As Tupac Shakur simply known to the hip-hop audience as 2Pac, prepares for the release of his latest CD, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z…, he stands at a weird place in his career.
After enjoying success as a member of funk/rap group Digital Underground, he went on to a starring role in Ernest Dickerson’s critically acclaimed film, Juice, which garnered rave reviews for 2Pac’s portrayal of the maniac homeboy Bishop.
Coming off of that career high, he released his debut solo album, 2Pacalypse Now, which caught a lot of flack during the censoring spree on hip-hop in 1991. Not bothered by all the hoopla, 2Pac stepped off and walked straight onto the set of Poetic Justice, his soon to be released John Singleton directed film which teams him up with the „princess of pop,“ Janet Jackson.
Whether his albums are being criticized for offensive language or going platinum, 2Pac is always on to the next thing, with lots of things happening in that head of his. Here’s what was on his mind when we spoke:
Right On!: 2Pac?
Right On!: Nothing much. What’s up with you?
Tupac: Just struggling and surviving.
Right On!: Tell me a little about this album of yours.
Tupac: The whole point with this album is that it’s strictly for my boys, my people. I did this album because they told me not to give up. All my fan mail kept advising me not to give up. They (the record company) censored my album. It was supposed to be called Troublesome 21, but Time Warner didn’t want me to say Fuck! But I am saying it anyway on my street album I’m doing with my homeboys. It’s called Thug Life.
Right On!: What’s that all about?
Tupac: I am standing up for the people on the lower level of life. I am screaming, „Thug Life!“ Everybody else acts like they are changing. They are leaving, moving and thinking they are getting better. I am down for the thugs!
Right On!: Did you write and produce Strictly… Yourself?
Tupac: I wrote the whole thing, all the lyrics and everything that came out of my mouth. I co-produced everything. Every producer I went to, I worked with them to get what I wanted. In fact, I went to a lot of different producers.
Right On!: Who are some of the producers?
Tupac: I worked with my man Big Stretch, Bobcat, Digital Underground and some other guys.
Right On!: Is there any chance of a reunion between you and Digital Underground?
Tupac: Yes! Digital Underground is still together. The new album will be out soon. I did a song for that album and they’re doing a track for the Poetic Justice soundtrack.
Right On!: School me on this movie everyone’s already talking about.
Tupac: It’s a movie about relationships, responsibilities and growing up. My character, Lucky, deals with being a single father. He’s a hardworking mailman who falls in love with a lonely hairdresser.
Right On!: What would you say are the differences between Lucky and Bishop, your character from Juice?
Tupac: Bishop is on the edge and could not deal with it, and Lucky is doing his best to deal with it.
Right On!: Which character is closest to 2Pac’s personality?
Tupac: They both are, just on opposite sides. I am a thug. If you push me in the comer, there will be problems. Do you know what I’m sayin‘? I am in the magazines today and tomorrow I could be in the papers. Mess with me and I turn into Bishop real fast. Leave me alone and I will be Lucky. Get it?
Right On!: Got it. What was your working relationship with Janet like?
Tupac: Cool. She was real nice. I got invited over to her house a lot, having dinner almost every other night. We talked and I really got to know her, and got to see what she’s about. Yeah – she’s cool and sweet.
Right On!: Does the movie have any romantic scenes between you and Janet?
Right On!: Could you see yourself acting not recording one day?
Tupac: No, I could not see myself doing that. That’s something serious. In the ideal world, where cops did not harass young black males for nothing, „we“ had kind of power and everything was not so black and white, I would take acting as seriously as breathing. I take it really seriously, but this ain’t the the ideal world! I don’t take that seriously.
Right On!: You already have a career in music and film. Are there here things you could see yourself doing in the future?
Tupac: I started a production company and I started to manage other groups. I would eventually like to write a screenplay, and I’m working on Thug International. I want to get thugs all over the country united!
Right On!: Do you like a lot of other rap music you hear?
Tupac: I really like the original stuff. I think rappin‘ is getting out of hand and everybody is trying to out do each other. They’re trying to rap faster, quicker, slower, with their tongues up their noses, whatever. It’s getting crazy. It depends on what you’re into rap for. Some people are into rap to be entertained, some kids are into it to be schooled, and some listen for the game. But what’s happening with the street life?
Right On!: Do you think you got the album deal with negative attention given to you last album?
Tupac: Not really. I feel that it was cool. That was biggest compliment.
Right On!: Where would you like to see 2Pac ten years from now?
Tupac: Alive ten years from now!