It’s difficult to fathom that 16 years have passed since your untimely passing. 16 birthdays, 16 new years, 16 summers, 16 winters, 16 years since I shed my first tears over your passing as I drove home and learned of your fate from the KMEL DJ. 16 – when an MC performs a perfect 4-4 rhyme. 16 inexorable years without your conscious, eye-opening, socially aware lyrics I loved, I yearned. 16 long years despite posthumous CD releases and Elvis-like rumors.
Far too soon, like far too many, you were forced to leave. Taken from us. Not only you, but hip hop too has been taken from us, hijacked by the greedy and commercial rap that stereotypes the very community you illuminated. I digress. What I would have given to hear your 37 year old self amend Changes in 2008 that the lyrics and though it seems heaven sent, we ain’t ready to see a black President to I know it is heaven sent, the time is now, we have a black President. Actually, you would have done a better job than that.
I would love to see the 41 year old you. I imagine you, like a few other socially aware celebrities, as a surrogate for the President Obama campaign. I envision you galvanizing communities to ensure each voter had the proper ID to vote in the upcoming election – reminding them of the struggle for such right, while admonishing those in power attempting to remove that right, not privilege.
You were more than a hip–hop artist to me. You were a voice for the voiceless, a poet, and in your words – a rose who grew from concrete. You were simultaneously on time and before your time. In 1993, you told us that they got money for wars but can’t feed the poor. Two wars were waged in 2002 that made those lyrics ring true once again. You reminded us of the plight of some single mothers in your love letter Dear Mama. You pleaded with us that despite being fed up, to keep our heads up. Nearly two decades before our current ‘war on women’s rights’ was waged, you reminded men that since a man can’t make one [baby] he has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one. Posthumously you implored us to change and not be jaded by the lack of change that surrounded us.
Like a soothsayer, you told us that life goes on, that we should not wallow in loss. We choose to be inspired by your knowledge, your voice – to see each other as a brother instead of two distant strangers.
“Every time I speak I want the truth to come out. Every time I speak I want a shiver.
I don’t want them to be like they know what I’m gonna say because it’s polite.
I’m not saying I’m gonna rule the world or I’m gonna change the world,
but I guarantee you that I will spark the brain that will change the world.
And that’s our job, It’s to spark somebody else watching us.”
Rest in paradise!