In 1995, Tupac Shakur and MTV News correspondent Tabitha Soren as they walked down Venice Beach in California. During the 20 minute conversation, Pac gets personal: talking about his Baltimore upbringing, his relationship with his mother and father, starting a community center with Mike Tyson, and more.
0:01 What does Tupac Amaru Shakur mean?
0:41 Moving to the West Coast and dropping out of art school
3:07 Moving out to the West Coast and being broke
3:53 Tupac on his mother, Afeni Shakur and drug addiction
5:16 Childhood and growing up
5:41 Dealing with traumatic experiences
7:42 Going from making pizza to joining Digital Underground
9:14 Tupac gets a tattoo
9:43 Getting introduced to the ‘thug mentality‘
10:51 Growing up without a father
13:34 Working hard and success
14:27 Justice and finding the person who shot him
16:02 How life would be different if Tupac had a father
16:32 Tupac on being a father
17:46 Being in touch with his feminine side
18:15 Starting a community center with Mike Tyson
19:11 Distancing himself from a ‘thug life’ mentality
19:39 Being able to live a ‘normal’ or ‘happy’ life
Tupac: They call this place weirdo beach. I don’t know it ain’t that weird to me.
MTV: Alright, give me a characterization of your childhood.
Tupac: was the total opposite of what I am now. I was quiet, withdrawn, I read a lot, I wrote poetry.
MTV: At what point in your early life were your exposed to this quote unquote thug life mentality?
Tupac: When I was out there by myself with no where to stay and no money
MTV: Which city?
Bits of it was in Baltimore. Pieces of it was in Marin City and then the rest came in Oakland.
MTV: And what was your first introduction?
Tupac: Drug dealers, pimps, prostitutes. That’s really it. Criminals. They just the only people that cared about me at that point when I had nowhere to go and I was hungry.
MTV: But you said your mother always cared about you.
Tupac: She did but she was lost at that particular moment. She wasn’t caring about herself at that particular moment.
MTV: What was that like?
Tupac: I love my mom. She the bomb to me so.
MTV: I know she is now but what about then?
Tupac: It was hard. It was hard because, you know, she was my hero.
MTV: And what did you do when you stopped going to school?
Tupac: I only had two jobs ever in my life. One was at Roundtable Pizza, I used to make the pizza but it was good, it was the perfect job, Tabitha, ’cause I was hungry and I got to like eat all the toppings of peoples pizza. That’s where I ate ’cause everything is right there. If you imagine I was making pizzas on the side, bringing pizzas home, I’m calling in my own deliveries.
[Tupac looks at a woman walking by wearing a bikini]
Tupac: I’m saying we’re on Venice Beach that’s what you’re supposed to do. I’ve been in jail for 11 months, Tabitha. You got let me get a look once or something [laughs].
MTV: Do you think it’s important to tell your fans that it’s not cool for you to end up in jail?
Tupac: I don’t have any problem telling people it’s not cool to go to jail ’cause I’ve been there and it’s not cool.
MTV: So just tell me how you have been feeling with all the stuff that’s been going on in the last couple of weeks.
Tupac: Good. Relieved. Happy to be home. It’s a trip when you know that last week you were in jail and I was in this little cell and it was real dirty and not have any hot water and dudes were telling me when to shower and when to eat and all of that and then next week I’m up “Manny’s” with champagne, filet mignon and lobster and shrimp.
MTV: Did you feel like your life was ever threatened in jail?
Tupac: By the guards not by the inmates. ‘Cause they did just everything they could do to try to break me because I used to talk a lot of shit, you know, coming out of jail.
MTV: No, not you.
Tupac: I know, I know it’s hard to believe, Tabitha, but you just got to picture it. But, uh, you know, they would say things ’cause they would call you, uh, jail was the first place where I can go and they just went as soon I got there they went, “There he goes.” He goes, “Who?.” “There is the rich ****.” I was like, “Oh shit, he said ****, he said ****!” and everybody was looking and me like, “So?.” I was like, “Oh my God, this is where I’m gonna be staying. He said ****.”
MTV: Well you got s in one of your records.
Tupac: Nigga. They’re talking about s. s was the ones on the rope hanging out on the field. Niggas is the ones with gold ropes hanging out at clubs.
MTV: Well maybe not everyone is not aware of the differention.
Tupac: They don’t have to be. Everyone if your not a nigga and you don’t use that word you don’t have to understand it. It’s not one of those things.
MTV: How did you meet the girl in the alleged rape?
Tupac: I met her in the club. Some guys introduced me to her.
MTV: And she was very forward with you?
MTV: And what happened?
Tupac: She did some things and…
MTV: Sexual things?
Tupac: Yeah, she did some things there at the club and we got together later that night. I saw her again another time with the guys that introduced me to her, um, everybody was having a good time. Not we didn’t do anything sexual, just having a good time. Me and her went in there, she gave me a massage, came out, went to sleep, woke up. She’s screaming, “Rape, rape.” I raped her and the next thing I know I’m going to jail.
MTV: So in your opinion there was no truth to the sexual abuse charges?
Tupac: Not on my part at all.
MTV: If you could go back to the night when the sexual abuse occurred is there anything you would do differently?
Tupac: I would not have closed my eyes till she was out of the room, until everybody was out of the room.
MTV: I’ve grown up with tons of wild stories from lots of legendary rock bands and things they would do with their groupies. Do you feel like there is a double standard for black artists and white artists and how they entertain their groupies?
Tupac: Yes it is a double standard because America is scared of a black mans sexuality. and they only see us as groups who could only go, “Ugh, ugh,” and they just can’t imagine us being another way and that’s why it was so easy for people to believe I could do this.
MTV: It seemed like there was a time though that you were definitely reveling in the image of being wild and crazy. What got you off that path?
Tupac: Five hot bullets.
MTV: Tell me what happened at the recording studios in Time Square.
Tupac: I got shot five times. I walked in, some dudes walked in and shot me up, um, took some jewelry.
MTV: Do you know who shot you?
MTV: No? Is that a no or is that a maybe?
Tupac: No, I don’t know who shot me.
MTV: So does that mean that you also have no idea why they shot you?
Tupac: No, I have no idea why they shot me.
MTV: Do you think they shot you just to get your jewelry?
Tupac: I don’t know. It’s like anybody’s guess. I don’t know. I don’t really like to talk about it.
MTV: At any point did you think you were going to die after being shot five times.
Tupac: No. No, I didn’t. Immediately I was like, “Oh Man.” I know how it’s gonna be when I die it’s gonna be no noise you know you won’t hear people screaming. I’ma fade out.
MTV: You were on trial for sex abuse charges at the time of the shooting.
Tupac: I was on trial for rape and sodomy and gun possession and forcible kidnapping about 18 charges that’s why I wanted to die at that point. ‘Cause I was like you know I mean I’m tired but I lived and I was like well I can’t check out.
MTV: So you felt suicidal?
Tupac: Oh, definitely. It wasn’t like I was one day waking up and wanted to commit suicide just all around I felt suicidal but I couldn’t kill myself I just wanted somebody to kill me for me, you know what I mean?
MTV: Yet you were still happy you survived the five gunshot wounds.
Tupac: Only reason I was happy was I didn’t want them to take me out. You know I want honor man. These suckers that wanna rob you, taking you out, you know what I mean? That’s cowardly.
MTV: Do you feel rehabilitated? That’s what they try to do in jail.
Tupac: Nah jail is not a rehabilitation thing. I feel like I’ve grown and matured I don’t think jail had anything to do with it.
MTV: Tell me what you’ve been recording in the studio since you got out of jail
Tupac: Euphanasia is the name of the album. It’s a double album I’ma release it for Christmas. It’s gonna have Snoop on it, me and him did a song called “Amerika’z Most Wanted.”
MTV: Do you feel like rappers should be more responsible for their lyrics?
Tupac: Um, yes.
MTV: What would you define as irresponsible?
Tupac: You talk about murder and death and you don’t talk about the pain or you talk about killing and robbing and stealing and you don’t talk about jail and death and betrayal and all things that go with it.
MTV: A lot of people would characterize your music as gangsta rap. Do you?
MTV: Why not?
Tupac: Marlon Brando is not a gangsta actor. He’s an actor. Axel Rose and them are not gangsta rock ‘n’ rollers. They’ve got rock ‘n’ rollers right? So I’ma rapper. This is what I do. I’m an artist.
MTV: Does anything that Bob Dole says make any sense to you as far as rap is concerned?
Tupac: Nah, I have no disrespect towards Bob Dole. I know he don’t know what he’s talking about. He’s just talking. Some card that somebody gave him he’s just reading off that card. But he’s cute, you know what I mean?
He’s my grandfather.
MTV: One of the characterizations made of rappers often is that they’re very boastful. It seems like right now you’re taking pain to be humble and look at things from a very realistic perspective. Is that accurate?
Tupac: Yes, I think being humble is sexy. That’s my new put I’m pushing humble.
MTV: You’re being humble to get chicks?
Tupac: I’m starting to turn you on, Tabitha. As a matter of fact, I’m hoping my humble thing is gonna get to you [laughs].
MTV: So you got married in prison?
MTV: What happened with that?
Tupac: It didn’t work. Not because of her or me or jail it just wasn’t the right thing to do at the time. I married her for the wrong reasons.
MTV: What were the reasons?
Tupac: I cared about her but I married her because I was in jail, I was alone and I didn’t want to be alone.
MTV: How would you compare to fame and fortune in 1995 to how you did a couple years ago?
Tupac: I believe I’m more responsible, more mature and more focused and I will be more focused and even more responsible and even more mature in time.
MTV: It seems like the two sides of Tupac are constantly battling with each other. One minute your spitting at TV cameras, the next you’re talking about Shakespeare. Have you reconciled those two?
Tupac: Hopefully. I’d like to think so. I think that I’m really I was a reactionary and now I don’t do that anymore. Same person, just I don’t react. Before I reacted I didn’t like the cameras, I’d spit.
MTV: The last time we talked you said that you were best known for your big mouth. What do you feel you’re best known for now?
Tupac: Taking five bullets. Surviving. I’m known as a survivor now. I hope so for the jail thing, bullets, and the everything. Controversies and everything. I hope so. And I wanna be in the future known as somebody, you know, I want people be talking about me like, you know, “Remember when he was real bad? Remember when Tupac was real bad?” You know what I mean? They do that about a lot of actors now. Like John Travolta I read stories and it’s like, “Remember when you were wild?” And all these other people they now are sweethearts. We all should get that chance. I just want my chance.