I’m still forming my thoughts on Tupac. I know that he was an activist (willing to put himself in between crooked cops and a motorist) , feminist (according to many outlets, though it’s basically speculation), and a man who was charged with sexual assault. I definitely need to read up more on him, buy his Aunt Assata Shakur’s autobiography. The Shakur family is tied to activists like Angela Davis, so I know that I need to delve further in my research.
Leila Steinberg was Tupac’s first professional manager and was responsible for the safekeeping of the poetry in this volume. She also wrote the introduction. Afeni Shakur was Tupac’s mother, and she wrote beautifully of her son in the preface. Nikki Giovanni wrote a forward that spoke to his honesty and his revolutionary qualities. To have so many women come together in an effort to represent his memory speaks volumes to his character and to the true power that his words held.
These poems, according to Steinberg, were written when he was nineteen. Tupac Shakur was yet to be famous, yet to be portrayed negatively, etc. That’s a level of him that isn’t as well known, and one that I feel privileged to have been able to read from.
I have to admit, I haven’t listened to a lot of Tupac’s music, though I do plan on it in the future. Keep Ya Head Up is often lauded as a feminist anthem in terms of rap music, and I plan on expanding my repertoire asap. His poetry was raw, with topics that ranged in emotion.
My favorite poems were Under the Skies Above (After the Miscarriage) and the first Untitled poem. Both address deep subjects with grace. He also dedicated a poem to Marilyn Monroe that addresses her fame, exploitation, and death. I also enjoyed the poems that focused on the Black Panther party.
In the Event of My Demise hit really true to event, almost in a haunting way. There’s zero doubt that he was woke, woker than it was safe to be in his time.
Poetry is one of my favorite genres, and it’s something that I’m aiming to dedicate a big part of my life to, so reading poetry that has such an intimate feel is incredible; not only is it Shakur’s unedited work, but the scanning a of his handwritten poems are adjacent to the typed version. You get to read his poems in his handwriting, see the doodles and the words he crossed out.
There’s a musicality to his work that you don’t always find, and it’s definitely telling of the career that he had following the writing of this poetry.
That’s one more book knocked off of my Baker’s Dozen list, and it was another good one!
I give the book an 8/10.