It’s been 19 years since Tupac Shakur’s death, but his legacy lives on through today’s artists including Kendrick Lamar and Eminem. The Detroit rapper, who grew up idolizing Pac, has penned a touching tribute to the late great legend for Paper magazine’s October “Nowstalgia” issue.
In his letter, Em reflects on the first time he heard Pac on “I Get Around.” “I was 18 or 19 years old and I remember thinking, ‘Who is this?'” he wrote. “He stood out so much. Once I heard that, I got his first album, 2Pacalypse Now. I saw the video for ‘Brenda’s Got a Baby’ and I remember thinking, ‘Holy shit.’ By the time he got to Me Against the World, it was him at his pinnacle. He’s off and running. He knows what he wants, and he’s figured out how he wants to be and how he wants to sound—everything. I would probably put that up against anything as far as a classic hip-hop album goes.”
He praised Pac for his poetic words. “The way he chose which words to say with which beat was genius; it’s like he knew what part of the beat and what chord change was the right place to hit these certain words… to make them jump off the track and make you feel what he was saying,” he said, adding, “His ability to touch people’s lives like that was incredible.”
While he listened to artists like N.W.A, Public Enemy, and Big Daddy Kane growing up, Pac was “the first one to really help me learn how to make songs that felt like something.”
Em was “fascinated” by the way he handled interviews, but always remained human. “He was a superstar in every aspect of the word. You just wanted to know that guy. Like man, I wanna hang out with Pac.”
To show his appreciation, Em sent Tupac’s mother Afeni a handwritten letter and a sketch of her son after she agreed to let him produce on 2004’s posthumous album Loyal to the Game. “You wouldn’t be able to tell the 18/19-year-old Marshall that he would ever be able to get his hands on some Tupac vocals and have that opportunity,” he said. “It was such a significant piece of history for me and so much fun. I’m like a kid in a candy store; going nuts with the fact that I’m putting beats under his rhymes.”
The emotion Pac conveyed in his music was palpable, and inspired Eminem’s music. “He was just so good at evoking emotions through songs and I picked up so much from that. Biggie had that as well,” he said. “I would have a hard time believing that it was all accidental. It was true genius.”
Read Eminem’s tribute in its entirety here.