Tupac Shakur Releases His First Single: Sept. 25 in Hip-Hop History
On this day in hip-hop history, the world was blessed with the birth of Will Smith and Donald Glover, Tupac Shakur fought against police brutality, Raekwon grabbed the spotlight with an unintended track and Keyshia Cole went platinum with her second record.
1991: Tupac Shakur debuts with "Trapped"
On Sept. 25, 1991, Tupac Shakur released "Trapped," the first single from his debut record 2Pacalypse Now. It focused on police brutality, and the record became the center of a controversy after the man who killed a Texas state trooper claimed he was influenced by its message. Then-Vice President Dan Quayle claimed, "There's no reason for a record like this to be released. It has no place in our society."
But Tupac wanted to stay the course. "The concept is the young black male. Everybody's been talkin' about it but now it's not important," he said of the album's theme. "It's like we just skipped over it ... It's no longer a fad to be down for the young black male. Everybody wants to go past. Like the gangster stuff, it just got exploited. This was just like back in the days with the movies. Everybody did their little gun shots and their hand grenades and blew up stuff and moved on. Now everybody's doing rap songs with the singing in it ... I'm still down for the young black male. I'm gonna stay until things get better. So it's all about addressing the problems that we face in everyday society."
1995: Raekwon drops "Ice Cream" / "Incarcerated Scarfaces"
Raekwon's solo career outside of the Wu-Tang Clan continued to flourish with his third single, "Ice Cream." It featured uncredited contributions from his Wu-Tang Clan bandmates Method Man, Ghostface Killah and Cappadonna, and reached No. 5 on the Rap Singles chart, a career-best for him.
Its b-side, "Incarcerated Scarfaces," also got recognized thanks to its inclusion on the soundtrack for the popular video game Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories. But it turns out the RZA, who produced the Only Built for Cuban Linx... album, didn't intend his beat for Raekwon's album.
"I wasn’t making that beat for Rae. I was finished with Rae," RZA said. "I like having 13 tracks. I don’t like having 18. I was making it for GZA probably. He was next. But then Rae heard that beat, grabbed his pen and paper, and started writing. Two hours later, it was written."
2007: Keyshia Cole puts out Just Like You
On Sept. 25, 2007, singer Keyshia Cole released her second record, Just Like You. It debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, went platinum and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Contemporary R&B Album. The album featured contributions from Missy Elliott and Lil' Kim -- both of whom appeared on the Top 10 "Let It Go" -- Anthony Hamilton and T.I., among others. Although its title track wasn't a single, Cole chose it because she wanted her fans to know that success hadn't changed her.
"I'm explaining how I'm just like you; I go through everyday things," she said. "I'm trying to get my things together just like you, I'm trying to learn myself, just like you, you know. Everything that we go through on a regular day, just trying to get ourselves together and slowly gravitate to the goals and aspirations we have in life, and I think when it comes to that aspect, I'm just like anybody else."
1968: Will Smith is born
A jack-of-all-trades, Will Smith was born on Sept. 25, 1968. Smith's career began when he connected with his childhood friend Jeffrey Townes, and the two formed the rap duo DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. Their second record, 1998's He's the DJ, I'm the Rapper — the first double album in hip-hop history — was certified triple platinum, but that success paled in comparison to the stardom Smith would achieve as an actor.
In 1990 he signed on to star as a fictionalized version of himself called The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, where he garnered huge popularity as a goofy, lovable teenager from West Philadelphia who was sent to live with his rich relatives in Bel-Air, Calif.. While playing that role for six seasons, Smith also dabbled in film. But his part in 1996's blockbuster Independence Day set him on a track to star in some of the biggest films of the '90s and '00s, bringing in unparalleled box office returns, while maintaining his successful rap career, with four albums between 1997 and 2005, all of which went at least gold.
1983: Donald Glover is born
Donald Glover, who was born on this day in 1983, began his career in entertainment when, at the age of 23, Tina Fey hired him as a writer for her sitcom 30 Rock, where he worked from 2006-09. From there, he went on to play Troy for five seasons on another NBC sitcom, Community, and created the critically acclaimed Atlanta. He's also appeared in a number of films, including 2015's Magic Mike XXL and The Martian, 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming and 2018's Solo: A Star Wars Story.
But like Smith, he was splitting his attention between acting and music. He'd been DJing and producing electronic music under the name McDJ for years, but in 2011, he released his first record, Camp, under his stage name Childish Gambino. But in 2017, after releasing two more albums, he vowed that Gambino would retire after one more record.
In May 2018, he released the single "This Is America," which addressed gun violence and police brutality in the U.S. It became his first No. 1 hit, and was lauded across the board.