Not surprisingly, it is Tupac Shakur, the hip-hop megastar who, seven years after his murder, is again explaining his tumultuous, controversial life in “Tupac: Resurrection,“ a hot new best-seller and a documentary movie of the same name.
Killed in Las Vegas at the age of 25, Shakur was recently listed by Forbes magazine as No. 8 on its list of money-earning dead entertainers. With the new book and film out, along with other projects that include recordings and a book written by his mother and keeper of his legacy, Afeni Shakur, he might just keep moving on up that list, as morbid as that seems.
Afeni Shakur defends all of the new efforts to shed light on who the real Shakur was, having stated that the book and film of “Tupac: Resurrection“ portray her son not as a gangsta rapper, but as a “politically conscious street poet who suffered from what he called the government‘s police terrorism.“ At last, she says, “the true story of Tupac is finally being shared with the world,“ and the book, edited by Jacob Hoye and Karolyn Ali as a companion piece to the documentary, is being touted by its publisher as “the autobiography he never got to write.“
From the opening lines of the first chapter, “Resurrection“ spills out the pain of Shakur‘s combat zone background, one marred by violence, racism and familial instability, but balanced by a fiercely intelligent and determined mother who instilled the young poet with potent ideas about self-respect and truth:
“My mother was a Black Panther and she was really involved in the movement. Just black people bettering themselves and things like that. She was in a high position in the party which was unheard of because there was sexism, even in the Panthers... My mother was seven months pregnant, they put a match to the door and said “Fire, Fire!“ And you know it‘s like five in the morning so my mother opened the door and they just burst in, put a shotgun to her pregnant belly and put a gun to her head and said, “Don‘t move, bah, bah, bah, you‘re under arrest.“ They treated them like less than humans.
My mother was pregnant with me while she was in prison. She was her own attorney. Never been to law school. She was facing three-hundred-some odd years. One black woman, pregnant, beat the case. That just goes to show you the strength of a black woman and the strength of the oppressed.
A month after she got outta prison she gave birth to me. So I was cultivated in prison, my embryo was in prison... My mom is the bomb... She taught me how to be community orientated. And I think my mother taught me how to understand women a lot more than my peers can. I‘m not uncomfortable around strong women. My sister is the bomb too. She‘s my biggest critic, she‘s real smart, funny as all hell... My mother, she‘s totally brilliant. Totally understanding and caring. And she‘s human -- I mean, she‘ll be wrong a lot but we can talk about it.
My mother taught me three things: respect, knowledge, search for knowledge. It‘s an eternal journey... My father was a Panther. I never knew where my father was or who my father was for sure... My stepfather was a gangsta. A straight-up street hustler... Took care of me, gave me money, but he was like a criminal too. He was a drug dealer out there doing his thing -- he only came, brought me money, and then left.
I hate saying this cuz white people love hearing black people talking about this. But I know for a fact that had I had a father, I‘d have some discipline. I‘d have more confidence... When I was young I was quiet, withdrawn. I read a lot, wrote poetry, kept a diary. I watched TV all day. I stayed in front of the television.
It was when I was in front of the TV by myself, being alone in the house by myself, having to cook dinner by myself, eat by myself. Just being by myself and looking at TV, at families and all these people out there in this pretend world. I knew I could be part of it if I pretended too, So early on I just watched and emulated... and I just thirsted for that. I thought if I could be and act like those characters, act like those people, I could have some of their joy. If I could act like I had a big family I wouldn‘t feel as lonely.“
The sections on Shakur‘s rise to stardom, his role as a cultural icon, and the tightrope he walked between his thug life and being a sensitive artist are told through his own words, along with an impressive range of other documents, most of which have not been seen before. Scraps of writing, poems, letters, ideas for screenplays and songs, lyrics, photographs, stream-of-consciousness canoodling and personal effects have all been compiled to present a revealing and intimate portrait thats different from anything else done thus far on the artist. Its an illustrated scrapbook that leaves no stone unturned, be it his impoverished background, his luxurious and over-the-top lifestyle when the money started rolling in, his mother‘s addiction to or recovery from crack cocaine or his 11-month imprisonment for sexual abuse (his version: “Everybody was having a good time, nothing sexual.“).
As earlier mentioned, more on Shakur‘s life, world and family is coming down the pike. In February 2004, look for “Afeni Shakur: Evolution of a Revolutionary“ by TV and stage actress Jasmine Guy. It includes transcripts from seven years of conversations between the two. A few months later, in May 2004, Angela Ardis will release “Inside a Thug‘s Heart,“ which has been endorsed by Shakur‘s family. Ardis, a screenwriter and actress, says the book will focus on a three-month relationship, mostly through letters and phone calls, she had with Shakur while he was in prison, and contain previously unpublished poems and erotic stories he wrote and sent her while incarcerated.