It is no surprise that musicians love music, but sometimes rap seems so apart from the crowd that it continually shifts a few eyebrows around when a hip-hop star reveals a passion for an artist outside of their disparate genre. It’s far from an unusual happening, with Dr Dre sharing his love for Nirvana, Kanye West publically eulogising The Red Hot Chilli Peppers and ICE T declaring his devotion for death metal, but it remains somewhat of an oddity nevertheless.
Tupac ‘2Pac’ Shakur may well be the biggest rapper of all time; at the very least, he cruises into the top five, and it would seem that the icon of the hip hop world had his ear to the ground for all sorts of inspiration.
In 2016, a letter that the rapper penned to his high school crush when he was only 17 went up for auction, and it revealed two things. Firstly, it showed that beneath his tough exterior, he had a somewhat more soppy side. Secondly, it confirmed the enigmatic superstar’s love for Prince.
“‘We both love Prince we have both had heartbreak and we both adore candles,” the rapper wrote to his crush, a girl he called Beethoven for her virtuoso piano playing. It’s hardly Byronic love poetry, and lord knows if it secured him a date, but it is certainly of interest as a historical document. So much interest, in fact, that it fetched £24,000 ($33,000) at auction.
It is not the only time his love for the guitar god formerly known as Prince has been disclosed. Jamila Barnes, 2Pac’s cousin, revealed in an interview with BETNetworks, that the late artist would set up home concerts between them when they were young, “he would have us perform different groups, but his favourite that he would have us perform over and over again, would be Prince and The Revolution, and the main song we always did was ‘1999’.”
“We would sing into a spoon,” Barnes charmingly continues, “and he would introduce the ‘band’ in all his Prince glory, fully in character.”
Speaking about the sweet anecdote, his sister revealed that she asked him one day how he always gets to be Prince, to which he acrimoniously replied, “I’m the one out here getting us work! Are you gonna be out here booking us jobs and getting us performances? Until you’re ready to be out here managing this group and taking us on tour I’m a be Prince! And if anybody got a problem with me being Prince, then they need to let me know!”
It is pretty much as charming as an enacted egoist rant can get, and it reveals not only the rapper’s devotion to Prince but his singular dedication to his craft, even if it was simply using a whisk as a microphone at the time.
Over the course of his glistening career, which was cut tragically short, the rapper sampled Prince’s ‘Do Me Baby’ for his cautionary ode to the City of Angels with ‘To Live and Die in L.A.’, as well as another track penned under his Makaveli alias ‘Me and My Girlfriend’ that samples ‘If I Was Your Girlfriend’.
The mutual respect between the two late luminaries resulted in a beautiful friendship, and between them, they produced some of the greatest music of an era. These early accounts of Tupac are sadly coloured in the sombre, bittersweet hue of a roaring creative flame, tragically snuffed out before its time.