Book Review

gua: 'Tupac' just not enough


Published: Thursday, April 1, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 at 3:12 p.m.

Have you ever wondered why music is important to you?

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Have you ever wondered why music is important to you? Scientists have all sorts of explanations, but you probably can't live without your iPod because the tunes you love speak to you. Those songs move you, body and soul, and the singers say words only you wish you could say.

Scientists have all sorts of explanations, but you probably can't live without your iPod because the tunes you love speak to you. Those songs move you, body and soul, and the singers say words only you wish you could say.

But despite the fame and fortune, the lives of those singers aren't as great as you think they are - or were, as in the case of one rapper. In the new book, "Tupac Shakur: The Life and Times of an American Icon" by Tayannah Lee McQuillar and Fred L. Johnson III, Ph.D, you'll read about him.

Afeni Shakur was an activist. Born before the civil rights movement, she joined the Black Panthers as an adult and quickly became a leader in the group. She conceived her first child while on bail for conspiracy charges (for which she was subsequently found not guilty). She named the child Lesane, but later renamed him Tupac after a revolutionary Incan emperor.

Although he was almost always homeless, had little to eat or wear, and though many of the adults surrounding him were in trouble or in jail, Tupac Shakur grew up to be "a sensitive soul." He attended Baltimore School for the Arts, acted in plays, and wrote poetry. He was well-versed in Shakespeare. His best friend was a white boy named John.

And then, to protect Tupac and his younger sister from violence in New York, Afeni sent them to California to live with a friend who turned out to be an angry alcoholic. Because he knew little about sports and a lot about literature, Tupac was preyed upon by rougher boys near his new home.

Trying to fit in, Tupac briefly dealt drugs. He couldn't play basketball, but he was "stunning on the microphone," which gained the attention of a white woman who took him under her wing. She nurtured Tupac's talents and guided him, and within three years, he was a star.

Although Tupac's career was on the rise, his life was out of control. Because of the lyrics, his songs were banned and vilified. He began hanging out with people who were into drugs and guns. He was shot, spent time in jail, and was shot again. And in the end, Tupac's music couldn't save him.

Ostensibly a book about the life of a musician, "Tupac Shakur" is half that. I would have been happier if "Tupac Shakur" had stuck with the story of Tupac Shakur.

If you're looking for a definitive biography on the musician, this book isn't quite what you want. It's OK, but overall, "Tupac Shakur" just doesn't wrap it up enough.

Terri Schlichenmeyer never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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