Lil Xan’s Overblown Tupac Controversy Underlines Hip-Hop’s Hypocrisy

(Photos from left: Matthew Eisman/Getty Images, Ron Galella/WireImage)

Lil Xan’s Overblown Tupac Controversy Underlines Hip-Hop’s Hypocrisy

Does he have to do better, or do we?

Published March 9, 2018

When Los Angeles-based rapper Lil Xan dismissed the late Tupac Shakur’s music as “boring,” the backlash was swift, furious and came from a diverse range of outraged critics. The Breakfast Club’s resident flame king Charlamagne Tha God led the torch and pitchfork brigade, unsurprisingly branding the tattooed-face 21-year-old “Betrayed” rapper with his infamous “Donkey of the Day” scarlet letter. Trap music pioneer Waka Flocka Flame declared Lil Xan “banned from hip-hop,” a stunning display of omnipotent power since, you know, it’s Waka Flocka Flame.

Zebrahead actor turned white “Blacker than thou” mascot Michael Rapaport blasted, “You need to apologize to whoever raised you.” Noisey’s Lauren O’Neill, in a tongue-in-cheek write-up, added that ‘80s alternative Brit rock’s all-around a-hole Morrissey should join Lil Xan in banishment. And New York Times op-ed warrior Charles M. Blow took a moment out from rightfully bashing Donald Trump to offer what was perhaps the perfect response: “Who is this?”

Of course, the staggered pile-on following Lil Xan’s February interview with Revolt for their “On Clout 9” segment was well telegraphed. As cultural icons go, the late Tupac Shakur – whose 1996 shooting death at the tragic age of 25 helped elevate the prolific, controversial West Coast rapper and acclaimed, scene-stealing actor to deity status – exists somewhere between forever-young Hollywood idol James Dean and polarizing Black Panther leader Huey P. Newton. It’s an absurd dichotomy for sure, but accurate nonetheless. Shakur was indeed, in a nutshell: an intriguing, complex, and at times infuriating artist who jumped from socially conscious Black nationalism (1991’s 2Pacalypse Now), to heartfelt “Dear Mama” self-reflection (1995’s Me Against The World) to Death Row Records era, self-destructive Thug Life nihilism (1996’s All Eyez on Me) with little room for irony.

And yet, some of hip-hop’s smug, self-proclaimed gatekeepers seem all too self-congratulatory at the ease they are able to jump on a barely 21-year-old rapper whose rhyme tag was inspired by his past addiction to Xanax and opioids. Xan wasn’t even alive when “2Pac” survived five shots and wildly declared war on the Notorious B.I.G., Bad Boy Records and the entire East Coast contingent. Calling out the new jack comes off even more laughable in the vacuum of hip-hop, a highly adaptable, genius, yet notoriously youth-obsessed genre that historically has had little use for its elders unless they stay cool, profitable –– and Jay-Z. When Eric B & Rakim, one of hip-hop’s most revered and influential acts, recently announced a reunion club tour, it was met with polite, nostalgic notice when it deserved to be treated with the same worthy prestige as say, the return of Guns N’ Roses.

And while it’s tempting to throw Lil Xan in with the rest of the culture vulture pile headlined by Post Malone, that’s easier said than done. “My favorite old school rappers were Tribe Called Quest, Biggie, De La Soul, Big L…but because I wasn’t bumping 2pac all day I’m getting sh*t for that lol,” the Mexican born rapper responded on Twitter. Migos is the most high profile, in-demand and prominent rap group currently breathing air. But are they that much more advanced than the same kid that mused nonsensically, “Why y’all feed off my energy?/Like I ain’t dead yet?” And if Xan is mired in struggle rap, what does that make the likes of Lil Yachty, Young Thug, and Iggy Azalea?

When Lil’ Pump is being co-signed by DJ Whoo Kid, there’s not much credibility in dismissing Lil Xan as all that is wrong with hip-hop. Describing ‘Pac’s music as boring may sound like the ramblings of someone who believes Justice League is superior to Black Panther, but it’s still highly subjective and in no way deserves excommunication.


If hip-hop insists that its immortals are treated with unimpeachable reverence, it would do well to start at home.

Written by Keith Murphy

(Photos from left: Matthew Eisman/Getty Images, Ron Galella/WireImage)


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