no rep for a dumb-ass! K'yarn!

Unknown said...

Just a reminder: Tupac said T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E stood for "the hate u gave little infants fucks everybody".

uwuma precious said...

To the undecerning, Tupac is a bunch of contradictions but as Mike pointed out here, it takes a scratch of the ''inner layer'' to get to the real man beneath what the songs and court cases portray. The last questions were relevant and Pac would have proud of them. A man must search to be fulfiled. Deeply. Thanks Mike for sharing this.

uwuma precious said...

To the undecerning, Tupac is a bunch of contradictions but as Mike pointed out here, it takes a scratch of the ''inner layer'' to get to the real man beneath what the songs and court cases portray. The last questions were relevant and Pac would have proud of them. A man must search to be fulfiled. Deeply. Thanks Mike for sharing this.

Share this, por favor

Bookmark and Share