ONTD Political

Strictly 4 everyone: Why do Kremlin apparatchiks, African rebels, and the Vatican all love Tupac?

5:58 pm - 12/20/2012
Strictly 4 everyone: Why do Kremlin apparatchiks, African rebels, and the Vatican all love Tupac?

Tom Friedman's column today reveals the Vladislav Surkov, the deputy prime minister and political strategist known as "Putin's Machiavelli," is actually more of a "Makaveli":

Surkov, once described as Putin’s Machiavelli, is impressive, and his plans to stimulate innovation in Russia sounded real to me. But I couldn’t resist noting that innovative cultures don’t do things like throw the punk band Pussy Riot into prison for two years for performing a “punk prayer” in a cathedral. That sends a bad signal to all freethinkers. Surkov, who also keeps a picture of the American rapper Tupac Shakur behind his desk, pushes back. “Tupac Shakur is a genius, and the fact that he was in prison did not interrupt either his creative juices or the innovative development of the United States.” Pussy Riot is no Tupac Shakur, he added. “Being orthodox myself, I feel really sorry for the girls from Pussy Riot, but [their situation] has no implications for the innovative developments of Russia.”

Surkov is the second prominent cultural conservative to out himself as a Tupac fan in recent days, after Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who told GQ that "Killuminati" is one of his favorite songs and laments that modern hip hop has "crossed over and sort of become indistinguishable from pop music in general."

Think it's odd that these two men share devout Christianity, culturally conservative views, and a fondness for West Coast gangsta rap? Consider the fact that the Vatican included the slain rapper's posthumous hit "Changes" on its Myspace playlist in 2009.

American conservatives may still like to take shots at hip hop now and then -- witness last year's fracas after the decidedly PG-13 rated "conscious" rapper Common was invited to the White House -- but I imagine this will mellow with the ascendance of figures like Rubio and Surkov -- both in their 40s -- who grew up listening to it. (Even Vladimir Putin has been known to attend a rap battle now and then.)

But what's interesting about Tupac in particular is that he seems to appeal to both the world's most powerful people and its most marginalized. As Sean Jacobs wrote last year, Tupac's status as an icon among urban African youth today has eclipsed older figures like Bob Marley. Jacobs links to a 2003 Wilson Center report that attempts to explain the reasons for the rapper's continued appeal:

A popular T-shirt has a black background, showing Tupac (spelled “2Pac”) looking alert, with U.S. dollar signs ringing the collar and his most popular slogan, “All Eyez on Me,” across the bottom. “All Eyez on Me,” indeed—Tupac’s lyrics expressing his alienation, fury, and his conviction that his quest for revenge is thoroughly justified, the police sirens in the background of many of his songs, the belief that he was not really murdered but is still alive (often proclaimed in “Tupac Lives” graffiti), all conjure an image of a defiant, proud antihero, and an inspiration for many of Africa’s young and alienated urbanites.

Tupac -- whose Black Panther parents named him after an indigenous Peruvian rebel leader and folk hero -- has also been adopted as an icon by rebel groups in Congo, Liberia, the Ivory Coast, and elsewhere. The largest rebel faction in Sierra Leone's civil war, the Revolutionary United Front, commonly wore Tupac t-shirts and took on his lyrics as mantras. As Paul Rogers notes, as recently as 2011, a Libyan rebel fighter told a British journalist, "I only listen to 2Pac before going to shoot Gaddafi boys."

Compared to other global icons like, say, Michael Jackson, Tupac is a figure very much associated with a geographic region (California, city of Compton, etc.) and the tragically short era in which he was active. So it's a bit surprising that his appeal has turned out to be universal enough that everyone from Kremlin political technologists, to Tea Party senators, to African rebels, to Haitian gang leaders to rural Chinese teenagers can find something to identify with in his work.
papasha_mueller I suggest you rework the header.20th-Dec-2012 04:30 pm (UTC)
It should include 'Florida senators'.
Just place it between the 'African rebels' and unnamed 'Vatican', i guess it should be right.
homasse Re: I suggest you rework the header.20th-Dec-2012 04:50 pm (UTC)

That's the title of the article as is.
papasha_mueller Oooops, sorry.20th-Dec-2012 05:08 pm (UTC)
I thought it's you who wrote this bullshit...
Pardonne mois.

poetic_pixie_13 20th-Dec-2012 06:58 pm (UTC)
I love when rich, conservative white dudes talk about how much they love Pac.


Do you actually listen to his music? Like. Although it does make a bit of sense since missing the point is something white dudes specialize in.

Also, 2Pac spam because I can.

If they earned it — I think that’s good and I think that they deserve it. But even if you earned it, you still owe. Look at me. I’m not — I don’t have that mega-money. But I feel guilty walking by somebody. I gotta give him some mail. And if I know I got $3,000 in my pocket, I feel it’s wrong to give that person a quarter or a dollar. It’s wrong. Only you know what you’ve got in your pocket, and that’s wrong, no matter what they do. If they take it and drink it, they take it and drink it. … We all know how hard it is, and it’s not about you being good or bad. Because he don’t got don’t mean he was bad or don’t mean he’s a criminal or don’t mean he’s crazy or a drug addict or none of that. It just means he don’t got. And ain’t it bad that you got. Can you imagine somebody having $32 million … and this person has nothing? And you can sleep? These are the type of people who get humanitarian awards — millionaires. How can they be humanitarians? The fact that they’re millionaires and there’s so many poor people shows how inhumane they are, you know what I’m saying? And that bugs me. I’m not saying that I’m never gonna be rich, but I’m saying there’s a struggle, and I think everybody deserves, and I think there’s a way to pay these people.

It just takes to be revolutionary, and it takes that to do something out of the ordinary. I think that if we just said, “OK, I got an idea. No more porno buildings — let’s build houses.” Or “No more polo games. Let’s build houses for poor people.” OK, I know you rich. I know you got $40 billion, but can you just keep it to one house? You only need one house. And if you only got two kids, can you just keep it to two rooms? I mean, why have 52 rooms when you know there’s somebody with no room? It just don’t make sense to me. And then these people celebrate Christmas — they got big trees, huge trees, all the little trimmings. Everybody got gifts, and there’s somebody starving. And they’re having a white Christmas. They’re having a great Christmas, eggnog and the whole nine. That’s not fair to me.

massielita 21st-Dec-2012 02:46 am (UTC)
Flawless post, bb. I love Tupac. He really was an intelligent man and spoke so much truth. I hate that it all got overshadowed by the east/west coast rivalry and then he was killed. I think if he would have been alive today, he would've walked away from all that (like Snoop did) and would gotten his actions aligned with his ideals and been a great leader.
jugglingeggs 21st-Dec-2012 10:58 am (UTC)
_p needs more Pac!

Always Flawless!

Edited at 2012-12-21 11:18 am (UTC)
yeats 20th-Dec-2012 08:13 pm (UTC)
tupac also has a huge footprint in south africa....i wrote my thesis in college on the connection between hip-hop and apartheid (and the post-apartheid state), and i remember reading about gangsters commissioning a mural of pac in the cape flats.
a_phoenixdragon 20th-Dec-2012 09:47 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry, what?
tsu_ 20th-Dec-2012 10:33 pm (UTC)
hey you know what else they all have in common? anger
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