I don’t think it’s a big stretch to say that Tupac is Tupac mostly for his ability to connect with fans and not necessarily for his technical rapping abilities or anything like that. He had a energy and commitment to his ideas that probably won’t be matched for a long time. The interesting question is that, why do his ideas and philosophies came through so clearly in his raps? Most kids could pick up on it at a young age, and academics with shallow interests in rap as a whole were able to squeeze out every last idea out of his career.
On a Syllable Per Word basis, he was slightly higher at 1.30 SPW but still far from the hypothesized threshold value*.
In my opinion, Tupac’s accessibility is fascinating as a case study because some of the most impactful things he did (does?) on songs weren’t even rap related. If he was a pure rapper in the sense that he was rapping verses separated by hooks, and that was ALL he did on songs, his personality and energy would have been squandered by the orthodoxy of a rap song.
The ability to “talk to” an audience is important of course, and great if you can do it while rhyming, but still, Tupac’s ethos was rebellion. How rebellious are you if you’re constraining yourself to rules in a genre less than 30 years of age? There are no rules, really.
So, if you look at All Eyes On Me, Pac’s most successful album, he does some interesting things.
- On the first disk, Tupac has about 1800 words of him talking, which averages out to about 128 words per song, which is about a couple of paragraphs each song of Tupac just talking.
- 11 of the 14 songs on the first disk had instances of Tupac talking.
- One of the songs without any sort of shit talking from Tupac is Got My Mind Made Up. This is interesting because the song features Kurupt, Methodman and Redman, a track that was more rappity rap than any other song on the album and one that was pretty orthodox in structure
- The talking served two general purposes it seems; one is to prime the listener for a song’s themes and another as a ‘wrap-up’ of what just occurred. Both seem like great techniques, especially when it’s done loosely and spontaneously.
I think that, generally, this is a great addition to whatever is happening in a song. I don’t know about how it was actually recorded, but it seems like a form of ad-libbing. A natural born shit talker, Tupac was (is?).