By Rahul Lal
A hip-hop milestone will take place this Friday when Tupac Shakur is inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He’s the sixth hip-hop artist to be inducted—following Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Run-D.M.C., Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys and N.W.A.—but Tupac will be the genre’s first solo artist to be honored; he will be presented by his friend and Death Row labelmate, Snoop Dogg.
In 2012, the Beastie Boys were inducted but were unable to perform. Instead, the Roots were recruited as the backing band, and their MC, Black Thought, along with Travie McCoy of the Gym Class Heroes and Kid Rock filled in for Michael Diamond, Adam Yauch and Adam Horovitz. Will there be a Tupac tribute performance this year? Here’s hoping there will be, and we decided to play “hip-hop fantasy football” and put together the three-song set that we’d love to see.
Nas performs “Ghetto Gospel”
Nas and Tupac have history, and a lot of it started with conflict. As Pac was entrenched in the infamous east coast/west coast beef, Nas was taking a few shots at him calling him out on the classic song “The Message” as a fake thug. The two reportedly made up before Pac’s murder but, even during their beef, Nas still showed respect for the west coast legend never downplaying his artistry. Since then, Nas has honored and paid tribute to Tupac in concert, including performing “Keep Ya Head Up” at VH1’s Hip-Hop Honors in 2004. This time, we hope he performs but does a different song. Nas preached his own ghetto gospel on classic albums like Illmatic, It Was Written and Stillmatic, so “Ghetto Gospel” feels like a natural song for him to perform.
The Game performs “Hail Mary”
Born in Compton, The Game grew up at a time where the west coast took rap by storm. With the influence of music from artists like Tupac as well as Ice Cube and Eazy-E, Game is one of the few rappers out still who still has that old-school, confrontational feel to his music. His latest project, 1992, uses samples from songs recorded by Ice-T, The D.O.C., Ice Cube and even pays tribute to Tupac in the song “All Eyez” reminding us of famous tracks like “All About U,” not to mention “All Eyez on Me.” The Game also shows his appreciation of Pac via the tattoo of an angelic version of the rapper on his arm.
“Hail Mary” is one of the most chilling, iconic songs in the 2Pac cannon, we’ve all heard this tone coming from The Game’s music whether it was in diss tracks aimed at 50 Cent or Meek Mill, or even when he performed Tupac’s own track “Hit ‘Em Up” last year.
Kendrick Lamar performs “Keep Ya Head Up”
Which MC is most reminiscent of Tupac today? That would be another Compton rapper: Kendrick Lamar. While The Game’s occasionally abrasive personality may be similar to Pac’s, Kendrick’s incredible lyricism makes him Shakur’s spiritual heir.
“Keep Ya Head Up” may be the most powerful song written by Tupac and there’s nobody who could better articulate the message behind the song with his own flow like Kendrick can. Since good kid, m.A.A.d city was released in 2012, Kendrick—like Pac—has focused on social justice and empowerment both within the black community and for women as well. The lyrics “I remember Marvin Gaye used to sing to me/He had me feeling like black was the thing to be/And suddenly the ghetto didn’t seem so tough/And though we had it rough, we always had enough” seem consistent with recent Kendrick albums like To Pimp a Butterfly and Untitled Unmastered.