Remembering Tupac

Greetings fam! Hope all is well with everyone on this Saturday evening. Today is the day that the majority of hip hop fans spend celebrating the birth of Tupac Shakur. If he had lived, he would be 47 years old, which seems crazy to me.  Maybe it is because I was so young when he was alive. Or because we have been nearly suffocated with tons of t-shirts, mugs, memes, artwork, multiple album releases, and so much more.

I was sitting in my house thinking back on my first encounter with his music. I first saw him with Digital Underground (Yes, I used to do the “Humpty Dance”). But, when he emerged as an artist and I saw the video for “Brenda’s Got a Baby”, I became somewhat enthralled with him.

The message and images in the video were things that I knew all too well myself. I had a close friend who had been molested by her own father for years, young girls being pregnant was commonplace, drugs were prevalent, and social workers decorated many a doorstep. But, the way that he weaved the story was special and I had found a new rapper to follow and music to consume.

Tupac spoke on topics that had not been displayed so openly which appealed to me greatly. I seemed to always be on the lookout for music that spoke to my own tortured soul. “Keep Your Head Up” gave us hope, encouraged us, and solidified the fact that he loved us. I followed him closely, listening to “If My Homie Calls”, “I Get Around”, and more but, then he began to change a bit and I began to fall back.

That thug shit was a theme that although very familiar, was absolutely exhausting. His roughness bristled my nerves and I found myself tuning out when his music was played. But, as soon as I was going to throw him away, he dropped his “Me Against the World” album, and I was rocking with him again. The album displayed his feelings towards his mother, the revolutionary Afeni Shakur, displayed his sexuality on “Temptations” and highlighted vulnerability on “So Many Tears”. I was impressed and once again captured.

I remember when he died very vividly. I was almost 16 years old, living in a place that I didn’t want to be, selling dime bags of weed, struggling to adjust once again. I was sitting on the stoop in my projects when news broke across the radio airwaves. One of my homeboys stopped by as they began to play Tupac’s music. Tears ran down our faces but neither of us spoke. He was gone just as so many young black men had. Our spirits sagged.

I often sit and listen to Pac and reflect on the state of hip hop today. Lyricism is not as highlighted as in decades before and at one point, I honestly felt like throwing the whole culture away. Then, I recall some old heads talking about Tupac in similar ways that some speak on artists today.

He was a thug and a revolutionary talking about gangs, pussy, struggle, drugs, and more. They didn’t know what to do with him.  There is a difference between him and some of these untalented, new school rappers– he had a message. He was like a hood prophet, politicking on the state of affairs. So, I hang in there, as an unofficial hip hop ambassador. I feel a sense of responsibility to preserve a culture that rocked me, nourished me, fed me, and kept me in some of the most difficult times of my life.I have said before that hip hop saved my life and that is not an understatement. Tupac is another artist that played a part in my evolution.

It seems redundant to say that Tupac’s memory will never die, but it is so true. He will forever be remembered for his substantial contribution to the culture, for his influence on so many people, for the indelible mark he made upon this earth. Peace to his spirit.

 

Rest on Tupac,

Ashaki Omikunle Ali

 

Photo Cred: https://www.gettyimages.com/photos/tupac-shakur

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The Elephant in the Room

Greetings family,

In light of all of the recent stories of suicides, I felt compelled to speak on the topic. I have heard people say some very judgmental and very hurtful things. So, here I sit this Friday afternoon, thinking and writing about the times when I contemplated and even attempted to commit suicide.

I liken my past experience with suicidal thoughts as being in a dark pit, feeling myself sinking but not having the strength or willpower to fight against drowning. At the times I have been in those positions, people in my life thought I had it all together. I was a nurse, raising a young family, volunteering in my community, and contributing to the world at large. They really knew my life was great. Sadly, it was not. 

However, no one could see inside my mind and heart. I was struggling- struggling with strained familial relationships, struggling with traumas from my past, struggling with financial issues, just struggling. I felt as if I would be worth more if I were dead. It was awful. I felt like I was lugging around sacks of despair. I had become a “bag lady” as Erykah Badu sang about so beautifully.

As I sit here and think back carefully, I realize that I have been fighting feelings of depression, inferiority, and regret for most of my life. Nevertheless, I fought past those feelings and chose to continue to live. 

But, so many people give up the fight. They become weary and the overwhelming feeling of wanting the pain to go away causes them to end their life. A lot of people feel that suicide is a cop out but in my life, suicide seemed to be an option to put an end to the incessant misery. 

I believe we all owe a debt to our society to at least check up on people. The disconnection between people is wide and intimacy is has been flung out the window. We live in a world of feigned connection. Social media has taken away true socializing, and likes, shares, and commenting have taken away conversation. We have to do better. People are hurting, struggling, and considering ending it all. Let’s help them. Check on your people. Consider it because one day, it could be you.

 

Ashaki

 

Going With the Flow

Greetings everyone! I cannot believe it is Friday again already. Where did the week disappear to? I am still reeling from all the changes occurring in my life currently. I have no doubt I am also still feeling the vibes from the awesome Full Moon as well.

I have prided myself on being adaptable but, this time, I honestly am having difficulty adjusting. I can be change averse at times especially if I feel I have been forced and did not have complete control over said changes. But, I am so resilient and persistent that I have no doubt that I will get a handle on things very soon.

I am truly finding out what I am made of and I am always open to messages that the universe provides to confirm and validate my feelings and thoughts on the direction of my life. I have realized that in my quiet, my inner hearing is more powerful and poignant. And connection to others is so very important.

I had an awesome and beautiful discussion with my younger cousin yesterday that set me straight and then throughout last night and this morning, more messages were received confirming my new way of being and thinking.

In the past I have been guilty of making movements that I may not have been entirely sold on but took because of assumed obligations. I have a large family for which I have been the “breadwinner” for the entire time. I have never been in a situation where someone else was paying the majority of the bills in my house.

I realize that I have done a lot of things including remaining in places much too long, and gave people passes out of fear. Because of my past and the things that lie in my subconscious, I fear lack, I fear not knowing the “how”, I fear letting go and allowing flow.

But, in not allowing things to flow as the universe would have, I have created obstacles in my own journey and hindrances in my growth. It is a hard pill to swallow but, to get better, I have to acknowledge and move on and in a different manner. Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

So, here I sit, uncomfortable in my new situation but determined to never look or move backwards. I have chosen to take more risks and to pursue things that I am passionate about . Sometimes we must bet it all! A friend used to say “the bigger the risk, the greater the reward. And I am so ready to receive!

In the meantime, I will be mindful in my decisions, continue to make strides daily so that I can live life on my own terms, doing worthwhile work, and go with the flow!

Peace,

Ashaki