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Tupac “2Pac” Shakur, the unforgettable icon of Hip Hop was the voice of his generation and one of my favorite artists of all time. His fierce, intense delivery could not be touched by any MC of his day. Tupac’s image was that of a street wise, hard nosed, and angry young man who was ready to “keep it real” with brutal honesty in any and all situations. I’ll never forget the shock, pain and disbelief I experienced when I heard he had died after days in the hospital.
Christopher ”Notorious B.I.G. Wallace aka Biggie Smalls was a young man straight from the streets of Brooklyn. He arose from poverty, homelessness and street crime to help found a rap empire that continues to this day. I loved his ”loose, easy flow, dark, semi autobiographical lyrics and storytelling abilities, Biggie is arguably among the top five MC’s that ever lived.
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Arrival: Pac and Big, by Michael Owens, Oil on canvas , 2011
The two were very close friends until Tupac was shot five times and robbed in a New York recording studio lobby in 1994, a shooting he accused Smalls (and friends Sean “Diddy” Combs and Andre Harrell) of setting up out of jealousy. The feud escalated into a full-scale war after the two rappers began recording “dis” tracks full of insults and thinly veiled threats.
Biggie’s “Who Shot Ya” is considered to be the opening round in the feud, supposedly making fun of 2Pac’s shooting even though 2Pac was not mentioned by name;
Who shot ya?
Separate the weak from the ob-so
-lete, Hard to creep them Brooklyn streets
It’s on nigga, fuck all that bickering beef
I can hear sweat trickling down your cheek
Your heartbeat soun’ like Sasquatch feet
Thundering, shaking the concrete
Finish it, stop, when I foil the plot
Neighbors call the cops said they heard mad shots
…. Everything Around Me, 2 Glock 9′s
Any motherfucker whispering about mines
And I’m Crooklyn’s finest
You rewind this, Bad Boy’s behind this
And there’s the infamous diss track “Hit Em Up” put out by Tupac, one of the most brutal take downs in the history of hip hop;
ain’t got no motherfucking friends
That’s why I fucked your bitch
You fat motherfucker (Take Money)
Bad Boy Killers (Take Money)
You know who the realist is
niggas we bring it to (Take Money)
(ha ha, that’s alright)
Then, almost on cue, murders of close friends occurred and were blamed on the other’s entourages. Eventually both Tupac and Biggie were shot dead within six months of each other, their still-unsolved murders leaving behind a legacy of violence and unrealized potential in their wake.
Arrival is about the power of love, friendship and forgiveness. I believe the two would have reconciled in time. The insults, heartfelt as they were when they were made, are just words on a recording. The real challenge would have been finding a space for forgiveness in the midst of a media firestorm and an ongoing feud between rival coasts. Given a chance to step back, they would have realized there was room in hip hop for both of them and the coasts they represented. Their murders robbed us of the potential power of that reunion.
Arrival is meant to be a soothing balm to Biggie and Tupac’s family, friends, fans and admirers like you and me. Can’t you just picture the two long lost friends laughing, smiling and finally just forgiving? To me forgiveness and letting go is the key to resolving issues with anyone we feel has harmed us. But it is something we do for ourselves not for the other person. I’ve forgiven people in my life and I’m sure you have too. This painting is a heartfelt prayer for Christopher Wallace and Tupac Shakur and a hope they have forgiven each other and found peace. And I’m sure you hope the same thing.
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