Watching All Eyez on Me, made me think deeply about Tupac’s life and his body of work. After the movie I had one burning question. I trolled the internet, read every blog post and watched every video I could find on Tupac and yet my question remained unanswered. With 75 million records sold worldwide, seven movies, and a book, I could not fathom why Tupac was not bestowed a posthumous honorary doctorate.
If the purpose of a Ph.D. is to contribute new knowledge to an existing field, why hasn’t Tupac Shakur earned an honorary Ph.D. posthumously? Honorary doctorates are awarded to celebrities and other public figures yearly. Some have amassed such a vast body of work; they have received upwards to three honorary doctorates from prestigious universities including Yale and Harvard.
Writing a dissertation is an undertaking of Herculean proportions. Speaking of Herculean proportions- 7 of Tupac’s 11 platinum albums were released after his death, verifiable evidence of his dedication and work ethic. The dissertation process will make a sheep out of even the best writer. Dressed and feathered in track changes and comments, sleepless nights, hot pots of coffee, and loss of a social life for an undetermined amount of time. Out of the pain and momentary suffering, a love child is born, a scholarly document that is an attestation to a particular discipline, while crowning the researcher as a subject matter expert, a Ph.D.
In an MTV interview Tupac said, “I’m not saying I’m gonna change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world.” I searched the ProQuest Dissertations & Theses Global database for doctoral dissertations with Tupac Shakur as the subject matter from the years 1994-2017. Approximately 975 search results were returned across a multitude of disciplines. His interviews and lyrics have been scoured over and analyzed as they contain socio-political ideology, the urban child’s resiliency; how to survive against all odds, and man’s search for meaning- the purpose driven life.
The depth of his lyrics and life have not only produced hundreds of dissertations but perhaps even a desire to study the culture of hip-hop. In 1997 Arvand Elihu taught a student lead class at UC Berkeley on the lyrics of Tupac Shakur and positioning the idea of Tupac being a “contemporary historian.” Classes on Tupac’s influential lyrics have also been taught at the University of Washington with so much traction that the Seattle Public library in 2005 developed a book discussion not only on his lyrics but on works that influenced his writings and beliefs. Tupac was well read noting Shakespeare and Sun Tzu among some of his favorite writers. From these classes, I am assuming an interest in Hip-hop itself grew into a desire to study the culture in an academic setting. Currently, there are degrees offered in Hip-Hop.
Unfortunately, Tupac’s checkered history with the law overshadows the depth of his intellect and the prolific impact that his words have had on millions. Twenty-one years after his death the scope of his music and artistry still lives, earning him a place as the only solo rap artist to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Twenty-one years later his music reaches across generations, proving that beyond a doubt that we are still down.
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