By: Wesley Reno, Entertainment Writer
When I think of music legends, I think of Jimi Hendrix, Tupac Shakur, Bob Marley, Marvin Gaye, Miles Davis, and the likes. While all of these musicians come from incredibly different genres and backgrounds, the trait that they all share is that they’ve passed away. Their existence on this earth lies within the music that they’ve created and in the hearts of its listeners. While I would certainly claim that there are living legends in music, it appears that the majority of musicians that have solidified their place in history have died. This prompts the morbid, yet interesting question of, “does death bring reverence to musicians?”
I’m not going to try and answer this question, because I certainly don’t have the lifespan or knowledge to confidently claim one response or the other. I am, however, qualified to give some points to contemplate. It’s an interesting topic to ponder. For the purposes of this article, I’m going to focus on hip hop.
If you ask several hip hop fans who the greatest rapper of all time is, my guess is that among the most common responses is Tupac Shakur. 2Pac helped create the modern image of hip hop and usher in a new era of gangster rap. He brought passion, pain, and power to his lyrics; creating communities that fought for equality and shed light on problems in America’s inner cities. Through 2Pac’s efforts, hip hop is undoubtedly at its most politically influential state.
When you compare his career to those of rappers who accomplished similar feats around the same time, you’ll find that 2Pac’s career shadows them. I would argue that Nas’ Illmatic is the greatest hip hop album of all time. While 2Pac had some great music, I personally wouldn’t think about naming a project of his higher than Illmatic. Why isn’t Nas looked at in the same light? Is it because he went on to have a career that consisted of projects that were inferior to Illmatic? Will Nas be viewed at a similar status level when he passes away, or does a musician’s death in their prime solidify their position in history? These questions are unanswerable, but it’s truly perplexing to try and predict.
Regardless of the answers to these questions (if they can ever be found), whenever a musician dies, the world hurts. The art they’ve left behind lives forever and serves as inspirations to the next generations of musicians to do the same. Without this incredibly sad part of life, we wouldn’t be broadening the horizons of human creativity.
RIP Charles Bradley