Make me wanna holler / The way they do my life
It was a chilly January morning when I made
my way to Rikers Island for a conversation with Tupac
Shakur, what would be his first words to any journalist
since being shot last November 30. After passing through
a series of checkpoints and metal detectors, I reached
a dingy white conference room in the same building where
Tupac was being held on $3 million bail. Within weeks,
he'd receive a one-and-a-half- to four-and-a-half-year
sentence for a sexual abuse conviction in his New York
rape case. Tupac strutted into the room without a limp,
in spite of having been recently wounded in the leg-among
other places. Dressed in a white Adidas sweatshirt and
oversized blue jeans, he seemed more alert than he had
been in all our interviews and encounters. He looked
me in the eyes as we spoke and smoked one Newport after
another. "I'm kinda nervous," he admitted
at one point. After a brush with death and the barrage
of rumor and innuendo that followed, Tupac said he'd
summoned me because "this is my last interview.
If I get killed, I want people to get every drop. I
want them to have the real story."
How do you feel after everything you've been through
these past few weeks?
Well, the first two days in prison, I had to go through
what life is like when you've been smoking weed for
as long as I have and then you stop. Emotionally, it
was like I didn't know myself. I was sitting in a room,
like there was two people in the room, evil and good.
That was the hardest part. After that, the weed was
out of me. Then every day I started doing, like, a thousand
push-ups for myself. I was reading whole books in one
day, and writing, and that was putting me in a peace
of mind. Then I started seeing my situation and what
got me here. Even though I'm innocent of the charge
they gave me, I'm not innocent in terms of the way I
Could you tell me specifically what you mean?
I'm just as guilty for not doing nothing as I am for
doing things. Not with this case, but just in my life.
I had a job to do and I never showed up. I was so scared
of this responsibility that I was running away from
it. But I see now that whether I show up for work or
not, the evil forces are going to be at me. They're
going to come 100 percent, so if I don't be 100 percent
pure-hearted, I'm going to lose. And that's why I'm
When I got in here, all the prisoners was, like, "F*ck
that gangsta rapper." I'm not a gangsta rapper.
I rap about things that happen to me. I got shot five
times, you know what I'm saying? People was trying to
kill me. It was really real like that. I don't see myself
being special; I just see myself having more responsibilities
than the next man. People look to me to do things for
them, to have answers. I wasn't having them because
my brain was half dead from smoking so much weed. I'd
be in my hotel room, smoking too much, drinking, going
to clubs, just being numb. That was being in jail to
me. I wasn't happy at all on the streets. Nobody could
say they saw me happy.
When I spoke to you a year ago, you said that if
you ended up in jail, your spirit would die. You sound
like you're saying the opposite now.
That was the addict speaking. The addict knew if I
went to jail, then it couldn't live. The addict in Tupac
is dead. The excuse maker in Tupac is dead. The vengeful
Tupac is dead. The Tupac that would stand by and let
dishonorable things happen is dead. God let me live
for me to do something extremely extraordinary, and
that's what I have to do. Even if they give me the maximum
sentence, that's still my job.
Can you take us back to that night at Quad Recording
Studios in Times Square?
The night of the shooting? Sure. Ron G. is a DJ out
here in New York. He's, like, "Pac, I want you
to come to my house and lay this rap down for my tapes."
I said, "All right, I'll come for free." So
I went to his house-me, Stretch, and a couple other
homeboys. After I laid the song, I got a page from this
guy Booker, telling me he wanted me to rap on Little
Shawn's record. Now, this guy I was going to charge,
because I could see that they was just using me, so
I said, "All right, you give me seven G's and I'll
do the song." He said, "I've got the money.
Come." I stopped off to get some weed, and he paged
me again. "Where you at? Why you ain't coming?"
I'm, like, "I'm coming, man, hold on."
Did you know this guy?
I met him through some rough characters I knew. He
was trying to get legitimate and all that, so I thought
I was doing him a favor. But when I called him back
for directions, he was, like, "I don't have the
money." I said, "If you don't have the money,
I'm not coming." He hung up the phone, then called
me back: "I'm going to call [Uptown Entertainment
CEO] Andre Harrell and make sure you get the money,
but I'm going to give you the money out of my pocket."
So I said, "All right, I'm on my way." As
we're walking up to the building, somebody screamed
from up the top of the studio. It was Little Caesar,
Biggie's [the Notorious B.I.G.] sideman. That's my homeboy.
As soon as I saw him, all my concerns about the situation
So you're saying that going into it...
I felt nervous because this guy knew somebody I had
major beef with. I didn't want to tell the police, but
I can tell the world. Nigel had introduced me to Booker.
Everybody knew I was short on money. All my shows were
getting canceled. All my money from my records was going
to lawyers; all the movie money was going to my family.
So I was doing this type of stuff, rapping for guys
and getting paid.