Tuesday, September 26, 2006

In Soviet Russia, nose ring wears you

A guest bleugger aujourd'hui: DosNittiLately I've been pondering the impact of my generation's messianic figure: Tupac. Ten years after his death I am beginning to grasp the cultural ramifications of his numerous achievements. He truly was the descendant of Black Power's demise in the 70's (His mother and father both fought police in during the prime years of the Panther's struggle) a poet of urban nihilism who was so captivating that he landed leading roles in films on his presence alone. He released at least 5 albums (30 if you are counting posthumous releases) to heavy critical acclaim and multi-platinum scan figures while appearing with major or starring roles in over six films. His troubles were legion, from shooting cops (and somehow not going to jail) to his sexual assualt conviction (actually sexual abuse), to his shooting and feud with East Coast counterpart Biggie, to his Shakespearean demise at the hands of parties unknown with the diabolical Suge Knight holding the puppet strings.I defy you to name a person in the information age who, like Elvis or a Saint, has drawn people to him with such fanatical love and devotion. They still report him to be alive based on pseudo-prophetic yet eeriely accurate predictions on his life. Even his visage and profile, smoldering yet imploring glare, bowed shaved head, muscled frame with THUG LIFE emblazoned across his chest, have become iconic imagery in a cult of devotion that spreads from Lapland to Soweto. He is the most important figure to emerge from the African American community since Malcolm X and that fact that he was murdered at the age of 25 makes his myriad accomplishements all the more astounding while leading one to wonder what could have been. At 25 Martin Luther King Jr. was an uncelebrated minister pursuing his doctorate, and Malcolm X was incarcerated at Charlestown Penal Colony in Massachusettes as "Detroit Red" Little. Who knows what this man could have done had his arc not been so abruptly terminated.
That said it really sucks to watch footage of him now 'cause honestly dude looks like a sucker. Clothing styles change fast and ten years in the fashionista microcosimic world of hip-hop might was well be 400 in the civilian world. All I can think now when I see this slain prophet relaying some real wisdom is; "Is that a purple adjustable hat?" Its really getting in the way of my pondering of his impact and legacy. I was thirteen when he died in 1996. A time when one could wear Karl Kani suits of radiant colors and red plastic Fubu vests with no undershirt. Or the omnipresent overalls with the zebra striped sock of some sort worn as a hat. During that era, Tupac was our fashion god. We all went around shirtless and wore basketball shorts as underwear in an ode to his "I get around video". Many of us tied bandannas off at the front, a position of thug sacredness. The one nostril stud became de riguer for both men and women. But times have changed and my perspective has as well. Ten years later I see dude in one of these getups and he reminds me of one of the cats patrolling the Greyhound station under yellow lighting at 3AM. Tight ass sagging pants, a wrinkled denim dress shirt, (I dont think anyone besides Toby Keith and Foxworthy rocks those nowadays) and a hat that looks like he won it on the boardwalk. Man in the "Keep Your Head Up Video" his shirt looks like a fucking tablecloth. Early.
Now I realize that I am being incredibly superficial and unfair. Tupac did not choose to die (or did he?) and during his era he was the definintion of style and swagger. That's part of it too I guess. It is a testament to his importance and immortality that such a plethora of media exists showing him. He was also one of the first great casualties of youth culture in the information age, a death where those wanting answers tuned in to Kurt Loder instead of Dan Rather. All of these factors explain and exonorate the man's fashion choices. And he did die young, five years short of Jay-Z's "over 30 no more jersies" edict. In retrospect I guess it shows how greatly he influenced my friends and I. But that does not excuse the leather corset money chose to sport on the New York Times Magazine cover with Suge and Snoop. Was he attempting to convey his sense of slavery and entrapment to Suge Knight? I mean cmon' money I'm fishing for you here man, that's a legacy cover, one for the ages. I can't help you anymore Pac, you were a prophet yes. But you dressed like a crackhead.