Two weeks before his death in Las Vegas, Tupac Shakur was in Los Angeles filming the movie Gang Related, in which he plays a corrupt cop. During a break in the filming, he sat down in his trailer with Rob Marriott for what may have been his last-and most outrageous-in depth interview.
Vibe: Are you where you wanna be right now in your career?
Tupac: I’m at a point where I’m in charge. I don’t have to answer to anybody; I’m in total control. I’ve got another album droppin‘ next month under an alias name, under Makaveli. It’s called Killuminati, I’m not the king, I’m not the teacher or nothin‘ like that, but I feel like I don’t have no peers. I’ve been out less than a year, convicted of allegations that usually end niggas‘ careers. Shot five times in the nuts and the head. I came out, and in less than a fuckin‘ year outsold Biggie almost three times. I sold more records than his whole fuckin‘ record label.
Vibe: What’s with this Makaveli? Why name yourself after a sixteenth-century politician and philosopher?
Tupac: That’s what got me here, my reading. It’s not like I idolize this one guy Machiavelli. I idolize that type of thinking where you do whatever’s gonna make you achieve your goal.
So now I’m not on no bullshit or anything, I’m gonna change the rules in this rap game. You know how, like, in politics, the Republicans are, in now; well, I represent that style; I’m the new nigga. I’ma shake up the whole Congress. By puttin‘ out a double album-that nobody ever did-I had the most expensive album on the charts. My album cost more than any album you could buy on the charts, and I outsold every one of them muthafuckas. And I did it in two months!
I’m not dissin‘ niggas blindly. I’m dissin‘ niggas that opened up they mouth. I aspire not to be a reactionary muthafucka. I read. That’s all I do is read. I read books, I read magazines, I read y’all’s shit. I listen to everything a muthafacka says, no matter how slight, no matter how long ago he said it. Like, when I was in jail, niggas had a lot to say. When I came home, niggas had a lot to say. I remembered all of it.
Vibe: Are you motivated by revenge?
Tupac: Now, it’s for fun. This new Makaveli album I got comin‘ out, I’m takin‘ on niggas. It’s like, my dopest album ever. It’s twelve tracks. I talk about my shooting [in New York]. I say the names of the niggas that shot me, the names of the niggas that set me up…. Everything I couldn’t say, I said it in a rap. I also dis Dre, I dis Mobb Deep. All them niggas: Jay-Z, Puffy, Biggie. My album cover is me on the cross being crucified, and the cross is the map. It’s got New York, Harlem, Brooklyn, everything. And I’m on the cross bein‘ crucified for keepin‘ it real.
Vibe: So is it true you got Dre pushed off Death Row?
Tupac: I did. Suge is the boss of Death Row, the don, you understand? But I’m the underboss, the capo. That’s my job, to do what’s best for all of Death Row. My decision wasn’t based on comin‘ to Death Row and taking shit over. My decision was based on Dre not being there for Snoop during his trial.
But also, other niggas was producing beats, and Dre was gettin, the credit. And I got tired of that. He was owning the company too and he chillin‘ in his house; I’m out here in the streets, whoopin‘ niggas‘ asses, startin‘ wars and shit, droppin‘ albums, doin‘ my shit, and this nigga takin‘ three years to do one song! I couldn’t have that. But it was not my decision. Suge was comin‘ to me.
Death Row can never be weak, no matter what. If we stop sellin‘ millions and all that, we will always have our honor. We will always have our respect, and that’s all I’m back in this rap game for. I already have famous records; I’m in this shit for the honor and respect. To be a family, to be known as something, to get this dark cloud off us as a race. We need some kind of sunshine, some kind of exceptional being so we can stop suckin‘ Malcolm X and Michael Jordan’s dick.
Vibe: Do you and Suge both feel the same way about taking over, not turning back, and not being pawns?
Tupac: Nobody respects a man who don’t do for himself. I’m a soldier; so I’m here on Death Row to put my time into this army. It’s not like they got me out of jail and now I gotta do for them. It’s that they believed in me, so I believe in this company when no one else will. When people said this was played out. I’m breathin‘ into it. I don’t give a fuck if I don’t get along with anybody else on the label. This is for Death Row. When it comes to the point when I feel it can stand on its own, I will move on. But me and Suge will always do business together, forever.
Vibe: Y’all are kindred spirits?
Tupac: Everything I don’t have, he’s got, and everything he don’t got, I got. Together, I think we can only be stopped by each other. We want, not oppression, but total domination.
I’m not no dumb-ass muthafucka. I don’t bang for the color or the land. It’s for the principles, for the honor. I’m banging for the Wesside. It’s in my heart. When I be throwing up the W, it ain’t for California, it’s a W for war. When the West Coast and the middle and the East get together, we got power. You won’t be seeing me throwing this when we’re all together. But we ain’t there, we still all separate tribes, and I know what tribe I’m in. I’m a soldier. I’ll always be true to those who are true to me. New York shouldn’t be trippin, they should be loving this, because they gave me the game to do this- What made me raw is that I got both. I’m the future of black America.
Vibe: Why do you think people always supported you, even in the ugliest situations?
Tupac: I don’t know. All I can say is I always try to be a real nigga in my heart. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad; but it’s still us. It’s never to hurt nobody. I’m not gonna take advantage of you or bully you. I’m on some underdog shit. And I truly believe I’ve been blessed by God, and God walks with me. Me and my niggas are on some Black Jesus shit. Not a new religion or anything, but the saint for thugs and gangstas-not-killers and rapists, but thugs. When I say thugs, I mean niggas who don’t have anything.
I lived and almost died for Thug Life. And after that VIBE article, people said „Tupac, I thought Thug Life was dead.“ Yeah, but read the rest of the article. Puffy, in that letter in VIBE, gave me some advice that brought me back to the Thug Life shit. He said you can’t be a thug for a second or a minute and get in and out of it, you gotta be in it forever. He didn’t mean it as advice at the time, he said it to dampen things. So now, when I’m whoopin‘ his ‚ muthafuckin ass, and it hurts, and all these people talkin‘ about „Stop, now,“ remember what he told me. These words came out of his mouth.
Vibe: Biggie’s playing it like you got it confused, that he didn’t have nothin‘ to do with your, getting shot…
Tupac: I have no mercy in war. I said in the beginning I was gonna take these niggas out the game, and sure enough I will. Already people can’t look at Biggie and not laugh. I took every piece of his power. Anybody who tries to help them, I will destroy. Anyone who wanna side with them or do a record with them, whatever, try to unify with them, I’ma destroy. I swear to God. Can’t nobody touch me right now. Maybe next month all of this will be over, but this month I’m takin‘ every moving target out.
Black people put all their political energies, everything they have, into getting loot. Like right now, it’s the presidential campaign.
And we ain’t doin‘ shit.
We’re voting on Tupac and Biggie, ‚cause that’s where we live. no’s gonna get dead presidents, not who’s going to be president.
But see, rap is like a politician’s race; If I lost New York, I won the other forty-nine states, and that makes me in control. Now I’m the new president for the next four years. Crucial Conflict could go five times platinum, but nobody’s gon‘ let them sign no bills. They can’t make no hip hop laws.
Vibe: So what is the source of this power?
Tupac: I tried to see if it was, like, a white thing. Everywhere I go with money, they let me in. Everywhere I go with none, they don’t let you in. Trust me. That’s all it is. It’s all about money. When you got money, you got power. I guarantee if people keep supporting me-just buyin‘ my record, just goin‘ to my concerts-I’ma keep givin‘ money. Every time I go platinum I’m puttin‘ money up for community centers. Every time I go platinum, somebody’s gettin‘ a big check. I feel like an elected official.
You know what I thought when I was in jail, I was, like, No politician is even gettin‘ at us. I represent five million fuckin‘ sales. And no politician is even checkin‘ for us. But by the next election I promise I’ll be sitting across from all the candidates. I promise you! I’ma be so far from where I am now in four years-God willin‘ I’m alive-it’s on! I guarantee we will have our own political party. It won’t just be for blacks. It’s gon‘ be for Mexicans, for Armenians, all you lost-tribe muthafackas. We need to have our own political party ‚cause we have the same muthafuckin‘ problems. We built this nation and we get none of the benefits.
Vibe: What distinguishes you from everyone else?
Tupac: I never thought I was the best rapper-the best nothin‘. I think I’m the realest nigga out there. I do think that. I think I own that. ‚Cause I think being real is just being true. I’m the nigga that will wear a suit when everybody’s got on khakis. I’ll be baldheaded when everybody’s wearing braids. I’ll wear braids when they all baldheaded. I’m just being real. I don’t have insecurities-well, I do, but I just put them in front of everybody, like my mom and my life and me being little.
We got to kill this niggeritis. Niggas hate me just ‚cause of what you doin‘, niggas plotting on you ‚cause of omen, and niggas hatin‘ to see you shine. We got to kill that. Before we can kill it in our black nation, we got to kill it in the Hip Hop Nation, and that’s what I’m doin‘. It’s the only reason I’m back: to bring the heat. And I feel like God is tellin‘ me to do it. I feel like Black Jesus is controlling me. He’s our saint that we pray to; that we look up to. Drug dealers, they sinning, right? But they’ll be millionaires. How I got shot five times only a saint, only Black Jesus, only a nigga that know where I’m coming from, could be, like, „You know what? He’s gonna end up doing some good.“ I gotta do that.
People might be, like, „This nigga’s conceited, but fuck it. I feel like I shine. And I don’t give a fuck how much white people, the media, niggas, black people, playa haters, police, whoever, try to darken my shine, I’ma always shine through. They could lie about my words, but they always gonna ring true ‚cause it’s my essence; it’s in my essence, and that’s what’s always gonna come through.