When discussing Tupac Shakur, the man, the musician, the controversial political critic, it is difficult to say anything very positive about him but at the same time, it is equally hard to say anything bad. This is because he was a celebrated contradictionist and probably the only man in the hip hop and ubran community that could get away with it. Philosopher Kenneth Burke had studied rapper Tupac Shakur for a long time and came to some very intellectual conclusions about the late rapper. Using a dramaticism model, Burke found that Tupac’s attitude and music (through his vibrant public comments, interviews, and more importantly, his lyrics) can be placed in the structure much like a play.
Before the structure of a play is discussed, Tupac’s history will be a topic of recognition. Tupac was born Lasane Parish Crooks to mother, and ex Black Panther activist, Afeni Shakur. The name “Tupac” was symbolic for it means “Shining Serpent” in the Inca language. This is almost very accurate to the type of man society knew Tupac as; vibrant, live and arguably the greatest rapper to ever live. That part represents the “shining” part. The “serpent” part symbolizes Tupac’s thug mentality and upbringing that he often boasted about in his songs. This very mentality is referenced in his albums and almost all of his songs. His belief of nihilism was apparent in almost every aspect of his life and music. He often bashed religious groups and governments for their pessimistic beliefs and principles. That belief is where the popularity of Tupac being a contradictionist comes into play. Burke says in his analysis of the infamous rapper that he focuses a lot of Black empowerment with very popular songs like “Dear Momma” and “Keep Ya Head Up.” Other songs, however, empower the use of violence and murder to justify being raised in the “hood.” These songs include “Bury Me a G” and “Hail Mary.” But it is this very flip flop of beliefs that make Tupac look like the most terrible looking but strangely beautiful rapper of all time.
Tupac’s lyrics and life can be well described in what Burke tells readers as a play. This part consists of five parts. The first of these parts is the act. The act is retaliation which is what many controversial rappers do. They retaliate against their government and society in which they feel cheated them of a better life. The second part of Burke’s play is the scene. The scene is no doubt the streets. This is where Tupac spent much of his life at so the streets would appropriately be the scene of the play. In all of his movies, Tupac played either a gangster or some character very familiar with street life. The third part of the model is the agent. The agent is the person or people who act out the play. In this case, it would be Tupac or other “street soldiers.” The fourth part of the play is the agency. This means the mood or attitude the play was set in. In the case of Tupac Shakur the agency would be nihilism. The last part of the play is the purpose. The purpose of the play in Tupac’s life would be to pledge his allegiance to where he grew up at; the streets.
With Burke’s analysis on Tupac, an appreciation and understanding of him and his life comes into view. Tupac was seen mainly as a “cop killer” and an angry black man from the hood. But thanks to the analysis, he is more than that. Tupac was a philosopher for people just like him. He was secretly idolized by mainstream America as a rebel. People hated to love Tupac; that is the beauty of his personality and his art.