Unexpected Influences - 2pac

It hit me the other day, when people ask me about who’s inspired or influenced me I forget to talk about music.

I forget to mention that growing up I was absolutely obsessed with 2pac and everything that he wrote, rhymed, acted in — just everything. And, it struck me that I was probably doing myself a disservice by not taking the time to explain the impact that music, and specifically, 2pac, have had on the way I think and articulate my thoughts and opinions.

To start things off, it’s worth making it clear that I know that there’s a strong reason as to why I shouldn’t embrace hip hop. It’s sexist and misogynistic and goes against a lot of my feminist beliefs and perspectives. I know that. I know there’s no justification for the sexist undertones that are rife in hip hop. And as I’ve grown up the type of hip hop I listen to has changed, hip hop itself has changed but that’s for another thought process.

So, why 2pac?

  1. 2pac on impact

“I’m not saying I’m gonna change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world.”

(You can watch the interview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uijBebYpoto)

At the time, I was young and naive enough to believe that was me, that he was specifically speaking to and about me. And, it’s something that really has stuck with me. If you’ve ever heard me do any public speaking, or have had a conversation with me about the impact I want to have — you’ll hear me say that I will change the world. Whether through huge transformational impact, or just by making someone’s day a little bit better, I will change the world.

Growing up and listening to someone so boldly say that they believe you can change the world, makes you feel like you can. When you’ve been given the gift of time to reflect on the way you think and feel about important issues, purely because of music, it makes you believe that you have what it takes to make that difference.

2. 2pac on inequality

“Why can’t [the President] take some of those people off the street and put them in his White House? Then he’ll have people from the street to help him with his ideas. They haven’t been homeless forever; they’ve done things for society.”

It wasn’t until I looked back through my 2pac books and reread some of the things I had written when I was listening to him religiously that I started to draw out the way he’s influenced me.

In a lot of his interviews, he addresses inequality, poverty, race and gender. And in this quote, he’s directing it at inequality in poverty. I was rereading his quote and dug deeper into what it means and started to see the beginnings of what would become the passion I have for co-design — working with the people who are experiencing the problem to help solve it. Understanding our privilege, our place and our bias to embrace difference and understand different perspectives is what I do day in and day out. I try bring people into the process to see how we can make it better for them, not just the people delivering the service.

3. 2pac on poverty

“Every day, I’m standing outside trying to sing my way in: We are hungry, please let us in We are hungry, please let us in. After about a week that song is gonna change to: We hungry, we need some food. After two, three weeks, it’s like: Give me the food Or I’m breaking down the door. After a year you’re just like: I’m picking the lock. Coming through the door blasting.”

He spoke from the heart, as someone who had lived through poverty and inequality. His was of explaining how and why people who are struggling are more frustrated made me realise a lot about the interactions that we have and the ways that we access support.

If you’re struggling to survive, it’s understandable that you’re angry and frustrated. When the basic things you need to survive aren’t accessible to you, are stopping you from living, you’re going to be angry.

His analogies and articulation of poverty and inequality helped me understand and articulate my own views. Reading through his thoughts on why there’s inequality and how to remedy it, helped my form my own opinions and understanding of what I can do to change things.

4. 2pac on pride

“You see you wouldn’t ask why the rose that grew from the concrete had damaged petals. On the contrary, we would all celebrate its tenacity. We would all love it’s will to reach the sun. Well, we are the roses — this is the concrete — and these are my damaged petals.”

It took me a very long time to take pride in telling my story and to be proud of where I’ve come from. When I was growing up, I struggled with understanding why my culture was different and how to embrace it as part of who I am (and I still do but Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race really helped me figure it out too).

When I did my TedX talk last year, I found it difficult to get the balance right of speaking about where I come from and how it’s lead me to where I am versus celebrating my successes and explaining my thoughts. In the year since, I’ve realised that explaining where I come from is a celebration of my success and is fundamental to anchoring my thoughts.

Now, I don’t shut up about how my roots have made me who I am, and I take pride in explaining my differences to people.

5. 2pac on karma

“I believe that everything you do bad comes back to you. So everything that I do that’s bad, I’m gonna suffer for it. But in my heart, I believe what I’m doing is right.”

I’m not a religious person but I’m a big believer in karma and positive thinking. One of the big influences that 2pac’s thinking and speaking had on me was to take responsibility for your actions and not to blame other people for where you are or what’s happened to you.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s an acknowledgement of the privilege or there lack of, that have an impact on your life. But the way you deal with it, the decisions you make, your reactions — they are yours and yours alone. Taking responsibility for who you are is a huge thing and it was a huge moment of self awareness and reflection for me growing up. I would often and still do, take the time to take a step back and think about whether I’m the person I want to be or if I’m unconsciously letting things happen.

I want to take responsibility and ownership of who I am. I want to know that I’m putting positivity out into the world, because I believe that in my heart, what I am doing is right.