Some believe hip-hop will follow the path of disco, which means the genre will fall off in a couple of years. If this isn't the case and it does last for decades more, Tupac Shakur will still be at the center of the culture -- not just as a talent, but also as a figure. Shakur would've turned 44 years old today.

Despite his parents' Black Panther background, Shakur had an everyman start in the business before becoming one of hip-hop's most complex figures. He was originally a roadie and a backup dancer for Digital Underground. The rapper made his artistic debut with Digital Underground's "Same Song,"  which appeared on the soundtrack of 1990's Nothing But Trouble soundtrack.

2pacalypse Now, 2Pac's debut album, came the next year. The LP had an East Coast sound and was pretty modest compared to who the MC would become, however, it was still controversial. While "Brenda's Got a Baby" is still as heart-breaking today as it was 24 years ago, songs like "Trapped," which focused on police brutality, had many labeling 2Pac as a public menace.

His profile would only rise from there. Shakur became a big figure when it came to black empowerment ("Keep Ya Head Up") and the strife of America's ghettos ("So Many Tears"). He was unapologetically rebellious. In 1994, he shot a police officer in the buttocks after being harassed and, in a borderline miracle given America's legal track record, got away with it.

But some critics would accuse him of being a hypocritical figure. Although he also preached female empowerment ("Dear Mama" is a particular highlight), Shakur's lyrics were laced with some misogyny. A big example was in the opening line of "Hit 'Em Up," which is one of the most vicious direct disses in hip-hop history: "That's why I f---ed your bitch you fat motherf---er."

The diss came up in the middle of the East-West rivalry that ended in his death and also the murder of rival Biggie Smalls. There were supposed be bigger things in store for Shakur, but at the center of what he left behind lies two classics: 1995's Me Against the World and All Eyez On Me, the first mainstream hip-hop double-album.

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