When Tupac died in Las Vegas twenty years ago today, many immediately associated his legacy with the gangsta rap style he was best known for. But it's always interesting to see where musicians got their start. For Pac, his childhood flirtations with rap were about as far from gangsta as one can imagine. As Baltimore Magazine recalls, Tupac once won a youth rap contest at his local library in Nov. of 1985. "All entrants had to submit a written copy in advance (“No Profanity Allowed”), and the finalists performed at the library at Pennsylvania and North avenues," reads the article.
Tupac and his childhood friend Dana Smith entered the contest with their original composition "Library Rap." Their performance ended up taking the contest, with lyrical content about signing up for a library card, staying in school, and learning to read. Library employee Deborah Taylor recalled the reactions of the judges to Tupac's performance. “When Tupac performed,” she said, “you could not take your eyes off him.” Taylor also described Tupac and Smith as “very polite boys. They were nice kids.” She actually was responsible for giving them a ride to the contest because they didn't have anyone else to drive them.
According to Baltimore Magazine, the handwritten lyrics that Pac submitted for the contest still reside in the library archives, sitting with works of Edgar Allen Poe and H.L. Mencken.
Obviously the work of anyone is going to be more innocent in childhood, but it's interesting to see the ways in which Pac showed his creative genius early. You can check out the whole profile on his years in Baltimore here.