Fredag 25. januar holder jeg foredrag om Tupac Shakur på Øyo-seminaret på Stord.
I den anledning passer det bra å legge ut hele intervjuet med forfatter Tayannah Lee McQuillar, som har skrevet boka Tupac Shakur: The Life and Times of an American Icon sammen med historieprofessor Fred L. Johnson III.
ØH: What do you think are the main reasons that 2Pac’s status and fame just keep rising, especially amongst youths and minorities?
TLM: In general,Tupac remains an intriguing character as are all other celebrities that died tragically in their youth. However, he is specifically popular among youth and people of color because he represents rebellion against authority and the triumph of the underdog.
ØH: 2Pac wasn’t the most technical of rappers, but is one of the reasons for his popularity that he lived his life through his lyrics? Do you think that he maybe saw his life as a piece of art in itself, where life imitated art and vice versa?
TLM: No one, including Tupac claimed he was the best rapper but he was definitely honest and people appreciated that about him. Whatever Tupac was feeling was put on wax just as it came to him. He was the first rapper to express his vulnerability and made it okay to be the «sensitive thug» that is now commonplace, Before Tupac it was virtually unheard of for a rapper to acknowledge feelings of vulnerability.
When Tupac first started recording, his fans were the hopeless, the children of drug addicted parents, the ghetto dwellers who were in despair and those who had been harrased by the police or who felt that the police were people to be feared. He had the ears of those fans because he was the only rapper who had actually lived in the gutter. He had actually lived what he rapped about. For example, Eazy-E grew up in a house, and never went hungry a day in his life. Ice Cube also grew up in a house, came from a loving two parent family where both parents were employed. He was also a college student at the time N.W.A. was signed. Dr. Dre’s mom worked two jobs to make sure that her children had food, clothing and consistent shelter.
ØH: 2Pac was obviously talented, but he was also flawed, conflicted and unhappy. And he made this clear through his lyrics, being more personal and open of his feelings and psyche than many rappers before him. Is this an important reason for his success, that he flaunted his faults in this way, making identification easier for young and troubled kids?
TLM: Unlike other rappers who rapped about ghetto life, Tupac actually experienced some of the worst of it. He had a terribly unstable parent who was also drug addicted. He often went to bed hungry as a child, he lived in eleven different apartments by the time he was ten years old as well as publish shelters and his clothes were consistently ragged. His early fans knew all of this and knew that he understood them. He had made it literally out of the gutter and he was their hero.
ØH: In Baltimore he got to pursue his interests in acting and poetry, but when he moved to Marin City he had to act harder to survive? You write: «Tupac never believed that he was worth much, and he hid that fact behind a fake bravado». Was he in some way acting all his life?
TLM: Definitely. Tupac was a bohemian type that preferred Shakespeare to guns, but the people he craved love and respect from the most didn’t appreciate that. His family wanted a hardcore political activist, and the hood just wanted someone hard. He got the love and respect from his family and from the street with his masquerade, but it cost him his life.
ØH: 2Pac’s main theme was lyrics of what it meant to be black, male and poor. Do you agree that 2Pac can be seen as the archetypical black young male, a representative of what has been called «the fallout generation»?
TLM: Tupac is the archetypical poor, young black male from the innner city, certainly. Tupac is also a representative of «the fallout generation», as are all children of revolutionaries of all races and nationalities that have been neutralized. The offspring of stigmatized political activists must deal with the consequences of their parents’ identity once the battle has been lost. The kids suffer from the parents’ financial instability, disillusionment and sometimes the drug or alcohol abuse that follow when one’s ideology becomes obsolete.
ØH: Is 2Pac also a symbol for the post-civil rights movement? It seems to me that he must have been surprised and hurt from criticism by both his elders and his peers?
TLM: Yes, Tupac may be seen as a symbol for the post-civil rights movement, because he believed in taking your destiny in your own hands once requesting better treatment is ignored. He was hurt by the criticism of his elders but didn’t fail to remind them that he was still their offspring, and they had a responsibility to listen to what he had to say.
ØH: In the movie Shaft we meet the brothers Ben and Bumpy Buford, one a political revolutionary, the other a lawless a gangster. The conflict between revolutionary rhetoric and more action-orientated gangster realism has played a major part for the post-civil rights movement in America. Does 2Pac in a way portray this conflict in his person?
TLM: Absolutely. In fact, the political revolutionary/lawless gangster motif is the primary plot point for other blaxploitation movies as well such as The Mack and Superfly. Some people wanted to overthrow «the system» and others wanted to cheat the system. Both desires reflect a sense of hopelessness that they could ever function as respected citizens that are treated fairly in society. Tupac was nurtured by both ideological breasts.
ØH: Did the rape charge and prison stint change 2Pac? You quote Shock G as calling 2Pac a «tortured broken beast» afterwards. What happened?
TLM: Incarceration changed Tupac tremendously because it stifled all of his creative instincts and made him seriously reflect on his life and how he got there. Tupac was placed in a maximum security prison with men serving life sentences for the most violent crimes imaginable and he had to live in a constant state of fear during that time.
ØH: The conflict with Biggie is one of the most confusing chapters of the 2Pac saga. Did this happen because of bad luck and misunderstanding, or was there real enmity?
TLM: The enmity was very real. Tupac assisted Biggie with his rise to fame and felt betrayed when Biggie failed to disclose who shot him the first time at the Quad studio. Tupac became obsessed with getting revenge for his disloyalty by releasing two videos spoofing Biggie and Puffy, allegedly sleeping with Biggie’s wife and mistress and then shocking the world with the single «Hit ’em Up» to deliberally humiliate Biggie.
ØH: Which rappers are 2Pac’s closest heirs today?
TLM: No one is Tupac’s heir, but the closest thing to a Tupac-esque moment was when Kanye blurted out «Bush doesn’t like Black people» after the poor response to Hurricane Katrina.