Ronnie Ron Says Tupac Became Bishop ...     

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11/13/2003 6:22:37 AM
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Ronnie Ron Says Tupac Became Bishop From Juice
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Tupac Shakur, even in death, still has a mesmerizing grasp on his fans as well as critics. His work still matters - his "aura," as one business associate described it, still shines.

Tomorrow, more than seven years after five bullets from a still-unnamed assailant's gun ended Shakur's life at 25 on a Las Vegas street, a new documentary, "Tupac: Resurrection," opens in theaters.

The documentary, a montage of interviews, music videos and behind-the-scenes footage with narration by Shakur himself, reflects the many apparent dualities of the man and his message. Shakur spoke out eloquently against political corruption and the difficult conditions in the ghetto while at the same time praising a lawless, carefree "Thug Life," a phrase he had tattooed across his stomach.

The son of former Black Panther Afeni Shakur knew well the struggles faced by black Americans, and the challenges he faced as a potential second-generation Panther leader.

"Tupac's different lives were very much in league, though," wrote Danyel Smith in "Vibe's History of Hip-Hop." "He managed them like he managed his blackness - with a fantastic, desperate dexterity."

Tupac Shakur's heightened realness demanded attention. Hip-hoppers identified with his run-ins with the law and his outspokenness. At the same time, he was a tremendously successful musician, selling 37 million records during his brief life.

"It's undisputed that Tupac was one of the most prolific artists to come out of the hip-hop genre," said Kymberlee Norsworthy, owner of the New Jersey-based publicity firm Worth Ink, which did publicity for Shakur's label, Interscope. "Tupac represented a duality that, on one hand, he was very emotional and strong, while the other vibe was real aggressive, boisterous and had a real hard gangsta side."

Norsworthy, who met Shakur at various industry events, said Shakur's seemingly conflicted aspects resonated with his many urban fans.

"A lot of people who grow up in adverse situations have to decide to go one way or the other," Norsworthy said. "Tupac got himself into a lot of the situations because he let both sides manifest... .it became a battle of the external and internal."

The two sides of Tupac

Tupac's violent death eerily resembled the lyrics of his own songs, in which he rapped about how his last days would play out.

He could infuriate critics and enrage women with his graphic and misogynistic songs. Yet in other tunes, he spoke endearingly of women and their plight.

In music and action, there seemed always to be two Tupacs. The man who counseled youth groups would be caught on videotape fighting alleged gang members in the MGM Grand casino the night he died. On wax, he spoke of a united force creating a new black power movement, but he also viciously dissed - and explicitly threatened - his perceived enemies.

Shakur was caught up in an East vs. West Coast hip-hop feud with Biggie Smalls, P. Diddy and Mobb Deep. Smalls was killed a few months after Shakur's death in yet another unsolved hip-hop slaying.

Shakur seemed to accept the violence and even advocated it in some of his songs. At the same time, he urged gang-bangers to seek a less violent way of life. This gangsta had a poet's soul. And, above all else, he was a talented musician, lyricist and vocalist.

Ever since he amazed listeners with his fluid flow on Digital Underground's early '90s hit "Same Song," Shakur has held a reserved spot in hip-hop's upper echelon.

"Tupac was the best with lyrics, the best at poetry - just a talented young brother," said longtime Philly DJ, radio and television host Ronnie Ron. "I don't think too many cats can touch him. The people who didn't know Tupac or haven't studied him probably aren't into hip-hop or just don't understand it. But people really into hip-hop appreciate him."

And that appreciation runs

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