One of the most gifted lyricists of all time, it’s no surprise that Tupac Shakur was also one of the most well-read rappers around. While the imagery of being a thug was certainly a part of Shakur’s iconography, to highlight that and ignore the importance Shakur put on both the art of reading, the construction of literature and the necessity of a good education, would be to misrepresent the hero that Shakur quickly became.
It’s said that when Shakur misbehaved as a child his mother would instruct him to read The New York Times as punishment, which, when you think about it, is a pretty ingenious way of both punishing and educating your child. While it may have upset a young Shakur, it would eventually help him greatly as he quickly gained a reputation on the West Coast for being a formidable rapper, using his rich vocabulary to create rhymes and schemes that most hip-hop artists of the day could only marvel at.
There’s no doubt then, that Shakur was a well-read man. He chose to use his gained knowledge to help try and educate those around him who hadn’t been as blessed. Using his knowledge to imbue his gangster rap songs with a sense of command, was what set Shakur apart from the rest.
Within his songs, he would explore treacherous themes of poverty, Blackness, police brutality, his own spirituality and countless existential themes, all compressed within a radio ready anthem. It was a proverbial breath of fresh air.
“When people say ‘Pac is the best rapper of all times, they don’t just mean he’s the best rapper,” recalled Shock G in the documentary Thug Angel. “They just mean what he had to say was most potent, most relevant, and that he was the better human being.” Reported by Black Faves, there was a good reason for this, Tupac used his love of literature to help embolden his lyrics into something far more grandiose than it first seems.
Black Faves have collated a list of the singer’s favourite books, titles which he had mentioned during interviews and conversations during his tragically short career. Killed at the tender age of 25, Shakur never got to reach his full potential but, judging by his trajectory, he was set to become an icon of his generation and countless more too. In fact, despite his death, his searing songs and charming personality have already done that.
Tupac Shakur’s favourite books:
The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron
The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X
The Buying of the President by Charles Lewis
In Contempt by Christopher Darden
How To Argue & Win Every Time: At Home, At Work, In Court, Everywhere, Everyday by Gerry Spence
Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley
Assata: An Autobiography by Assata Shakur
Ponder On This: A Compilation by Alice A. Bailey
The Phenomenon of Man by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin