The Tupac River Flows Forever Like The Honia: For Tupac Shakur on his 44th Birthday

As long as some suffer/The River Flows Forever/ As long as there is pain/The River Flows Forever/As strong as a smile can be/The river will flow forever/As long as U R with me/We’ll ride the river together

                                           …Tupac Shakur

There is a river more ancient than Eden that flows like the Mississippi, has the blood stained blue like the water of the Mississippi, and the sunrise above like the Yantze. Pac is that river that flows forever. Check out how he flows.

                                            Tell Me, Can You Feel Me?

“Back in elementary, I thrived on misery/Left me alone, I grew up amongst a dying breed/Inside my mind, I couldn’t find a place to rest/Until I got that T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E. tatted on my chest/Tell me, can you feel me, I’m not living in the past.”

In the past before there was when or where, there was a mighty river that flowed, too, also! Like The Pac River, it flowed in between.  Ngugi remembers it: “A river flowed through the valley of life. If there had been no bush and no forest trees covering the slopes, you could have seen the river when you stood on top of either Kameno or Makeya. Now you had to come down. Even then you could not see the whole extent of the river as gracefully, and without any apparent haste. The river was called Honia, which meant cure — bringing back to life. The Honia River never dried; it seemed to possess a strong will to live, scorning droughts and weather changes. And it went on the same way, never hurrying, never hesitating. People saw this and were happy.”

In the darkest hour of the night in 1996, Tupac Amaru Shakur became River Pac, as Honia became one with the Rapper/Shaman/Dramatist/Warrior. If you don’t believe it just lookatdaflickadawrist! Whoop. Flickadawrist. Voice of the representative:

Pac’s Pastor Says: “I Knew A Tupac That The Public Didn’t Know”

ALTER CALL. Rev. Herbert Daughtry stands silently calling on whosoever will come to the altar of “The House of The Lord Pentecostal Church,” as an eleven-year-old black man-child comes forward in the presence of Le Presence. Memories. Motions and Mimetic Forces. The 85-year-old Minister Re-Members:  “I knew a Tupac that the public didn’t know! I knew a young man with a profound sense of history, a young man who had done a lot of good things for a lot of people but did not want anybody to know it. He was a genius of a young man. Well, Tupac was eleven years old when he joined my church. The church has missions all over the country. I was great friends with his mother, Afeni, and the Black Panther Party. I was one of the few ministers who could relate. I came up out of the streets in Jersey City, New Jersey. My background in the streets is comparable to Malcolm. So I wasn’t scared of being in the streets or being with people from the streets. I am at home in the streets and I felt a great affinity with the Black Panther Party in the 1960’s. Feni was my friend and so when she decided to join the church there was only one church that she wanted to join, and she brought her children (Tupac and his sister), as well as her own sister, Gloria. Four of them came to the altar that Sunday. I remember asking Tupac, as I ask all of the young people, ‘Well son, what do you want to be?’ This is at the time that they were at the altar. You know, Tupac had a way of kinda looking down just before he looked up and spoke out.” {Rev. Daughtry gave me a perfect demonstration of Pac’s speaking style that day and it resuscitated memories of Tupac Shakur in conversation}

In a wide-ranging, exclusive interview with Rev. Daughtry, he shared rich memories of Tupac Shakur that appears nowhere else in print: “Eleven year old Tupac Shakur said at the altar in my church, in response to my question on what he wanted to be in life, ‘I want to be a  revolutionary.’  So obviously, Afeni had brought him to the right church. Tupac remained at our church until they moved to Baltimore. We kinda lost touch. And as everybody knows, unfortunately, his mother became a part of the drug scene.. But after Tupac reached his level of stardom we would always get together whenever he was in New York. Afeni would call and say, ‘Pac is in town. Why don’t you go by and see him?’ And I would.”

Rev. Daughtry Remembers When Pac was Shot Five Times

When asked about the last time he saw Tupac, prior to his exile, Rev. Daughtry paused for a moment and responded: “The last time I saw Pac was in Clinton Prison, upstate New York. I not only visited him at Clinton, I visited him before he got there. I visited him at Riker’s Island. Don’t you remember when Pac started saying, ‘I know I’m being called for more than this?’ We were talking at that time. Let me back up a bit. We really connected when he was shot five times in the lobby of the building in the recording studio in New York that night. Tupac sent for me. Before that time, his mother would say, ‘Go see Pac.’ But now he’d been shot up and had sent for me. So when I went to see him, the doctor was reluctant about my seeing him. I said, ‘I am his Pastor.’ They thought he was going out of here. He was very sick. When I saw him I said, ‘Listen son, I’ve come to pray for you and you are going to be alright.’” I looked over at Rev. Daughtry and asked, “Do you remember that prayer?” Pastor Daughtry quietly and meditatively shared the prayer he gave at Tupac’s hospital bedside: “’Lord, I came here  in your name to pray for your son. I believe in your promise.  You said if I ask in your name you would do it. Heal this young man and put him on his feet. Make him better than ever before…’ I said, ‘Son, I’ve prayed for you. You are going to be alright. We are going to have some serious talk when you are on your feet.’  When I got back to the church [My church is about one half hour from Bellevue Hospital where Pac was  hospitalized], my deacon, Deacon Leroy Abner, met me at the door. He said, ‘Pastor, have you heard about Pac?’ I said, ‘Nah, what happened?’ He said, ‘Pac is up!  He’s Gone!’ A half-hour after I left the hospital, Tupac was gone. That’s the power of prayer.”

The iconic sacred image of Tupac hanging on the cross resonated deeply in the Black Christian community where such symbolic imaging is ever-active. Tupac offers this insight: “My album cover is me on the cross being crucified, and the cross is the map. It’s got New York, Harlem, Brooklyn, everything. And I’m on the cross being crucified for keeping it real.” This practice has deep roots in Black figuralism.                                          

                                                       Shakur’s Ongoing Legacy

There’s no question as to why Tupac deserves to be included in every person’s list of the top 5 Hip Hop artists of all time. To be honest, this is now a tired question, because one already knows what the response will be even before the person being asked the question returns with an answer. It’s understood that Pac’s legacy lives on into today for more reasons that just the music he created. It’s understood that his name is one of the most frequently cited in interviews, that there have been Broadway shows inspired by his story and that there are university courses focused around his being.

Tupac is an example of a leader who wore not just his heart on his sleeve, but also his Truth. He’s one of the few who could be characterized as fearless — actually fearless. The energy that surrounded him was infectious, and naturally he was the epicenter of whichever circle he was a part of. A consciousness: the term that has been used to describe Fela Kuti, the most influential African musician and activist of all time, is one that also characterizes Pac. They both chose to stay standing, even after experiencing debilitating atrocities by the whim of the authorities. They both were also well-fit, primed, and popular choices for social mobilization. The modern Malcolm’s and Mandela’s. At the age of 23, Tupac had already gained global recognition, and in his own self-description he illuminates what it means to be a man with influence:

“You know those little things they have for the mice, where they run around in a circle and there’s little blocks for it? Well, society is like that. They’ll let you go as far as you want, but as soon as you start asking too many questions and you’re ready to change, boom – the block’ll come. I’ve got the whole world fearing me, you know what I’m sayin, at twenty-three, weighing a hundred and sixty pounds. And I ain’t even started. I ain’t even rolled my plan out yet and they’re scared. I got the vice president knowing who I am, the president, every cop in every city. And I haven’t even started working out a plan.”

There’s a certain uncensored, unfiltered, uninhibited way of being that a Fela or a Pac followed, that appealed to the average person, no matter where across the world that person resided. Because it inspired an exercising of freedom and honesty that was otherwise not so common. Through the music of Tupac Shakur, people all over the world were moved to action. It is well known that in Sierra Leone, even in Libya, soldiers in uniform wore a symbol on their lapel, of Pac. They not only saw him as a symbol of a soldier, but as a patron saint. His musical influence, coupled with his unique style, made him a film hero, fashion guru, and a person to be respected and honored.                                                          

                                                   Pac in the studio

Conversation with Kurupt in “Street Conscious Rap,” provides an insight into the creative artist and musician that is Tupac, and the motivation given by him to other musicians who worked in his vicinity:

S= Spady

K= Kurupt

S: Did your production things change when Tupac came in?

K: Inspiration, you know. Pac came in. I learned something from everybody. I learned something from Pac. I learned something from Suge…

S: What did you learn from Pac?

K: Pac writes songs in seven seconds.

S: C’mon, man?!

K: Entire songs.

S: Nah?! C’mon, Kurupt! Not seven seconds?!

K: This boy goes in there from twelve in the afternoon. By eight o’clock at night, he has at least three or four songs. He don’t want to be there when the producer making the beat. He wants to be done. As soon as he come in – brrr-rrr-rrr-rrr [like a shotgun] – done! “Alright, let me go rock it. AAH-AH-AAH!” He’ll do like three verses and won’t give a chorus. Then he’ll say, “Alright, take that off. Put another one on.” Brr-rrr-rrr-rrr-rrr! And this one, he may do one verse, a chorus, then a second verse. And then he’ll just take it off and do another one. Then he comes back the next day and just pieces it together. Man, this boy, he played no games! Like a hundred albums, man, in less than five weeks. And that’s what I learned from Pac. I learned aggressiveness… He brought a whole other part of the game. Before, we wasn’t as fired up to get into the studio to do things. We worked, and then we’d go enjoy ourselves. But Pac, he basically showed us that work is the key to life. And he showed, you know, about concentration. The reason why he worked so fast was because he concentrated. He enjoyed his work and that’s what he taught us. He taught us to enjoy our work instead of looking at it as work. Like, you do a song, then it’s party time, you know. Go out, have a ball, woo-woo-woo… Uh-uh! He enjoyed his work. That was his party time. So, that’s how I look at it now. Going to the studio, that is fun to me. That’s my enjoyment, you know.

S: Did you talk to him about writing lyrics at all?

K: I wasn’t asking anything. I just sat around him, you know. Game is learned from viewing rather than questioning. Questioning, you take the person off their focus, meaning they don’t go naturally, because they go try and show something, and that’s not natural. But when you just let them go natural and you peep, you got to just learn. It’s certain things to look at, man. You can tell it when you see it. He’s in there. He writes the song. He gets behind the booth. His energy splits the room in half! You feel like jumping off the top of the roof.

The integration of feeling, reasoning, and sense of character that Pac incited through his music and speech was truly revered. That’s why songs such as “Changes,” “Brenda had a Baby,” “Ghetto Gospel,” “Keep ya head up,” or “How do you want it,” remain immortalized – along with a list of much more — on playlists throughout the world.

Copyright James G. Spady and Akinyemi Bajulaiye 2015