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Mixed reactions to Tupac's death

by Susanna Henighan

On Saturday September 7, rapper Tupac Shakur was shot after a Mike Tyson fight in Las Vegas. Six days later, Shakur died of complications from the shooting.

Across the country this week, fans and observers have been mourning, discussing and analyzing the death of the rap artist. Some Oberlin students also reacted strongly to the recording artist's death, while others were not surprised or effected.

Sophomore Althea Nicholson was devastated by the news. She had met Shakur this summer while working on the movie "Gridlock" in Los Angeles, which featured Shakur. Shakur and Nicholson grew up in the same apartment building in New York.

"Some people see Tupac as being a cop killer or a racist and other people admire Tupac. I am devastated because he didn't have a chance to turn his life around," Nicholson said. She said that Shakur had two sides, "a sweet side and a not sweet side." Nicholson said she only knew the sweet side.

Other students feel more definitively that Shakur deserved his death. "He got what he was begging for," sophomore David Griggs said. "He showed a blatant disrespect for East Coast music. He was trying to be a gangster, but learned the hard way."

Sophomore Rich Santiago said, "This is not an innocent black man being shot down. But it's sad to see the aura that was built up around him actually come to a head."

Shakur's music was commonly characterized as gangsta rap, and his topics often included violence, guns, sex and drugs. He also was part of a dispute between East Coast and West Coast rap music, and he often laced his lyrics with threats against East Coast rappers.

Some students see Tupac's death as part of a larger picture. Sophomore Addie Rolnick said, "When people close to my age, or close to my reality, die, it makes me react."

Santiago said, "They are going to use Tupac as a symbol, which is what we don't need. Lots of people will associate his death with rap." He went on to say that rap is naturally tied in the public's mind to the inner city, which is tied to black youth.

Nicholson said that the media plays a major role in the issues that surround Shakur's death. "Unless you care about the media, or how it portrays black men, and particularly black men with money, you won't care about this," she said.

Some students warn that Shakur's death will give added credence to the generalization that rap music is only about violence and death. "Tupac is only portraying what young black men in today's society see everyday. Other artists are allowed to talk about their struggles. Tupac was an artist first, not a gangster," Santiago said.

Oberlin's campus was fairly quiet in reaction to the rapper's death. It occupied dinner discussions for some, but for others it was not even surprising.

"I don't even think many people know about his death," Nicholson said. "People are caught up in their own world and politics."

"I thought I'd see a bigger response to it," Griggs said.

Santiago said that he didn't think most of the Oberlin campus knew who Shakur was. He also said that many students at Oberlin have the same misconceptions about rap music as the general public. "We come in with our own biases," he said.

Rolnick also said that the response was small, but she wasn't surprised. "I think it would be really fake if people were grieving a lot - most people don't care," she said.

Related Stories:

Yahoo: News articles on shootings

Hotwired Netizen: Tupac: Media icon for all time by Jon Katz
- September 17, 1996

Review Editorial: Most Obies already knew that
- September 20,1996

The New Republic: Common Ground by Michael Lewis
- September 13, 1996

2PAC Fan Club Homepage

Tupac Memorial page


Copyright © 1996, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 125, Number 3; September 20, 1996

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