A Day With Tupac In Harlem, New York, 1994. The Story Of Photographer T. Eric Monroe
T.Eric Monroe is a master of being at the right place at the right time, and even more importantly, was prepared to do whatever it took to make the most of those opportunities. As a photographer, he captured some of the most iconic hip-hop moments of the 1990s, only to later realize the magnitude of that place in time. T. Eric has been digitizing his catalog recently and just published a new book, Rare & Unseen Moments of 90s HipHop, showcasing images from publications like Thrasher Magazine, The Source, XXL, and a host of other publications.
On his personal blog, T. Eric Monroe speaks on the first part of his book “RARE & UNSEEN MOMENTS OF 90’S HIPHOP” and tells his story on spending a day in New York with Tupac Shakur in 1994, starting with some background of the day.
“I received a call from Tupac’s publicist (Interscope Records), asking if I wanted to photograph Tupac in Harlem” Eric Monroe reveals. “He was having a press day and being filmed for music video channel, The Box. The format of the segment, Box Talk, was that camera crews would follow the artist around their childhood neighborhood. They would then shoot a particular segment in front of a location meaningful to the artist.” Monroe shares.
He also reveals, that meaningful location for Tupac was his elementary school in Harlem.
Later on, Eric developing the Tupac story to the “Photographer Moment”.
“When I arrived at the location (155th Street & St. Nicholas Avenue), not far from Yankee Stadium, it was chaos. Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. had just dropped the prior year and ‘Pac was already a household name. Everyone wanted a piece of him as he had recently released the album Thug Life: Volume 1. Magazine and newspaper photographers, The Box camera crew, and local news teams were yelling at Tupac to look at their cameras.”
“I watched it for a while, then slowly got out my camera and moved toward some of the action. I was relatively close to Tupac and I kept to certain angles so I would not be intrusive in ‘Pac’s space. The connection became more endearing. At times, both of us looked at each other and quietly laughed at the media circus around us.”
“I was able to capture a personal vibe among Tupac and his friends — guys from the groups Thug Life and the Outlawz,” Eric Monroe says. “After the main taping was done, the news cameras started to leave. The bulk of the news press got the shots they needed to portray Tupac as the “Dangerous Thug,” which they would print in the next day’s papers. It felt like Tupac knew how to play with the media to keep his name in the press. He knew how to press their buttons, challenge them mentally; their only recourse was to portray him as a troublemaker. The pattern was reactive and visible.”
“As more people left, Tupac and his friends stayed to themselves, lingering by one of the walls within the city park where filming had just concluded. They created a space and moment to relax together. Within that time, Tupac would peer beyond the edge of his red bandana, which dangled in front of his eyelash as he prepared a blunt. As he finished, he kindly glanced at me. I got the shots I needed. I heard the lighter spark as I stepped away, giving them their personal space.”
Another interesting story from T. Eric and his work-related with Tupac’s name takes us back in 1995 when he was working at The Source.
“As time at the Source moved forward and the editor became more intolerable, things finally came to a head for me after a final draft of the Tupac article that was to run in ‘96 Tupac cover issue. In the article I remember reading something about Tupac slept with Faith, Biggie’s wife. I said to the editor, you’re not going to run this, are you? He said, “Yeah, B, people gotta hear this!” I responded, “You can’t put out energy like this, it will cause too many issues.” He said,”Nah, people gotta know.” At that point, I knew I was done working there on staff. A few months later, Tupac was killed. Not by Biggie’s people, but the negative energy allowed to build (in my mind).”
More about the book here: