On June 16, Tupac Shakur would’ve celebrated his 50th birthday. Though he’s gone, his influence in music and the world can still be seen. Some of our favorite recording artists today have said how much he’s meant to them. Take a look at these rappers and singers who honor Tupac’s music, realness and legacy.
E-40 — who collaborated with Tupac before his untimely death — spoke about the late rapper’s work ethic, saying, “You know, Tupac would go into the studio and make like six or seven songs in one day. That’s how he operated. He was real quick with his pen.”
2. Janet Jackson
Janet — who appeared in the 1993 movie Poetic Justice along with Tupac — sang his praises in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, saying, “Pac was just silly. He was completely different from what people knew. Not that it was an act, the person that the world knew, because that was him, too. I adored him - he liked to play and laugh."
Zendaya once compared herself to the “Thugz Mansion” rapper, saying, “…like Tupac Shakur, I’m a real model. Which means: I’m not pretending to be something that I’m not, because like he said, people are going to be disappointed when they find out who you are, because it’s not going to be what you presented to the world."
Nas and Tupac were rivals back in the day, but the two reportedly reconciled before Pac’s death in 1996. Years later, Nas admitted if he could travel back in time, he’d try to convince Tupac and Biggie to settle their differences, too. “I’d really tell them about the impact that they were going to have being dead,” he said on the HBO show Any Given Wednesday. “The world was going to become a hip-hop planet, even more than it was in '95...they were the leaders."
5. J. Cole
Cole’s respect for Pac goes way back to when he was a kid. In an interview with Blurred Culture, Col admitted: "My favorite rapper was Pac. He was my favorite rapper before I even started rapping. ... Just the cool dude that I looked up to…So, even as a seven-year-old kid, eight-year-old kid, I could hear 'Pac's early albums and feel the truth."
YG once said Tupac made him want to go back to school: “His rhymes was like poetry and all that. He wanted to be better,” he said. “I ain’t graduate high school and all that. I was like ‘I wanna go back to school.’ I was six when Tupac passed. My mama she—I grew up off of West Coast music…I got older and I was really listening to it. It was like he talking about stuff that I relate to. He really talking about the black culture…Some people don’t have no father figures in they life, so people look up to Tupac as they father figure and they apply that to their life.”
7. Ed Sheeran
"I like Tupac's statements and (songs) like 'California Love' and 'Changes,' sh*t like that," Ed said in an interview with Vibe. "I like Tupac more now because it’s reflective."
8. Snoop Dogg
Snoop — who recorded “2 of Americaz Most Wanted” with Tupac and Das Dillinger back in 1996 — paid tribute to the late rapper earlier this year during Pac’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. Speaking with Rolling Stone before the event Snoop said, “He changed hip-hop while he was here and even after the fact.
9. The Game
Game is another West coast rapper who always pays tribute to Pac. He’s always respected Tupac’s music, words of wisdom and realness to always been to unpopular truth. If you know the type of man that Game is, he’s exactly the same way. Thanks Pac for that!
M.I.A once admitted to Nylon: “I was always going out to L.A. because my cousin lived there, and she knew all the Bloods and Crips. So I was hanging out with her, having crazy times, and then I’d come back and be like, ‘I hung out with Tupac last week!’ and nobody knew who he was!”
Eminem spoke about Tupac’s influence for Paper magazine’s 2015 Nowstalgia issue, saying, “Tupac was the first one to really help me learn how to make songs that felt like something.”
12. Meek Mill
Meek Mill teamed up with Rick Ross to release the track “Tupac Back” in honor of the late rapper’s would-be 40th birthday.
13. Alicia Keys
Alicia Keys performed as part of a tribute to Tupac during her Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2017.
During an interview with Complex, Zayn said Tupac’s 1996 album All Eyez on Me was hugely influential on him. “The songs are so real, and from a perspective of a place where somebody is not afraid to be completely 100 percent honest,” he said. “He’s the first rapper to talk about the fact that his mom was a crack addict. For me, that’s courageous as f**k. He took that risk and spoke about everything in detail openly and without any shame. For me to listen to that album as I grew up, it really helped me to understand that it’s OK to be honest with your art, because people appreciate that."
One of this generation’s biggest rappers has much love for Pac, too. Drizzy has previously said that the late MC’s “Pain” is one of his favorite songs of all time.
16. Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick is a well-known product of Tupac. The rapper has proudly spoken, on a number of different occasions, about how much the late MC means to him in interviews and through his music. Kendrick’s To Pimp A Butterfly was also initially named Tu Pimp A Caterpillar, which abbreviated would be TuPAC.
17. Jhene Aiko
Although the singer was only eight at the time of Pac's passing, she cites him as an everlasting source of inspiration. She has paid tribute to the late rapper during live shows and once shared a stunning, acoustic cover of "Keep Ya Head Up".