Alicia Keys, Snoop Dogg, YG, Treach and T.I. all contributed to a thrilling medley of Tupac Shakur songs at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Brooklyn on Friday. Snoop Dogg, who collaborated with Tupac on “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted” from the landmark double album All Eyez on Me, accepted the Rock Hall’s honor on behalf of Tupac, who was murdered in 1996.
Alicia Keys began the set by leading a band through a rapid-fire tour of Tupac’s discography. She started with a snippet of “Ambitionz az a Ridah” before moving into a snapping, bluesy vamp based around the theme from “I Get Around.” Next she rendered “I Ain’t Mad at Cha” and “Dear Mama” as big-room ballads. These songs were all picked shrewdly, since they have prominent keyboard riffs and singalong hooks that played to Keys’ formidable talents in both departments.
The band behind Keys laid low for much of the medley, but the drummer came to life during “Changes,” whacking his kit with enough heft to help her end her short segment at an energetic peak.
After Keys demonstrated Tupac’s ability to craft an indelible melody and pick a perfect sample, Snoop Dogg and YG brought the focus back to his rapping by trading verses on “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted.” Part of the power of the original stems from the contrast between Tupac’s style – he raps with speed and precision, commandeering the beat – and Snoop’s, which is unhurried, though no less authoritative. The same dynamic played out at the Barclays Center, with YG playing Tupac’s role, delivering lines in a breathless rush, and Snoop reprising his part as a steadying force.
Next came Treach from Naughty by Nature, who tackled the somber but defiant “Hail Mary.” Treach laid raspy lines over the track’s eerie beat, which is defined by a single ring from a gloomy church bell. “I ain’t a killer but don’t push me,” he warned ominously.
T.I. showed up for the medley’s anchor leg and rapped “Keep Ya Head Up,” one of the most hopeful tracks on Tupac’s discography, and one of the most successful, a crossover hit that rose to No. 12 on the Hot 100 in 1994. T.I. wore a kerchief around his head in Tupac’s honor and ended the performance on a note of uplift.
— Kip Smithers (@Nicktheegr8) April 8, 2017
Tupac is just the sixth rapper or rap group to be inducted into the Rock Hall. He follows Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, Run-D.M.C., the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy and N.W.A.