A Rap Star's Message And Audience

Posted: September 19, 1996

There's a message in the death, life and art of rapper Tupac Shakur for those too offended by his violent, profane and misogynous behavior ever to listen to his work.

It bears being heard by parents and all adult members of the Tupac Is a Thug club. They may not realize that rap or hip-hop music is one of the major styles popular among those twenty-something and younger, regardless of race, income or locale.

Gangsta rap, Shakur's style, is a subset whose appeal is strongest among young black people in cities but probably will be heard by your child at some point. They will; get over it.

Of course Tupac was all that, as the kids say. Not even his fans can deny that Shakur's brief life mirrored his art. His destructiveness escalated with the success of his recordings, whose titles foreshadowed doom.

His debut CD, ``2Pacalypse Now,'' sold 400,000 copies. His ``Me Against the World'' was the first album to hit No. 1 while its maker was incarcerated. A recent double album already has sold more than 5 million copies.

Its title is ``All Eyez on Me.''

And so they were, for the last few days. Mom and Dad probably weren't tuned in last weekend, as radio tributes - filled with adolescent sincerity and sentimentality - poured into Power 99 and other stations that play rap and hip-hop music.

Kids hear something in Tupac Shakur's music that resonates with their view of themselves and the world. Young black men, particularly, relate to his rage and alienation from a mainstream culture that labels them thugs - until proved otherwise.

While most teens don't communicate well with adults, that doesn't mean parents should disengage, hoping they will morph back to normal at 21.

On Sunday in New York, a group of major rap artists will gather at a Nation of Islam mosque. Organizers say the aim is to promote peace and to ``give some clarity'' to Shakur's life so kids ``won't immortalize the worst of him and try to imitate that.''

One can only hope they use their influence to give more hopeful guidance to their millions of fans.

Tupac Shakur's demise is an opportunity for parents to enter their teen-agers' lives - to get inside their anger. Perhaps by listening to their music with them.

Parents just might identify some values they want to be sure aren't the only message their children get.

NO CONSTITUTION FOR IT Can that be Robert H. Bork, the ``strict constructionist,'' urging a constitutional amendment so Congress could overrule the Supreme Court?

Isn't Bork the guy who has been calling for strict compliance with the dictates of the Founding Fathers? And wasn't it they who established the checks-and-balances system in which the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government were empowered to curb each other's excesses? Recognizing that the legislative branch is subject to transient whims and to pressures of a majority willing to impose its will on minorities, wasn't that why they established a strong judicial branch?

Now here's former federal judge Bork, concerned about the ``spreading rot'' of liberalism, urging in his new book, ``Slouching Toward Gomorrah,'' that the House and Senate be permitted to overturn Supreme Court decisions by simple majority votes.

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