Events

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Beyond the Notes - Making Beats, Producing Meaning: Johnny J and Tupac Shakur (Loren Kajikawa)*

When/WhereFriday, Sep 27, 2019 12:30pmdeLaski Performing Arts Building, 3001, de Laski Rehearsal Room, Fairfax Campus

Making Beats, Producing Meaning: Johnny J and Tupac Shakur"

Presented by Loren Kajikawam, Associate Professor of Musicology and Ethnomusicology at The George Washington University

Although dead for nearly two decades, Tupac Shakur endures as one of the most iconic rappers in hip hop music. His celebrated work ethic, talent, and charisma as an MC, actor, and public figure, however, tend to overshadow the collaborative nature of his work in the studio. This paper considers one of Tupac’s most prolific collaborators, producer Johnny J Jackson, with whom he recorded more than one hundred songs. By focusing on an iconic song from Tupac’s extensive catalogue, “Life Goes On” (1996), this paper attempts to explain how the beat that Tupac raps over conveys important meaning of its own. Drawn from a sample of the O’Jays ballad “Brandy” (1975), which Johnny J had looped years before Tupac wrote and recorded his lyrics, the beat provides meaningful poetic structure and associative content that both supports and amplifies the song’s message of compassion and resilience in the face of untimely death and incarceration. In this way, “Life Goes On” provides an opportunity to hear Johnny J’s voice and begin to understand how producers not only make beats, but produce meaning as well.