Five Tupac Shakur interviews that still resonate with black America
“Tell me what’s a black life worth”
In his 25 years of life, Tupac Amaru Shakur graced the world with an indelible impact that was far from just music. While his catalog has sure played a role in expanding his influence, Pac’s true gift has proven to be his ability as a natural orator. Blood of a slave, son of a Black Panther, and heart of a king, ‘Pac was very much aware of his greater mission as a young black leader in America. Driven by his revolutionary family roots and deep consciousness, he made it his duty to express this on every platform possible — especially during interviews.
Where artists like a Lil Wayne admit they don’t feel “connected” to Black Lives Matter or those like Kanye West who lead his audience astray with white supremacist ideas, Shakur, well aware of his platform, spoke his I’s into we’s for the betterment of black America. “When people say ‘Pac is the best rapper of all time, they don’t just mean he’s the best rapper,” said Digital Underground’s Shock G in a 2002 documentary (“Thug Angel”). “They just mean what he had to say was the most potent, most relevant and that he was the better human being.”
Just as much as there are apps for many things in the universe, there’s a Tupac interview that applies to a myriad of relevant social issues. Last month, Kendrick Lamar was slammed for booting a white fan off the stage after she blurted out the word “nigga” during his performance. A few outlets erroneously offered opinions on the matter, calling for an end of the word in music, but Pac had a better response back in 1991:
” I wanted to make [the word ‘nigga’] something that we can live by. I felt like there was no way I could stop calling myself a ‘nigga,’ just as sure as there was no way that motherfuckers was gonna stop calling me ‘nigga.’ So instead of letting them take that away from me, I took it from them. ‘Nigga’ is now mine. And when they say ‘nigga,’ they give me strength… So say it! Say it!”
And all those that say I’m wrong for saying it and wanna bleep it out, they wasn’t bleeping the shit out 20 years ago, so don’t bleep the shit out now. I still see “Tom and Jerry” and “Popeyes” with [black Sambo babies] they ain’t bleeping that shit out, so I’ll be damned if I bleep out ‘nigga.’ And it’s gon’ be on just like that every time, and I’m gonna say it freely.”
Nearly three decades since that interview, the message still resonates. That is a testament to Pac’s enduring influence. Some people either walk the walk or talk the talk, Tupac did both. As generations continue to witness his power as mouthpiece for black America, here are five interviews that represent the foreverness of Tupac Shakur.
Standout Quote: “If I know that in this hotel room they have food every day, and I’m knocking on the door every day to eat and they open the door, let me see the party, let me see them throwing salami all over; I mean, just throwing food around [and] they’re telling me there’s no food. Every day, I’m standing outside trying to sing my way in: “We are hungry, please let us in. We are hungry, please let us in.” After about a week that song is gonna change to, “We hungry, we need some food.” After two, three weeks, it’s like, “Give me the food or I’m breaking down the door.” After a year you’re just like, “I’m picking the lock, coming through the door blasting!” It’s like, you hungry, you reached your level. We asked ten years ago. We was asking with the [Black] Panthers. We was asking with the Civil Rights Movement. We was asking. Those people that asked are dead and in jail. So now what do you think we’re gonna do? Ask?”
Standout Quote: “It wasn’t no thing for Ice Cube to be talking about killing in the hood, but [as] soon as he was talking about anyone else dying, it was problems. And I’m not saying that Ice Cube is the messiah, because he’s wrong for saying ‘kill a jew,’ because a jew didn’t do that shit. Let’s be realistic. Just like it wasn’t white people [as a whole] that beat me down in Oakland. It was two. white. cops. Two white, crooked cops. That’s what that was… We have to be more realistic about our enemies.
It’s easy to say ‘white folks is evil.’ That’s easy. But then you’re leading us into more of a slaughter, because we’re gonna find out all whites ain’t evil… And you can’t say that all black folks is inherently lazy and evil, because that’s not true either. I like to stand up most for black folks because we have more problems. We have more conditioning. You don’t ever hear about anybody telling you about ‘white folks wasn’t allowed into this place.’ Never. They never had that problem. I did. So I have an upper hand. And you can’t tell me I don’t… Just like when America beat Great Britain for their freedom, they had the upper hand, because they wanted their freedom by any means necessary. That’s what scares America so much. They see them and us, except we have the right of cause on our side now, and they see that. They see themselves in the position of the oppressor, and they know what happens when an oppressed people fight the oppressor… The oppressed always win…”
Standout Quote: “I think that my mother, like a lot of people, like Fred Hampton, Mark Clark, Harriett Tubman, they felt like they were laying tracks for the generation to come. I think my mother knew that freedom wouldn’t come in her lifetime, just like I know that it won’t come in mine. But it’s a matter of either we stay like this or somebody sacrifice, somebody lay a track so that we don’t stay in a 360 degree deadly circle. Somebody has to breakout and risk losing everything, being poor and getting beat down. Somebody has to do something.”
Standout Quote: “We all living in a war zone. It’s not as easy as these people are making us think, that we are some criminal ass black kids with guns. It’s not like that. We live in hell. We live in the gutter. You got us stacked up, 80 deep in one building. By the time you get out your house, you strapped to protect yourself because you’re living in the same community where police are carrying rifles, riot gear… the same reasons they need the riot hat, the riot jacket, the flak jacket, the double vest, the 9mm glocks with extra bullets, the tear gas, the mace, all of that — who do you think the police is using that against? Dogs? Niggas! We fighting the same villains that they fighting in the street. But instead of them seeing us fighting villains in the streets, we all villains.
At this level all we’re trying to do [as artists and leaders] is unite. Right now we got a million people that’s listening, now we could tell em something. Now we could try to get them that way and we might lose some [and] we might gain some, but we wouldn’t ever had that audience if we hadn’t said what’s real. And the main thing for us to remember: the same crime element that white people are scared of, black people are scared of. The same crime element that white people fear, we fear. So we defend ourselves from the same crime element that they’re scared of. So while they waiting for legislation to pass and everything, we next door to the killer. We next door to ’em in the projects, where there’s 80 niggas in the building. All them killers they letting out, they right there in that building. But just cause we black, get along with the killers or something? Or the rapists? What is that? We need protection too.”
Standout Quote: “Everybody’s smart enough to know that we’ve been slighted, and we want ours. And I don’t mean forty acres and a mule, because we’re past that. But we need help. For us being on our own two feet, we do need help because we have been here and we have been a good friend, if you want to make it a relationship type thing. We have been there and now we deserve our payback. It’s like, you got a friend that you don’t ever look out for, you know. America’s got jewels, they paid and lending money to everybody except us. Everybody needs a little help on their way to being self-reliant. No independent person just grew up and was born independent. You worked and you learned teamwork, cooperation, unity and struggle and then you became independent. We have to teach that and instill that… If this is truly a melting pot in the country, and Lady Liberty got her hand up and she really love us, then we really need to be like that.
It’s too much money here. Nobody should be hitting the lotto for 36 million and we’ve got people starving in the streets. That’s not idealistic, that’s just real. That’s just stupid. There’s no way that [these people] should have a quadruple million dollars and then there’s people starving. There’s no way that these people should own planes and there are people who don’t have houses, apartments, shacks, drawers, pants… If they earned it, I think that that’s good and you deserve it, but even if you earned it, you still owe. Even me, I don’t have that mega money, but I feel guilty walking by somebody, I gotta give em some mail… “
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