One of the most interesting and intense interviews, I've ever conducted was with Tupac Shakur.. He had just hit it big with the movie Juice and and everyone wondering was he just acting or putting forth his real life persona in the movie.. Although I had known him for a couple of years it was hard for me to tell.. cause he had a loaded gun on him as we spoke...If I recall it was a 38....Pac explains in this interview his then recent encounter with the Oakland Police Department which resulted in him getting beat.
I had run excerpts from this interview in a newsletter I used to publish back in the early 90s. I had completely forgotten about this interview and had misplaced the tape. A couple of months ago while working on liner notes for Digital Underground's Greatest Hits which recently came out on Rhino records, I came across a tape that had an old interview I did with Shock G. I flipped to the b-side and to my surprise I discovered the missing 2Pac interview from 1991.
So today in celebration of his birthday we are sending off the transcript of the entire interview. We are also going to be playing the entire interview on our Hard Knock radio show. If you happen to be located in the San Francisco Bay Area or anywhere throughout Northern and Central california tune into KPFA 94.1 FM... If you happen to be listening to us up in Seattle where we are also heard tune into Radio X. Everyone else peep us out on line at KPFA.org or radio-x.org. We will be putting excerpts of the interview up on the site tomorrow. Enjoy the interview.
Tupac Shakur considers himself the 'Rebel of the Underground' [Digital Underground] and for good reason. He stirs things up and does the unexpected. Such a person is bound to generate excitement because they have impact on both the people and situations around them. 2Pac in 1992 promises to have major impact in the world of hip hop. He's kicking things off with a sensational acting debut in the movie 'Juice' where he stars as the character Roland Bishop. His debut lp '2Pacalypse Now' is beginning to cause a bit of a stir on retail shelves around the country. And if that's not enough Tupac is branching out and signing new acts to his production company including his older brother Moecedes who raps in the Toni Tony Tone song 'Feels Good. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing this out spoken and very animated individual at his apartment where he told his tale.
Davey D: Give a little bit of background on yourself. What got you into hip hop?
2Pac: I'm from the Bronx, NY. I moved to Baltimore where I spent some high school years and then I came to Oaktown. As for hip hop...all my travels through these cities seemed to be the common denominator.
Davey D: 2Pac... Is that your given name or is that your rap name?
2Pac: That's my birth name and my rap name.
Davey D: You lived In Marin City for a little while. How was your connection with hip hop able to be maintained while living there? Was there a thriving hip hop scene in Marin City?
2Pac: Not really..You were just given truth to the music. Being in Marin City was like a small town so it taught me to be more straight forward with my style. Instead of of being so metaphorical with the rhyme where i might say something like...
I'm the hysterical, lyrical miracle
I'm the hypothetical, incredible....
I was encouraged to go straight at it and hit it dead on and not waste time trying to cover things...
Davey D: Why was that?
2Pac In Marin City it seemed like things were real country. Everything was straight forward. Poverty was straight forward. There was no way to say I'm poor, but to say 'I'm po'...we had no money and that's what influenced my style.
Davey D: How did you hook up with Digital Underground?
2Pac: I caught the 'D-Flow Shuttle' while I was in Marin City. It was the way out of here. Shock G was the conductor.
Davey D: What's the D-Flow Shuttle?
2Pac: The D-Flow Shuttle is from the album 'Sons of the P' It was the way to escape out of the ghetto. It was the way to success. I haven't gotten off since...
Davey D: Now let's put all that in laymen's terms
2Pac: Basically I bumped into this kid named Greg Jacobs aka Shock G and he hooked me up with Digital Underground and from there I hooked up with Money B... and from there Money B hooked me up with his step mamma... and from there me and his step mamma started making beats...[laughter]
Me and his step mamma got a little thing jumping off. We had a cool sound, but Shock asked me if I wanted a group. I said 'Yeah but I don't wanna group with Money B's step momma 'cause she's gonna try and take all the profits... She wants to go out there and be like the group 'Hoes with Attitude', but I was like 'Naw I wanna be more serious and represent the young black male'.
So Shock says we gotta get rid of Money B's step mamma. So we went to San Quentin [prison] and ditched her in the 'Scared Straight' program...[laughter. After that Shock put me in the studio and it was on..This is a true story so don't say anything.. It's a true story. And to Mon's step mamma I just wanna say 'I'm sorry, but a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. I'm sorry but it was Shock's idea-Bertha.. but don't worry she can get her half of the profits from the first cut after she finishes doing her jail time. [laughter]
Davey D: What's the concept behind your album 2Pacalypse Now'?
2Pac: The concept is the young Black male. Everybody's been talkin' about it but now it's not important. It's like we just skipped over it.. It's no longer a fad to be down for the young Black male. Everybody wants to go past. Like the gangster stuff, it just got exploited. This was just like back in the days with the movies. Everybody did their little gun shots and their hand grenades and blew up stuff and moved on. Now everybody's doing rap songs with the singing in it.. I'm still down for the young Black male. I'm gonna stay until things get better. So it's all about addressing the problems that we face in everyday society.
Davey D: What are those problems?
2Pac: Police brutality, poverty, unemployment, insufficient education, disunity and violence, black on black crime, teenage pregnancy, crack addiction. Do you want me to go on?
Davey D: How do you address these problems? Are you pointing them out or are you offering solutions?
2Pac: I do both. In some situations I show us having the power and in some situations I show how it's more apt to happen with the police or power structure having the ultimate power. I show both ways. I show how it really happens and I show how I wish it would happen
Davey D: You refer to yourself as the 'Rebel of the Underground' Why so?
2Pac: Cause, as if Digital Underground wasn't diverse enough with enough crazy things in it, I'm even that crazier. I'm the rebel totally going against the grain...I'm the lunatic that everyone refers to. I always want to do the extreme. I want to get as many people looking as possible. For example I would've never done the song 'Kiss U Back' that way.I would've never done a song like that-That's why I'm the rebel.
Davey D: Can talk about your recent encounter with police brutality at the hands of the Oakland PD?
2Pac: We're letting the law do its job. It's making its way through the court system.. We filed a claim...
Davey D: Recount the incident for those who don't know..
2Pac: For everyone who doesn't know, I, an innocent young black male was walking down the streets of Oakland minding my own business and the police department saw fit for me to be trained or snapped back into my place. So they asked for my I-D and sweated me about my name because my name is 'Tupac'. My final words to them was 'f--- y'all' . Next thing I know I was in a choke hold passing out with cuffs on headed for jail for resisting arrest. Yes.. you heard right-I was arrested for resisting arrest.
Davey D:Where is all this now?
2Pac: We're in the midst of having a ten million dollar law suit against the Oakland Police Department. If I win and get the money, then the Oakland Police department is going to buy a boys home, me a house, my family a house and a 'Stop Police Brutality Center' and other little odd things like that..
Davey D: In the video for the song 'Trapped' do you think that would've had the police want to treat you aggressively? After all, the video is very telling especially in the un-edited version where you have a cop get shot.
2Pac: Well the ironic thing is the cops I came across in that incident didn't know about that video. The second thing is that everything I said in that video happened to me. The video happened before the incident. In the video I show how the cops sweat me and ask for my ID and how I can't go anywhere...
Davey D: Let's talk about the movie 'Juice'. How did you get involved? Where's it at? and what's it about?
2Pac: MMM what led me? Well, we have the Freaky Deaky Money B and Sleuth [raod manager for DU]. Money B had an audition for the movie Sleuth [road manager] suggested I also come along so I went. Money B read the script and said to me' this sounds like you- a rebel. he was talking about this character named Bishop. I went in cold turkey, read, God was with me...
Davey D: Have you ever had acting experience before?
2Pac: Actually I went to the school of Performing arts in Baltimore and that's where I got my acting skills.
Davey D: Ok so you weren't a novice when you went up there... So what's the movie about?
2Pac: The movie is about 4 kids and their coming of age.
Davey D: Is it a Hip Hop movie?
2Pac: No, it's not a hip hop movie. It's a real good movie that happens to have hip hop in it. If it was made in the 60s it would've depicted whatever was 'down' in the 60s...My character is Roland Bishop, a psychotic, insecure very violent, very short tempered individual.
Davey D: What's the message you hope is gotten out of the movie?
2Pac: You never know what's going on in somebody's mind. There are a lot of things that add up. There's a lot of pressure on someone growing up. You have to watch it if it goes unchecked. This movie was an example of what can happen...
Davey D: Can you explain what you mean by this?
2Pac:In the movie my character's, father was a prison whore and that was something that drove him through the whole movie...
Davey D: This was something that wasn't shown in the movie?
2Pac: Yes, they deleted this from the film. Anyway this just wrecked his [Bishop's] mind. You can see through everybody else's personality, Bishop just wanted to get respect. He wanted the respect that his father didn't get. Everthing he did, he did just to get a rep. So from those problems never being dealt with led to him ending four people's lives.
Davey D: Do you intend on continuing making movies?
2Pac: It depends on whether or not there are any good parts. I want to challenge myself.
Davey D: What is your philosophy on hip hop? I've heard you say you don't to see it diluted?
2Pac: Well when I said that, it made me think. It brought me to myself. Now I have a different philosophy. Hip Hop when it started it was supposed to be this new thing that had no boundaries and was so different to everyday music. Now it seems like I was starting to get caught up in the mode of what made hip hop come about. I would walk around and hear something and start saying 'That's not Hip Hop'. If someone started singing, I would walk around and say 'That's not Hip Hop'. Well, now I've changed my mind. That could be Hip Hop.As long as the music has the true to the heart soul it can be hip hop. As long it has soul to it, hip hop can live on.
Davey D:I guess my question would be, how do you determine what's soul and what isn't?
2Pac: Well you can tell. The difference between a hit like 'Make You Dance' [C&C Music Factory] and 'My Mind Is Playing Tricks On Me' [Geto Boys]. You have to ask yourself, 'Which song moves you'.
Davey D: Well actually both. Both songs move me
2Pac: Really? well... ok there you go
Davey D:So they both would be Hip Hop, right?
2Pac: I guess so, at least in your opinion. 'The Make You Dance' song didn't move me. But the Geto Boys song did move me
Davey D: Well for the record Bambaataa says both of them are Hip Hop. I asked him what he thought about groups like C&C Music Factory. He said they were part of the Hip Hop family...But that's his philosophy on things. So what's your plans for the next year or so?
2Pac: To strengthen the Underground Railroad. I have a crew called the Underground Railroad and a program called the Underground Railroad...I wanna build all this up, so that by next year you will know the name Underground Railroad...
Davey D: So what's the concept behind The Underground Railroad?
2Pac: The concept behind this is the same concept behind Harriet Tubman, to get my brothers who might be into drug dealing or whatever it is thats illegal or who are disenfranchised by today's society-I want to get them back into by turning them onto music. It could be R&B, hip hop or pop, as long as I can get them involved. While I'm doing that, I'm teaching them to find a love for themselves so they can love others and do the same thing we did for them to others.
Davey D: How many people in the Underground Railroad? Is it a group that intends to keep constantly evolving? Also where are the people who are a part of Underground Railroad coming from?
2Pac: Right now we're twenty strong. The group is going to be one that constantly evolves. The people that are in the UR are coming from all over, Baltimore, Marin City, Oakland, New York, Richmond-all over.
Davey D: What do you think of the Bay Area rap scene compared to other parts of the country?
2Pac: Right now the Bay Area is how the Bronx was in 1981. Everybody is hot. They caught the bug. Everybody is trying to be creative and make their own claim. New York just got to a point where you could no longer out due the next guy. So now you have this place where there isn't that many people to out due. Here you can do something and if it's good enough people will remember you. So that's what's happening. here in the Bay Area, it's like a renaissance.
Davey D: In New York the renaissance era got stopped for a number of reasons in my opinion. What do you think will prevent that from happening in the Bay Area?
2Pac: Well at the risk of sounding biased, I say Digital Underground. They are like any other group. I'll give that to Shock G. He made it so that everything Digital Underground does it helps the Bay Area music scene. It grows and goes to New York and hits people from all over the country. That helps the Bay Area. Our scene is starting to rub off on people. We want everyone to know about Oakland. When other groups come down, like Organized Konfusion or Live Squad and they kick it with Digital Underground, they get to see another side of the Bay Area music scene.It's a different side then if they kicked it with that guy... I don't wanna say his name, but you know who he is he dropped the 'MC' from his name [MC Hammer].
Davey D: So you think Digital Underground will be more strength to the Bay Area rap scene because they help bring national attention. What do you think other groups will have to do?
2Pac: What we have to do is not concentrate so much on one group. We have to focus more on the area. It's not about just building up Too Short, Digital Underground and Tony Toni Tone and say; 'That's it. They're the only groups that can come from the Bay Area'. We have to let the new groups come out. Nobody wants to give the new acts a chance. Everybody wants to only talk about Too Short and Digital Underground...We have to start talking about these other groups that are trying to come in that are coming up from the bottom.
Davey D: When you say 'come up' what do you mean by that?
2Pac: It's like this. Instead of letting them do interviews where nobody ever reads them, let a good newspaper interview them. Instead of putting them on the radio when nobody is ever going to hear them or where nobody is going to hear them, have them where people can hear them and get at them where they had a better chance, just like if they were Mariah Carey.
Davey D: Do you find the Bay Area sound is being respected? Do you find that people are starting to accept it around the country?
2Pac: I feel that the Bay Area sound hasn't even finished coming out. It's starting to get respected more and more everyday.
Davey D: Your brother Moecedes is a rapper for the group Tony Toni Tone. What's the story with him? Are you guys gonna team up?
2Pac: He's in the Underground Railroad. He's also about to come out with another guy named Dana.
Davey D: Who produced your album and are you into producing
2Pac: I co-produced it with the members of the Underground Railroad which is Shock G, Money B, Raw Fusion, Pee Wee, Jay-Z from Richmond, Stretch from the Live Squad. It's really like a life thing-this Underground Railroad. It effects everything we do.
Davey D: Is there anything else we should know about Tupac?
2Pac: Yeah, the group Nothing Gold is coming. My kids are coming out with a serious message...NG is a group coming out that I produce.. All the stuff I say in my rhymes I say because of how I grew up. So to handle that, instead of going to a pyschiatrist, I got a kids group that deals with the problems a younger generation is going through. They put them into rhymes so it's like a pyschology session set to music. It'll make you come to grips with what you actually do..
Davey D: What do you mean by that? Are they preaching?
2Pac: No they're just telling you straight up like Ice Cube or Scarface. They're being blunt and it comes out of akid's mouth. If you're a black man, you're going to really trip out cause they really call you out and have you deal with them...NG will make us have responsibility again. Kids are telling you to have responsibility...
Davey D: What do you think of the current trends in Hip Hop like the gangsta rap, Afrocentric Rap, raggamuffin and the fusion of the singing and rap? Some people call it 'pop rap'.
2Pac: I think all the real shit is gonna stay. It's gonna go through some changes. It's going through a metaphorphis so it will blow up sometimes and get real nasty and gritty, then the leeches will fall off and Hip Hop will be fit and healthy. Hip Hop has to go through all of that, but no one can make judgments until it's over.
Davey D: What do you think the biggest enemies to Hip Hop are right now?
2Pac: Egotistical rappers. They don't wanna open up their brain. Its foul when people are walking around saying things like; 'Oakland is the only place where the real rappers come out. New York is the only place where the real rappers come out. They booty out there or they booty over there...' All of that just needs to die or Hip Hop is gonna have problems. Its gonna be so immature. Thats just conflict in words. We can't be immature we gotta grow.
Davey D: Cool I think we got enough out of you 2Pac.
2Pac: yes I think you got enough
Davey D: Peace.