machiavelli’s killuminati

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“In today’s music news: the ever controversial Tupac Shakur has just released another album under the alias Makaveli. Music insiders are running wild trying to rearrange other artist street dates, in fear of a wipeout in retail interchart movement. Although no one knows the exact cause of the new album; resources tell me a number of less fortunate rappers have joined together in conspiracy to assassinate the character of not only Mr. Shakur, but of Death Row Records as well.” – Tupac Shakur, “Bomb First”

While in prison in 1995, Tupac spent a lot of his time reading various books, one of which was The Prince by Niccoló Machiavelli. And while many people find this to be an interesting book, Shakur felt that he and Machiavelli were very similar people. His last studio album, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, was posthumously released under the stage name Makaveli (quite obviously a play off of Machiavelli).

The similarities that Shakur draws to himself and Machiavelli on the album are incredible, almost eerie in fact. In the second song off of The Don Killuminati titled “Hail Mary,” Tupac raps, “Makaveli in this, Killuminati all through your body, Blows like a 12-gauge shotty, feel me, and God said he should send his one begotten son, to lead the wild into the ways of the man. Follow me!” While at first this reference may seem very surface level, there are several different connections to Machiavelli and his theories. First, Tupac’s use of the term “Killuminati” is in reference to the fact that he did not believe the Illuminati to be a real organization. By changing it to Killuminati, he was attempting to “kill” it , while simultaneously acquiring more social power and ability because he was the one to prove the Illuminati did not exist.

This comparison can be related to how Agathocles in The Prince came to power. Instead of trying to work his way up the ranks or to be peaceful, he killed those in power – this murder is exactly the tactic Tupac was using when saying Killuminati. Agathocles was successful because he was aggressive and put in effort to acquire what he wanted, and in turn he was able to successfully accomplish his goal. Tupac makes no attempt to ally with the Illuminati, nor are his verbal attacks peaceful. He took the advice from Machiavelli of how to be in power and used it in an attempt to dismantle them.

Secondly, Tupac brings into the discussion a third revolutionary – Jesus of Nazareth. The Christian Savior embodies a revolutionary who was not violent, but one who simply stood up for what He believed in. The addition of this figure to the lyrics is very interesting because Jesus embodies everything that Machiavelli wrote was not successful. Much of Machiavellian theory is predicated off of the idea that the ends justify the means, but Jesus acted in a way where all of his acts were done with moral justification and ended in moral outcomes.

So where does Shakur fall? Although his album dictates the similarities to Jesus, it is clear that he views himself as a character who is much more similar to Machiavelli. Aside from the stage name, his tactics and attitudes towards social change are in the same vein as those in The Prince. In “Changes,” he raps, “Try to show another way, but they stayin’ in the dope game. Now tell me what’s a mother to do? Bein’ real don’t appeal to the brother in you. You gotta operate the easy way. ‘I made a G today’ But you made it in a sleazy way. Sellin’ crack to the kids. ‘I gotta get paid,’ Well hey, well that’s the way it is.”

Crack being sold to kids? I am pretty sure Jesus would not have approved. But if the ends justify the means, then the effort to stay alive justifies doing it. Machiavelli believed that it was necessary to make decisions that were morally questionable in order to achieve the desired end – this behavior is exactly what Shakur is referring to in the song, that sometimes people need to sacrifice ideals for a possible future gain. 

The biggest development, which has been in the news more frequently, is that Tupac is still alive. In Machiavelli’s book The Art of War, he explains how to fake one’s death in order to deceive enemies and avoid punishment. Many people hypothesize that Tupac has done the same, with the goal of being able to avoid the conflict between him and the rappers from the East Coast. For several years, Tupac and the rapper Biggie Smalls had tension between each other over who was the better and more influential rapper. Ultimately both of them got shot, but there is serious speculation to that Shakur is still alive and in hiding, faking his death in the same way Machiavelli wrote about doing.

Seen Above: 2Pac’s hologram performing live at Coachella in 2012 – Is he still alive?

It is amazing to think that people took the death of a revered hip hop artist and stretched it into a conspiracy theory because of the change to Tupac’s name. When Shakur died, people were too reluctant to believe it was true and found reasons for him to still be alive. And while it is almost guaranteed he is no longer living, it would be an amazing story if it were true. I think it is safe to say that the conspiracy to assassinate both Mr. Shakur, as well as that of Mr. Machiavelli, were quite successful.


One comment

  1. pburt117 · November 5, 2014

    This post is by far my favorite thus far. I liked how you were able to interlace two seemingly unrelated topics into a well-woven post. It combines modern-day interest with something that is generally considered to be a “boring” topic, creating a more interesting analysis than if you were to simply focus on Machiavelli. Although I do view the conspiracy of Tupac still being alive as a hoax, sort of like a modern-day Loch Ness Monster, this post still is entertaining. It also shows that Machiavelli may hold more pop-culture relevance than most people realize.


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