The Tupac Refrain

Every so often (read: every day), I board the subway and disturb an elderly woman sitting next to me with my music du jour. Usually she shoots me a dirty look or two, but sometimes she gets up and moves across the car– an overt signal of disgust. And my reaction is characteristically the same: to lower my volume an interval or two, and then proceed on my merry way.

But yesterday something magically different happened. This elderly woman turned to me and said, “I remember the day he was shot. Tragic bout of gun violence.” It took me a moment to realize this senior citizen had identified the song on my iPod as Tupac’s “California Love,” and that in making such an identification she was able to offer a larger social commentary.

Confused as to how a 65+ bubbie-like figure knew gangster rap, I asked, “You know Tupac?” To which she replied, “Not personally, but I knew Biggie’s mom. She used to live a few doors down from me. And I remember the Tupac-Biggie feud very well.”

I pressed her further. “It’s one thing to know the artists or the artists’ moms. But it’s another to know their music.” To which she replied, “Honey, they don’t make rap like they used to.” I was sold. Here was my new best friend, who conveniently lived in Brooklyn (my future home).

We chatted for the remainder of the subway ride about gun control laws in this country, and the failure of 6 Democrats to vote with 90% of the population on stricter background checks. “I dare them to walk through the Marcy Projects and then say we need to maintain lax gun laws,” she howled.

I nodded and then cited my favorite Tupac song of all, Unconditional Love: “How many caskets can we witness before we see it’s hard to live?” Then together we sang, “And I ain’t worried bout a damn thang with unconditional love.”

All of which is to say I’m pleased to inform you I may never have to turn down the volume on my iPod again. Win!

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