Dead Presidents: Tupac Shakur
It’s Las Vegas Nevada and after rendering an electrifying performance in the heart of Las Vegas Tupac Shakur is sitting down with us in the Southern University Medical Center to discuss the motives and opinions that make Pac the character he is. With a wicked grin, his classic studded nose ring, Italian made Versace loafers, and tattoos of biblical references adorning the New York christened god – Pac sheds his Thug Life exterior and gives us a piece of the rapper, actor, record producer, poet, writer, screenwriter and activist that manages to attract a crowd of people to a hospital ward. We could barely hear Pac’s humble greetings above the noise and mayhem outside.
J Lubala: I’d like to start off with saying that it has not been your music that has attracted my attention but more so your knowledge. In our current times, a hip hop artist carrying an intellect like yours is quite rare. On that note, what are your thoughts of America’s education system?
Pac: The traditional American mindset is made up of passive hostility to the African American community. There should be a class on police brutality. There should be a class on apartheid. There should be a class on why people are hungry. There should be a class on sex education, a real sex-education class. But there are not.
J Lubala: As an artist, you’re scrutinised for what people think you’re trying to convey in your music. Is it safe to say that you carry a ‘don’t give a fuck attitude’ in response to that scrutiny?
Pac: Everybody against me. Why? Why me? I have not brought violence to you. I have not brought Thug Life to America. I didn’t create Thug Life. I diagnosed it.
J Lubala: So would you say you’re a victim of society as well as the media?
Pac: In my mind I’m a blind man doin’ time. Sometimes when I’m alone I cry, Cause I am on my own. The tears I cry are bitter and warm. They flow with life but take no form I cry because my heart is torn. I find it difficult to carry on. If I had an ear to confide in, I would cry among my treasured friend, but who do you know that stops that long, to help another carry on. The world moves fast and it would rather pass by then to stop and see what makes one cry, so painful and sad. I cry but no one cares why.
J Lubala: There is an intensity in your writing and how you express yourself through your music. By now we have all come to know you as the icon which commanded hip hop culture though the 80s and 90s. Who serves as inspiration for your writing?
Pac: I love Shakespeare. He wrote some of the rawest stories, man. I mean look at Romeo and Juliet. That’s some serious ghetto shit. You got this guy Romeo from the Bloods who falls for Juliet, a female from the Crips, and everybody in both gangs are against them. So they have to sneak out and they end up dead for nothing. Real tragic stuff. And look how Shakespeare busts it up with Macbeth. He creates a tale about this king’s wife who convinces a happy man to chase after her and kill her husband so he can take over the country. After he commits the murder, the dude starts having delusions just like in a Scarface song. I mean the king’s wife just screws this guy’s whole life up for nothing.
J Lubala: Speaking of classics, your album ‘The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory’ has been recognised as one of the greatest albums amongst the hip hop community. The emotion and anger showcased on the album has been greatly admired for years now. What can you tell us about the album?
Pac: My nigga Ronald “Riskie” Brent created the Makaveli painting which became the cover for the album. Critics took Makaveli as a sort of tongue-in-cheek thing and thought it was not ready to come out but after I was murdered it did come out. But before that it was going to be a sort of underground album.
(‘The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory’ peaked at number one on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and the Billboard 200. The album generated the second highest debut-week album sales total that year, selling 664,000 copies in it’s first week. The album was certified 4× Platinum on June 15, 1999. )
J Lubala: You are quite critical of society. You seem very aware of it’s seedy underbelly. I’d ask what keeps you sane, but the better question is what keeps you alive?
As wars come and go, my soldier stays eternal. I know it seems hard sometimes but remember one thing: Through every dark night, there’s a bright day after that. So no matter how hard it get, stick your chest out, keep ya head up…. and handle it. It don’t stop ’til the casket drop.
J Lubala: Yet, you’re still here with us, your words and music touching generations years after your death.
We then progressed to autograph signings which brought on a great sense of nostalgia. The hero that graced our television screens all those years ago preaching consciousness, responsibility and ultimately freedom from oppression was with us again. A true artist. We love Pac.
TheCartoonCitizen – The White Room – 2013 cc – 4:33 am
Interview questions written by Teddy Masopha and Jonathan Lubala