Ed Gordon Recalls Building Closeness With Tupac After Questioning His “Thug” Life (Video)

Tomorrow (September 13), veteran broadcast journalist Ed Gordon will launch his new, self-titled series for Bounce TV. Throughout the last 30 years, the Detroit, Michigan native has been a pillar of news and information, as a longtime host and correspondent on BET, plus contributor to “60 Minutes,” “Today,” and other national programs. Appearing on Sway In The Morning last week, Gordon retraced an important 1994 interview (posted below) with Tupac Shakur.

At the time, Shakur was on trial for rape, and did jail time for physically assaulting Hollywood directors Allen and Albert Hughes. The MC once known for songs like “Keep Ya Head Up” and “Brenda’s Got A Baby” was in the news not for his lyricism and activism, but his behavior. That year, Shakur had teamed with half-brother Mopreme, Rated R, Macadoshis, and Big Syke to release Thug Life, Vol. 1. Simultaneously, Shakur had further advanced as a box office draw in films like Poetic Justice and Above The Rim, while still making guest appearances on variety shows like “In Living Color.” In a clip Sway played on the show, Gordon, well aware of Shakur’s merits, apparently took the star MC to task.

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In that interview, Shakur defended his image transformation, and just what he meant by ‘thug.’ At 6:00 in, Gordon delivered this question to Tupac:

Let me put this to you: a lot of people tell me, ‘Tupac, for the most part, is a nice guy. This whole ‘thug’ thing? Hype. [It is] good for record sales. [It] helps him identify with the young people who are out there, and angry, who would maybe label him ‘a sellout’ like they did [with M.C. Hammer] if maybe he didn’t have that hard side. What about that?

Shakur replied, “First of all, nobody could call me ‘a sellout.’ I’m not goin’ for that. I’m not even lookin’ for approval from the Black community, because we don’t give approval; we don’t really do nothin’ but exist. So [nobody] can tell me, ‘you a sellout’ or ‘you not true-blue,’ you know what I’m saying? I’m not even caught up in that. But, I can see that the one thing that we do have in common, as Black people, is we do share that poverty. So the ‘thug’ side is more closer to the poverty than me being rich. How could I come to any community center sporting a Rolex Presidential with all these diamonds and be like, ‘Look, we gotta-gotta…’ [Laughs] But now, when I say ‘we,’ they know what I mean. I’m not sayin’ I live [in the same] neighborhood or nothin’, but I’m a thug. They’re thugs. They can relate. I don’t have to say that. When I come out I don’t have to say, ‘I’m real.’ They already know that—from me being me. [They know this] not from me pushing the ‘thug-ness,’ but I know from the business that everybody in this [industry] is always whispering in your ear about what you can’t say, what you can’t do, and what you can’t wear in this world. It’s two worlds: a White world and a Black world. All I did was stand in the middle and say I’m livin’ in both worlds. I can go to the streets and survive, and I can go out here and do my business [on the other side].”

Approximately 22 years later, Sway played an abbreviated part of that question and its answer, as Ed Gordon reflected on the moment.

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Right before the 24:00 mark, Gordon explained to Sway, Heather B, and Tracy G, “Think about this. Think about what [Tupac Shakur said in that excerpt]. That was 20 years ago, thereabouts. We’re still dealing with the same thing. God willing, had he lived, I could have asked him the same thing today and it would have been the same issues.” Although the bold question put Shakur on the defensive, it brought a closeness between the subject and journalist. “After that he interview he said, ‘Ed, would you mind if I called you from time-to-time? You’re a little older than me. I think you get it. I wasn’t raised by a father; I haven’t had a lot older men in my life to help guide me.’ His mom [Afeni Shakur], God rest her soul, told the story of how he’d tell her, ‘Ed is cool,’ and he’d call me from time-to-time. A week before he died, I said to him, and I believed this, ‘You ain’t a thug at heart. I know thugs; you ain’t a thug at heart. But you’re runnin’ around with some thugs. When you’re not a thug at heart you can’t play thug with real thugs.’ He said, ‘Oh, Ed. You right, you right. I’ma clean my act up.’ Then I told him, ‘You better watch hangin’ with Suge [Knight].’ A couple weeks later, he was gone.”

Gordon looks at that conversation with Shakur and his death, urging people take heed. “At some level, I think this whole sense of gangsta mentality we been dealin’ with [for] 20 years and all of the things that are almost a psychosis with us [as] Black folk, we’re afraid to call it all. ‘Cause [if we do], there’s the sense that people will say, ‘You ain’t down.’ [You should reply], ‘Well, the hell with you.’ I would not be one of those dudes in the hood [who believes ‘Stop Snitching.’] You’re breakin’ into my crib? I would be like [pointing], ‘That Negro right there. Her house, off the corner. I need my laptop; go in there.’ [Stop Snitching] is not me, doc. Not me.”

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On the subject of Shakur and his relationship with the man who managed his career and ran the label he was signed to at the time of his death, Ed Gordon has another story.

Knight would be incarcerated from late 1996 to 2001 for parole violation related to incidents surrounding the Las Vegas, Nevada shooting of Tupac. Knight, a self-admitted gang member, was driving the BMW with Shakur as a passenger when he was killed. The Compton, California native and co-founder of Death Row Records was reportedly also struck by a bullet in the incident.

Upon his 2000s release from prison, Ed Gordon had Knight as a guest on a televised round table discussion on Shakur. Kevin Powell, another journalist who knew Shakur well, was also a discussion guest. At the 30:00 mark, Gordon recalls standing up to Suge Knight, who was reportedly an hour late to the taping, and being disparaging to Powell. Gordon details speaking directly to the feared music executive that day. According to Gordon, Knight tried to make amends after the taping. The incensed host pointed out to the then-exec that he was not late for radio host Don Imus’ show that very same morning, so Gordon deserved the same respect.

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“The Ed Gordon Show” airs at 10pm local time tomorrow on Bounce TV. Guests on the first episode include Mothers Of The Movement.

#BonusBeat: Here is audio of Ed Gordon’s 1994 interview with Tupac Shakur:

Shakur died from a drive-by shooting 20 years ago tomorrow (September 13).