Just finished Michael Eric Dyson’s Tupac book Holler If You Hear Me. As in his book on MLK, Dyson draws out radical intentions and implications of his subject’s work, wrestles with the problematics of his life, and considers what the mythology that’s developed since his death says about the culture around him. The discussion of Tupac’s relationship with his mother, Afeni Shakur, brings together several threads of the book: the contradictory meanings of black masculinity in Tupac’s work and his thinking; the currents of rage, indictment, forgiveness, and affirmation in his music; the personal as political; the relationship between the ’60s Black Panther generation and the next one. If anything, the book suffers from Dyson’s tendency to over-explain the significance of each sentence from Tupac. Good read, and I learned a lot from it.
One passage of interest:
At least four notions are crucial to the conception of martyrdom: embodiment, identification, substitution, and elevation. The martyr’s death embodies, and in some cases anticipates, the death of those who follow. It may be that his death signifies the manner in which his followers, adherents, or comrades could die. The martyr is identified by and with the community that follows him. He is identified as the leader of a group of believers or followers who identify with him as a member of their own tribe or community. The martyr’s death often substitutes for the death of his followers; he dies in their place, at least symbolically…Finally, the martyr is elevated to a high status, even as he elevates the condition of his followers through his death, drawing attention to their hidden or overlooked suffering.