Kevin Powell still remembers being in the Las Vegas hospital where Tupac Shakur died 15 years ago today.
“Given that he had survived the first shooting in 1994, a lot of us just believed it wasn’t that bad. When we got the word he passed, we convened at the hospital,” Powell said. “It was sad. It seems like yesterday. It was the beginning of the end of what we call the golden era of hip hop.”
Powell is writing a biography of Shakur with the blessing of Afeni Shakur, Tupac’s mother.
“He’s more relevant than ever not just here in America, but all over the globe,” Powell said. “He really is the most significant icon that hip hop has ever produced. Like a John Lennon or a Bob Marley or an Elvis Presley, it’s the same type of cultural impact.”
Facebook and Twitter have been buzzing with posts commemorating the slain rapper. Shakur, 25, died six days after being gunned down in Las Vegas.
The man who once rapped about never seeing a black president in his lifetime and snubbed his nose at authority would be 40 years old today if he was still alive. His reach is so broad in death that his music has been part of the pope’s official playlist and he’s sold millions in posthumous record releases.
Shakur, while prolific in the recording studio, also made headlines for his arrests, drug use and the infamous battle between East Coast and West Coast rappers in the early 1990s.
“Don’t get caught up in the ugly stuff… We should look at his work ethic and his brutal honesty as a human being with all his flaws that he admitted to at times,” Powell said.
“He was a mirror saying I’m a reflection of all that’s happening in your world,” Powell said.
Powell, who interviewed Shakur several times in the 1990s, said that Shakur was moving towards being more overtly political in his work and thought about how to get the millions who bought his records and turn them into voters involved in the political process.
Powell debunked the rumors that have surged over the last 15 years that Shakur is alive and in hiding.
“I’ve stayed at Afeni Shakur’s property in North Carolina and Pac is dead,” he said. “The reality is he’s gone, he’s never coming back and I think he the lessons I take from Tupac is that in 25 short years, he did more than some people would do in a 100 years.”