Tupac Shakur is considered a god in the hip-hop world. But Google data shows a fading legacy.
Lil Yachty is a fast-rising, 19-year-old rapper, signed to major label Capitol Records after exploding last year. Born in 1997, Yachty came of age after Tupac Shakur’s death twenty years ago, and obviously has no living memory of the revered rapper.
Unsurprisingly, Lil Yachty isn’t bowing to the hip-hop gods of old, and he isn’t alone. “If I’m doing this my way and making all this money, why should I do it how everybody says it’s supposed to be done?” Yachty posed in a Billboard interview.
After admitting to not being able to name five tracks from either Tupac Shakur or Notorious B.I.G., Yachty soon found himself at the center of some beef with an older generation of rappers, particularly Pete Rock. How could this young rapper disrespect the godfathers of his craft?
Turns out that other rappers of Yachty’s generation, including Lil Uzi Vert and Kodak Black, have weathered similar criticism for disrespecting the demi-gods of rap history. They aren’t isolated examples, and could be highly-reflective of their generation. And despite being one of the most important cultural figures for an earlier generation, the legacy of Tupac Shakur is steadily starting to fade.
According to Google Search data pulled Tuesday morning, on the twentieth anniversary of Tupac’s death, online interest and search volume for Tupac has never been at a lower point.
That is in stark contrast to 2004, when search volume was at a relative peak. Since that point, the internet population has easily multiplied 3-4 times, from less than one billion in 2004 to more than 3.5 billion internet users in 2016.
Google data shows similar downtrends for a large group of revered rappers, including Rakim, Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, LL Cool J, and Wu-Tang Clan. But a lot of legacy rappers are holding their own, including Nas, Dr. Dre, and Kanye West, whose successful career is now more than a decade old.
But stepping outside of the hip-hop world, the stark reality is that even the biggest legends fade, especially as their most loyal fans start to die. And as hard as it might be to stomach, newer generations may not even recognize the musical icons of the past.
Looking ahead, a biopic release of Tupac’s life, called ‘All Eyez on Me,’ could spark renewed interest in the rap legend. But maybe that will just create another blip.
Here’s a trailer for the film, released today.
Top image by InSapphoWeTrust, taken at Madam Tussaud’s in New York. Other graphs courtesy of Google Trends.