‘I suffered through the years
and shed so many tears’
Tupac, ‘So Many Tears’
I’m trying to uncover the unrecoverable here–There is no way for us to know, nor are we able to ‘diagnose’ someone as depressed after they’ve been deceased. I’m not even qualified, beyond my experience, to even diagnose anyone or anything as depressed. Some may think it doesn’t matter because what rests in the past, stays there. And maybe it should. Maybe there is little to no value in trying to tease out this narrative because for whom does it matter now if 2Pac was depressed? We can’t talk to him, we can’t know what he was going through mentally and emotionally, so to whom does it even matter that he was depressed and it was largely ignored? If a diagnosis is meant to identify the nature of something by looking at the symptoms, what is my purpose in trying to look for something I will never truly know or find? I want to know where Black boys are allowed to express their sadness and what it looks like. I feel like we’ve been robbed.
The narratives that exist around 2Pac’s life never mention his melancholia, nor depression. And we will never really know because all we have now are the things that he has left behind. His impenetrably slick lyrics, the interviews where he smirks at attempts to dehumanise him, and other relics of the Thug Life™ A few summers ago, I listened to Me Against The World on repeat for no real reason, and with no aims. Released during an unarguably tumultuous year for 2Pac, including several notable convictions for bodily harm, shooting cops, and sexual assault, I read countless arguments of 2Pac that called him a criminal. And to be honest, I do hold some disdain for him with regards to the sexual assault and repeated denial. But I still listened to that album and heard someone troubled speak on that. I heard him bear his inner turmoil track after track, in a world whose reputation precedes itself when it comes to the expression of any kind of vulnerability as a Black man.
Me Against The World speaks to me about an unyielding bleakness, cyclical trauma, the absence of care, collectivity, and even the loss of feeling in an ever more violent United States. Recorded in 1994, Me Against The World was birthed in the same year that Clinton signed his disastrous crime bill into law and we lost a whole generation of fathers. So to whom does it matter that 2Pac was depressed? To whom does it matter that we try and rescue this part of 2Pac’s narrative? There are untold powers in looking at our own melancholia and what comes of it.
I focus on So Many Tears by 2Pac because of its hard and fluent juxtapositions, the frankness of which he speaks about crying and the thug life often in the same breath is incredible because it is so rare. Be hard, be you, be whatever, but he doesn’t let that come in the way of actually feeling grief, loss, hopelessness, and desperation. He’s lost people, he’s shed so many tears. He’s paranoid about leaving in hearse, but he still finds space to shed tears and this is important to witness. Crying does not equate to weakness, and as 2Pac effortlessly dictates in Me Against The World, there is room for crying even for the more masculine expressions. Crying explicates the feelings we have, and in some cases can draw a line underneath our struggles, give us a starting point for our future transcendence out of our melancholic malaise. For this, I really appreciate 2Pac. I need him. I wish he were here to tell us more about what he was going through and what about the tears he has shed.
I believe looking at melancholia gives us an avenue to fuller ways of living. We cannot ignore our way out of sadness, no matter how easy. Giving space to be vulnerable is something we could all probably benefit from, and it surely is underrated. Where are the places where Black people can lament on the sad things we experience and feel? If 2Pac was indeed depressed, and we didn’t pick up on it, I would count that as a loss for us all. We don’t allow for complex feelings or ways of being, especially in our world today. I wish you the space to speak about what gets you down, and I hope that you find yourself more human, more humanised than before for taking a hard look at the things we try hard to flee. Transcendence is not my personal goal, as I find melancholia a productive space for melancholia in my own life. But I realise that is not incredibly common. But the first step in moving on from something hurtful, traumatising, or even the small things that get us down and out, is to look at it, maybe speak on it. Shed a tear. You’ll feel better. You might even produce something genius from it, much like Me Against The World. RIP 2Pac.
Marikiscrycrycry’s He’s Dead — This new work from prolific non-binary choreographer and dancer Marikiscrycrycry uses different dance and choreographic techniques, as well as live action, and song to ask the question, ‘Was Tupac depressed?’ We will never know for sure because of his untimely death. So what are we left with?Dates:
Tuesday–Friday, 4–8 February
NOW20, The Yard Theatre, London https://theyardtheatre.co.uk/theatre/events/now-20/now-20-week‑3/
Saturday, 9 February 2020
Attenborough Centre for the Arts, Brighton, New Queers On The Block tour
Saturday, 15 February 2020
RIGHT QUEER RIGHT NOW, Theatre in the Mill, Bradford, New Queers On The Block tour
Photo by Elise Rose