"What can I say, even the realest n*ggas quote Pac..." - Young Jeezy
Probably more than any rapper, sensitive moments and ignorant outbursts equating to enigmatic openness defines Tupac Shakur. Credit such a veil to his Gemini personality, or better yet, through the various experiences his brief, but fast paced life afforded him. Either way, properly describing Pac is a task which is still incomplete even as we creep towards what would have been his 40th birthday. In the grand scheme of perception, music constituted only one aspect to the complicated simplicity of Afeni's famous offspring.
In September of 2009, I profiled one of the more underrated intangibles in Pac's life - his interview prowess. It ran parallel with his music mainly due to the fact both provided unfiltered insight into the mind of one of Hip Hop's most troubled and brightest minds. His words have grew to become, as evidenced by recent songs from Dom Kennedy, Lil Wayne and Fabolous, blueprints for how many manuever throughout the industry and life in general. The following slides depcit five revealing and entertaining interviews from the man himself. Some are heartfelt and compassionate while others are Pac at his ignorance-filled height.
Those same contradictions personified exactly who he was - a walking platform of variance.
Notable Quotable: "The masses, the hungry people, they outweigh the rich. So as long as I appeal to the hungry and the poverty stricken people, it's all good. I'm gon' always have a job for life. It's these rich people who's worried about fooling the poor people. Everybody know it's crime out there. Everybody know what type of situation we in in the streets. All I'm doing is showing you and telling you. Why get mad at the brother that bring you the news? Get mad at the person that's making it happen."
His impact may be a distant afterthought nowadays, but Arsenio Hall's show was a staple of Hip Hop culture during the '90's. Everybody who was somebody during that era appeared on the show and in 1993, while promoting Poetic Justice, Afeni's baby boy stopped by to talk everything Janet Jackson, AIDS tests, pissing off the police and marijuana. It was an honest representation of the Tupac not often highlighted due to his controversial nature. He was humorous. He was engaging. He was thoughtful.
Speaking of the plant, however, part of me believes Pac was higher than Sputnik in this clip.
Notable Quotable: "Why does the President live in the White House if he's really representing each American out here? Why don't he live in the motherfucking crack house and see how fast they clear up this drug epidemic. Or live in a hoe house and see how fast this AIDS shit get cleared up. Feel me? Or live in the motherfucking Section 8 and see how fast this welfare shit clear up."
This, without a doubt, was the most untamed question and answer sequence of Shakur's career. Where the Arsenio Hall interview was filled with good vibes and a joyful Tupac, this rarely seen piece (aside from snippets in documentaries) often showcased "the other side" of his personality. Vindictive, high, sans-filtered and obviously annoyed with a less-than-adequate interviewer, Pac let loose on any topic under the sun, including a detailed account of his altercation with the Hughes brothers.
Aside from the rough exterior of this near 45 minute exchange, his interactions with Richie Rich were a great and natural change of pace. It's how we all are around our friends. We joke. We get inebriated. We act ignorant at times. We cherish those small moments. It's not an everyday thing, but it happens and one of the happiest moments of his life, at least on camera, appeared to be with a blunt, a pizza, something to drink and his confidants.
Notable Quotable: "I'm not saying I'm going to rule the world or I'm going change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world. That's our job, to spark somebody else watching us. We might not be the ones, but let's not be selfish and because we're not going to change the world let's not talk about how we should change it. I don't know how to change it, but I know if I keep talking about how dirty it is out here, somebody's gon' clean it up."
What's ironic about this interview is the date, March 9, 1994. No one knew at the time that three years later Pac would be dead and the date would toe tag itself as one of the darkest in Hip Hop history trademarked by the murder of Biggie Smalls. And to really throw some gas on the conspiracy fire, the clip was shot in Los Angeles.
At this point, the sexual assault case loomed over his mental, hence the reason he spoke about the possibility of doing time in prison. Long before he took five bullets and served close to a year of incarceration, Shakur warned the world time behind bars would only make him more venomous. His post-prison life proved to be just that at times. Ultimately though, the sit down with MTV's Abbie Kearse shed light on where Pac saw the genre and where he desired to take it.
Notable Quotable: "Measure a man by his actions fully, from the beginning to the end. Don't take a piece out of my life or a song out of my music and say this is what I'm about because you know better than that. And if you take me out the game, you not gon' wanna see the next one."
For some reason, the prison interview has been circulating recently under the promo "uncut." Granted, while it's not the Super Bowl or Game 7 of the World Series, "exclusive" is not a proper description either. This was a bonus feature from an old Pac DVD in the early 2000's, Thug Angel if I had to take a guess. Regardless, it could very well serve as his most intimate answering outside of the now iconic VIBE interviews.
This incredibly personal analysis was during an interesting transition period. He had already been locked down for close to nine months with his Death Row alignment only weeks away from permanently altering the landscape of rap. His mind was clear of any outside vices and the surplus of time allowed him to examine where his future was heading. Interestingly enough, Tupac recognized his intentions did not always reflect his actions and vice versa. He notes, "That kind of focuses me on what I should be doing and not letting me veer off back into the lifestyle I was living because it's real easy to do that." The ironic and depressing part about that quote stems from what we now know about the last year of his life.
If nothing else, the interview proved to be a psych evaluation any common Joe could diagnose. The man who released three largely considered classic albums in 18 months (Me Against The World, All Eyez On Me and The Seven Day Theory) was constantly in a personal tug of war right up until his final moments on the Las Vegas strip.
Notable Quotable: "The reason I can sell six million records. The reason I can go to jail and come out without a scratch. The reason I can walk around. The reason I am who I am today is because I can look directly into my face and find my soul. It's there. It's not sold. I didn't sell it. It's still within me."
Meticulous, stressed and driven. These words all describe Tupac Shakur during the summer of 1996. Maybe it was his desire to fulfill his Death Row Records contract as quickly as possible or maybe, just maybe, he knew the end was near and wanted to ensure the pieces of his posthumous puzzle were in tact before his date with destiny. Whatever the reason, part of his marathon work schedule included completing movies coinciding with his musical endeavor, The Seven Day Theory.
Shot during the filming of Gridlock'd, Pac sat down for what resulted in a privy and exposing interview which revealed his passion for the silver screen and why it manifested itself so naturally in him. A refreshing aspect about his charisma has always been the intensity. Whatever endeavor or situation he found himself in, whether it be a studio session or courtroom hearing, he was fully invested. Acting proved itself time and time again to be no different.