There is no doubt that Tupac Shakur was the most controversial rapper of all time. Trouble just seemed to follow him everywhere he went. There's also no doubt that he was one of the best selling artists of all time. But what about the title that he is most often associated with? Many people refer to Shakur as The Greatest of All Time, in regards to his career in rap music. How accurate is this title, and how did it come about? I'll explain exactly why he deserves that title and why so many people hold Tupac in such high respects.
Tupac Shakur had one of the largest influences over the genre of Hip Hop that the world has ever seen. There's an old saying that people continue to bring up when speaking of Shakur "When Tupac died, everybody moved up one". This couldn't be more accurate. Many people who are at the top of the charts today, were around when 2pac was alive, but weren't as successful as they are today. In addition to changing trends and developing their skills over the years, this can also be attributed to the death of 2pac. Tupac seemed to dominate the industry while he was alive, and although many people compare him to Notorious B.I.G. in terms of fame and legendary status, Biggie was never as famous worldwide as Tupac was while they were alive. Even Biggie had always maintained that Shakur was one of his main influences. Tupac personified the Bad Boy Thug image, but at the same time, showed a more sensitive side that let us all know just how human he was. Many rappers have tried to copy and duplicate this style, including Ja Rule, 50 Cent, Lil Zane, and countless others. Shakur redefined the meaning of "Thug Life", and many people today who hear that phrase may not realize that it was Tupac who made that phrase popular.
At first glance, Tupac may not seem very versatile to a person who has only heard Shakur's battle rap Hit Em Up. But you should never judge a book by it's cover, because Tupac was one of the most versatile rappers in the industry. If you trace his career back to his first album, or even before that, when his name was MC New York, you will notice how many different rap styles he actually had. Songs like Young Black Male are a far cry from his more popular songs like Dear Mama and California Love. In the book "How to Rap" by Paul Edwards, many rappers were interviewed to offer insight into the Hip Hop industry and the aspects of rapping. Up and coming rap star Bishop Lamont stated that Shakur "mastered every element, every aspect of Hip Hop", while Fredro Starr of Onyx said Shakur "was a true master of the flow". Tupac would write a ferocious verbal attack for his enemies, and then write a love ballad to his mother within an hour. He seemed to easily juggle all the different types of flow and touch on just about every topic a young urban man might experience in their lives. Eminem once referred to 2pac as "The Greatest Songwriter of All Time".
Tupac was versatile, but remained consistent in his overall mission or objective, if there was one. He never flip-flopped or recorded an album for commercial sales. While I'm sure he loved the success he was enjoying, and even strived to be a star in Hollywood, he never once collaborated with any unsavory characters in Hip Hop (Think: Eminem and Lil Wayne, Ludacris and Justin Bieber, Snoop Dogg and Soulja Boy). He remained consistent in what he did and continually pushed the envelope in regards to serious topics and even political matters. He recorded more songs than probably any other Hip Hop artist in history, yet if you ask any of his fans, not one of those songs was a failure in regards to impressing his listeners. It's very rare to find an artist who has written that many songs without ever disappointing his fans. In other words, none of the songs found on any of his albums are "filler". They were all potential hits and all carried their own weight.
Tupac was the first rap artist to have two #1 albums in a row in the Billboard's top 200 albums chart. As stated before, many people compare his fame to the Notorious B.I.G.'s fame, but the highest status on the album charts that Biggie ever achieved while alive was #13 on the top 200 albums chart, and #3 on the Rap and RnB charts. Tupac did all this before rap was as popular as it is today, in the dying days of grunge rock.
Today there are murals all around the world that bear Tupac's face. From Sierra Leone, Africa to his original stomping grounds in the Bay Area, California. The Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts was built in Stone Mountain, Georgia in honor of him, as well as a statue that greets guests outside the entrance to the MARTa Museum in Herford, Germany. Tupac's fans stretch from one side of the globe to the other, and can be found in small pockets of the earth where only the most iconic figures in history can enter.
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