I agree with you that his music lives on in ways that are hard to quantify or measure; cultural impact is often like that — immeasurable. It’s only when you are deeply ingrained in something that you can know how important, how relevant, how undying the adoration and admiration for someone or something actually is.
But I do feel that, generally, there is a giant disconnect with older hip-hop artists and younger fans. I can remember it as much as when I was a younger hip-hop fan, and how little exposure I had — outside of what one might have been naturally exposed to, just through the act of existing in the world—to older hip-hop.
I might have known, for example, that Boogie Down Productions or Eric B. and Rakim were legendary groups, and I might have even heard their music on occasion, but there wasn’t really this culture of preservation in effect. In some respects, it was even perceived as kind of wack or corny to be into that sort of stuff.
I wouldn’t argue that it’s wack or corny to like or listen to Tupac, but whether it’s Lil Yachty or these young kids who used to record in my studio — I’ve noticed that kids are just not familiar with the “music” in any kind of real or educated way.
There’s no doubt that people know some, maybe even a lot, of Tupac’s music. And his fan base even ‘till this day is rather large. But it feels very silo’d.
In terms of how his music is perceived in the canon of American art, he is not regarded by the establishment on the same level as say a Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Elvis, The Beatles, Stevie Wonder or even someone like Prince.
Which, to me… that’s an issue. I mean, he’s not even in the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame. I get it, he’s a hip-hop act, and there are still issues around hip-hop artists being in the rock hall period, but this guy, kids should be studying his music in schools (and I know, in some schools, they are).
The saddest thing is, as evidenced by conversations still happening today, even hip-hop fans can’t agree on Tupac’s merit. Some people would argue he’s the most overrated rapper of all time. It’s a little mind-boggling.
But like I said, that’s just the way it is.