Tupac Shakur is one of the most influential figures in hip hop history, a young man with boundless talent, drive, and passion shrouded in mystery after his tragic death in 1996. Tupac was relentlessly productive in his short life, writing countless hit songs, appearing in numerous films, even writing poetry that was eventually anthologized in the acclaimed book, The Rose That Grew From Concrete.
The offered Mead composition book has been written in extensively by Tupac on a total of 46 pages. This is the only known full Tupac Shakur notebook in existence, as all other examples are fragments of the larger whole in the form of individual pages or front and back covers. The front cover has “Written by Tupac Shakur” written on in black pen. It is packed full of incredible sets of working lyrics, including drafts of “How Do U Want It” and “Shorty Wanna Be A Thug”, both of which appeared on the album many consider to be Tupac’s masterpiece, All Eyez on Me. “How Do U Want It” became one of Tupac’s most popular singles, charting at number one on the US Billboard Top 100 and going double Platinum.
Elsewhere in this fascinating notebook are hand-written track listings for several albums. The track listing for Me Against the World appears on the third page of the notebook, with album’s title written by Shakur in neat, deliberate cursive. Several songs appear in a different order than the released album, however the hit songs “Dear Mama”, “So Many Tears”, and “Me Against the World” are included in the track listing. The upper portion of this page is adorned with a black pen pattern similar to the one sketched on the first page. Numerous versions of the Me Against the World track listing appear throughout this composition book. One example of the Me Against the World track listing appears on the eighth page, complete with the list of features Shakur wanted, including one from his friend Snoop Doggy Dogg. Interestingly, the song that Snoop was listed on as a featured artist, “Hard On A N***a”, is referred to as “Hard On A Playa” (feat. Snoop Doggy Dogg) in a later iteration of the Me Against the World track listing.
Another track listing written by Shakur is for the Outlawz, a group that included Shakur and several of his friends and family members. This track list comes from their days as “Dramacydal”, the first name of the group. Other working lyrics in this composition book include the songs “Just Like Daddy”, “I’m Still Here”, and “Knockin’ On Heavens Door”. The overarching theme from all of these lyrics are Shakur’s conflicting thoughts on gang life and celebrity, with lyrics in “Just Like Daddy” reading “Fk doing jail time, better days and sacrifice / Wont get a chance 2 do me like they did my n*a Tyson”. This lyric, which revealed Tupac’s growing paranoia that his past and present would catch up to him, never made it into the eventual final draft of the song, which was released just eight weeks after Tupac’s death on his posthumous, platinum-selling album The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory.
Tupac also included poems in this composition book, including a short poem titled Helpless on the sixth page of the composition book. Shakur wrote “When your feeling Helpless / I’ll Be there when u need me / When your feeling Helpless / I’ll be there cant u feel me / When u’re feeling Helpless / Here I lay alone in my room”. Tupac wrote poetry before he began his rap career, with many of his early works included in the book The Rose That Grew From Concrete, which was released after his death.
Another fascinating page in this composition book is dedicated to an unidentified award acceptance speech written by Tupac. He starts by writing “Tupac Shakur would like to thank GOD and all those who he worked through” at the top of the page. Some of the people Tupac intended to thank were “B.I.G., Snoop & The Dogg Pound, Run DMC, Meth & The Wu”, as well as “the judge 4 my civil case in Marin”. Shakur mentioning The Notorious B.I.G. is noteworthy, as it indicates that their simmering feud was inching towards the reconciliation that their still-unsolved murders would eventually prevent. This speech covers an entire page in the composition book, and the people mentioned in it represent some of the most powerful people in the music industry at the time. In it, Tupac mentions Jimmy Iovine by name, and singles out “Jill, Stephen, & Tom” from Interscope Records for special thanks. Tupac also mentions by name Kidada Jones, the daughter of music legend Quincy Jones and Shakur’s fiancÃ©e at the time of his death. Kidada and Tupac had lived together for the final four months of Shakur’s life, and Tupac was allegedly on his way to visit Kidada in Las Vegas the night he was fatally shot by an unknown assailant.
On the first page of this notebook, Tupac drew an intricate, abstract lined pattern using a black pen. This design is centered around a black and white heart thoroughly filled in by Tupac. Written below, in bold black pen, are the words “Heaven Help Us” in all capital letters. This stark design is a fitting introduction to the remaining pages of the book, which are defined by Tupac’s bleak, yet emotional, lyrics dealing with the pressures of life growing up in underserved areas. In one untitled song in this notebook, Tupac wrote “All I C is faces of death all I place I left / Wanting 2 tell the police but I’ll be wasting my breath / getting callz in the hospital screaming threatz”, illustrating the constant struggle surrounding the revered and enigmatic artist.