Black Jesus found in Tupac Shakur
Tupac Amaru Shakur was an American rapper famous by his stage names Makavelli or Pac. He was born in the year 1971 in Brooklyn, New York by the name Lesane Parish Crooks. However, the name was altered by his mother, Afeni Shakur while he was still a child. The name ‘Tupac’ implies ‘shinning serpent’ while the name ‘Amaru’ means ‘Thankful to God’. Tupac had successful career in music and acting and social activism, right from his childhood in ‘The Baltimore School of performing Arts’. He did and sold many hit records. For instance, there was ‘All eyez on me’ released in 1996 which sold over six million copies and changed the music industry especially the view and nature on rap music. To date, he has sold about 75 million music albums making him one of world’s most successful artists. His music was influenced by his childhood life and covered on various problems and issues in society. Despite his success in music, he was involved in a number of lawsuits and criminal acts. For instance, he was found guilty of sexual assault, which saw him serve one and half years in prison. On September 1996, Tupac Shakur was shot dead and killed in Las Vegas, Nevada (Olson, 2005). Different reasons have been given for his killing. Tupac was known for his opposition towards societal norms, values and systems. He promoted such issues such as equality in divided world. However, is there a black Jesus in Tupac Shakur?
I would argue that there is a black Jesus in Tupac Shakur. My argument is guided by the acts and lifestyle that Tupac led. When compared to those of Jesus, most are very similar. They have various similarities between themselves. For instance, both were heroes to many and influenced many people’s lives. Jesus through his works and teachings influenced millions of Christians up to today. Similarly, Tupac through his works also influences and inspires millions of people especially American Black youths. They were both loved by many both in their lifetime and even on and after their death. Both had or did great works that changed their environments and society at large. During their lifetimes, they had a particular group of people that they in charge of. On one hand, Jesus had the twelve disciples while Tupac had ‘Thug-life’ and the Outlawz. Both Tupac and Jesus passionately promoted and defended the perceptions and views they had on life. Both Jesus and Tupac advocated and promoted egalitarianism, which promotes equality for all in the political, social and economic spheres of life.
Just like Jesus, Tupac is still a broadly celebrated, adored and controversial individual among most people even after his death. Celebrations and anniversaries concerning Tupac’s life are held annually. This is similar to the life Jesus that is celebrated annually through events such as Christmas and Easter. Just like Jesus, Tupac Shakur has managed to receive a cult status. He has an enormous following especially among the Black American community (Dyson, 2001) Tupac Shakur has been able to get the following because of the great devotion of his followers who spread his influence through writings, poetry, songs, honors and tributes, celebrations and websites. They can be compared to the apostles that Jesus had, who helped spread his gospel and view on life. Just like Jesus, he was an intelligent and had a significant and different way both story telling and thinking. Due to this, his works in music, writing and acting were very successful (Shakur, 1999).This has led to the posthumous release of his poetry, music and movies most of which he wrote before his death.
There are also some myths, acts, views and occurrences based on Tupac that portray him as the ‘Black Jesus’. The myths views, acts and occurrences on Tupac directly compare or are similar to those of Jesus. For instance, there is the myth that just like Jesus, Tupac will also resurrect. Different people believe that Tupac like Jesus will come back to life again. An example of an occurrence that is similar in both is the day of their death. Both Jesus and Tupac died on a Friday. Both Jesus and Tupac died young but had immense contributions and impacts in their respective societies. They left great legacies despites their early deaths. Both Jesus and Tupac died through violent ways. Tupac was shot dead while Jesus was crucified on the cross. Both promoted views that bring about equality in society and the works they left behind are still influencing society up to day. For instance, Jesus left behind the teaching in gospel books in the bible that are used to teach people up to date. Tupac also left behind many works of art such as poems, movies and songs that are used to inspire different people in the globe. An appropriate example is the poem in the book, ‘The rose that grew on concrete” The poem,’ The power of a smile’ is an example of his inspirational works (Shakur, 1999).
To analyze the issue of a Black Jesus in Tupac, comparison between his song ‘Black Jesus’ and the new testament provides an effective basis of making the analysis. In the song Tupac says, “Black Jesus; you can be Christian, Baptist, Jehovah Witness, Straight, tatted up, no doubt, no doubt, Islamic, won’t matter to me.” Tupac portrays himself as a representative of all men despite their attributes and that he is the black Jesus. This is similar to the words of Jesus in the bible seen in (1 Timothy 2:6) which states’ “The man Christ Jesus who gave himself as a ransom for all men.” Jesus Christ represents all men on earth and similarly as seen in the song, did Tupac.
Tupac is clearly portrayed as the black Jesus in the song shown by its chorus that states, “We believed in you. Everything you do. Just want to let you know, how we feel Black Jesus!” It shows Tupac as the Black Jesus who the people believed in to lead them in life. The people call for his help when they state that what they need and pray to is, “Somebody that hurt like we hurt. Somebody that smoke like we smoke. Drink like we drink. That understand where we coming from. That’s who we pray to. We need help y’all.”
These statements show that the people believed in Tupac as their Jesus because he had lived and experienced the kind of life they go through thus would understand their condition and needs.
In the song, Tupac states, “prayin to God for my squad” which shows how Tupac was caring for his people that he would even spend time praying for his followers. These actions can be compared to the actions of Jesus in (John 17:9) in which Jesus states, “I prayed for them. I am not praying for the world but for those you have given me for they are yours.” This shows that the actions of Tupac praying for his followers can be compared to those of Jesus praying for his disciples. This is portrays Tupac Shakur as the Black Jesus.
In the song ‘Black Jesus’, Tupac states’ “Who’s got the heart to stand beside me? I feel my enemies creepin up in silence… Can’t even bend my knees just a lost cloud… give me a reason to survive, in this earthly hell” This can be compared to the writings on Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane in the book of (Mark 14: 34) “My heart is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death……..take this cup from me…….” Both had reached a point where life had overwhelmed them and they were calling out for help to God. Tupac viewed himself as the black Jesus and only God could help out of his situation.
Finally, Tupac portrays himself as Black Jesus when he states in the song, “God gave me these commandments, the world is scandalous. Blast til they holy high; baptize they evil minds, Wise, no longer blinded, watch me shine trick”. Just like Jesus in the bible, Tupac is of the view that God wants to use him to change his environments. He sees himself as the instrument through which God will change the black community. In the song, he states, “Outlawz we got our own race, culture, religion, rebelling against the system.” The words showed him as the leader or the Outlawz group which promoted new ideas and perceptions on life.
Tupac is also portrayed as the black Jesus through the acts and things he did for his black community. His actions led to many people viewing him as the savior. He had helped uplift the black community. He had changed the view that most people had on Black people especially the view on rap music. For instance, he helped increase the popularity of rap music. His quality and excellent work made most people appreciate rap as a genre of music. He also helped minimize gang violence especially in his black community. His death helped reduce cases of gang violence and hatred. This can be compared to Jesus who changed the view people had on Christianity. Tupac also did some wonderful acts to help improve his society and environment. This is compared to actions of Jesus Christ who when he was on earth did excellent deeds to help change and better his community. For instance, there is the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation. This is a charity organization that helps young people involved in different areas of art.
However, though my analysis presents Tupac Shakur as the black Jesus, there are some things he did or engaged in that opposed this view. For instance, he was found guilty of sexual assault leading to one and half year jail term. He had also assaulted a director by the name Allen Hughes. Most of his songs were very explicit and contained violent lyrics especially against the police. They dealt on gangs, sex and fights (Olson, 2005). His music promoted violence, which led to the killing of Texas state trooper by a teenager who had been listening to his song, ‘2pacalypse now’.
Jesus was meant to bring salvation to the world. He was meant to change the views and perceptions people have on different life issues. He was meant to advocate rights of all men such as equality. From the analysis above, Tupac serves all the objectives that Jesus was meant to serve. From my point of view, this makes Tupac the black Jesus.
Dyson, M. E. Holler if you hear me: searching for Tupac Shakur. New York, NY: Basic Civitas Books, 2001
Olson, N. Tupac Shakur. Mankato, MN: Capstone Press, 2005
Shakur, T. The rose that grew from concrete. New York, NY: Pocket Books, 1999