Robert Gowan (Wasted Wine)
SPB: Who is your favorite 1990s artist?
Gowan: Probably an obvious choice, but perhaps not for us: Tupac Shakur. As far as characters and universes, I get into Tupac the same way I do Zappa or Tom Waits. He has an extremely dynamic and defined character that constantly evolves, very rapidly, through the breadth of his career almost effortlessly. He incorporates personal and theatrical elements so well that I think even he lost track of who he really was. Eventually, closer to his death, it had all grown into this elaborate, illuminati-type mythos that predicts the future and leaves a huge controversy to this day about the circumstances. Much like Tom Waits, who released 'Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers, & Bastards' - basically giving away his formula - you can kind of categorize Tupac's music in the same way. Whether it's the amped-up party and diss tracks, or the more subdued, "keep your head up"/social justice, or mom-loving tracks, they're largely shocking or sappy and sentimental. Even still, his tracks manage to fit into the world he's shaped and not turn you off in the same way Eminem's 'Recovery' might have spoiled even his early stuff that you'd loved before. The best part about all of this is that it all happens in a very understandable arch that follows his life, making it resonate but never cross the line between artsy and cheesy.