In early July 2019, the poetry of Tupac Shakur was showcased at a major literature festival in the UK.
The Bradford Literature Festival, one of the UK’s most inspirational events, celebrates the written and spoken word. Held annually across ten days in the English City of Bradford, the festival invites authors, poets and musicians to speak passionately, sharing their expertise on all things literature.
One of the events was Tupac Amaru Shakur: The Rose That Grew From Concrete, an analysis of Tupac’s poetry. The panel, chaired by journalist Jacqueline Springer, included poet Anthony Anaxagorou and musician Saul Williams.
In his late teens, Tupac wrote his most inner thoughts and feelings on paper, in the form of poetry. Released in 1999, through the non-stop work of Leila Steinberg and Tupac’s Mother, Afeni Shakur, was the book ‘The Rose that Grew from Concrete’ .
It was in 1989 when a young, ambitious Tupac met with educator Leila Steinberg in Marin City. After talking to Tupac about various topics, she invited him to attend her writing workshop. According to Leila, the poem ‘The Rose that Grew from Concrete’ was one of the first poems he wrote.
Tupac’s Words Heard In Bradford
The discussion covered a wide range of topics surrounding Tupac’s poetry, music and life. Both Saul and Anthony gave their interpretations of Tupac’s poetry, trying to get into the mind of young Tupac.
With The Rose that Grew from Concrete book in hand, the panel picked one poem each to read. Anthony opened the book to the poem ‘Tears From a Star’ which he read to the audience. Tupac wrote this poem for himself and April.
In contrast, Saul’s choice, ‘Nothing Can Come Between Us 4 John’ focuses on male friendship. In this poem, Tupac gives his thoughts on his good friend John Cole, whom he attended drama school with.
Explaining the reasons why he chose this particular poem, Saul talks about magnitude of Tupac caring for his friend. He said; “I was in Atlanta when he shot that cop, I remember the excitement. But to think that this nineteen-year-old man was capable of saying to his friend ‘I love you and always be there for you’, is really fascinating to me.”
Giving his analysis of ‘The Rose that Grew from Concrete’ book, Saul describes it as beautiful, which also shows the reader the complexity of Tupac.
Finally, a fitting ending to the event was a discussion on Tupac Shakur’s legacy. Tupac died in 1996 but across the world, every day his music played on stations, in cars and clubs.
Above all and in closing, it seems like Saul summed up Tupac’s legacy. “Everyday in LA they play nothing but Tupac on the hip hop stations. It’s been that way for twenty years now. It’s embedded into everybody growing up. Tupac’s legacy started before he died. There’s still no other rapper measure up to him.”
The Impact Of Tupac’s Poetry
Ceiling Demons – Alt Hip-Hop
It was a very insightful and honest discussion on the impact of such a young visionary artist. The panel was very knowledgeable of Tupac’s unique upbringing and story. The poetry found in the book is utterly remarkable. Saul provided some interesting ideas from an artist’s perspective and Jacqueline’s and Anthony’s contributions were certainly passionate. The influence Tupac left upon the world is unlike any other and as a result we’re still feeling those effects today. This is a testament to one of the greatest young creative minds of the late 20th century.
Charlotte – Yorkshire
The Tupac event was a fantastic and touching conversation on the artistic and poetic legacy of music legend Tupac. Anthony and Saul came together to discuss how Tupac’s poetry offers valuable insights into the artist’s inner emotional world. It crucially enables us to glimpse a softer and emotionally vulnerable side to the star. This was deeply buried beneath the performative hyper-masculinity of hip hop culture. ‘Pac’s poetry is a stunning body of work, which is perhaps maybe overshadowed by Tupac’s immense musical success and legacy. It shouldn’t be underestimated in its value to deepen our appreciation of Tupac as a whole being.