Bokeem Woodbine Reveals Tupac Was Fed Up With Record Labels Profiting On Beef
Tuesday’s September 13th date marked 20 years since the death of Tupac Shakur. In addition to his circle that included Madonna, M.C. Hammer, and actor Mickey Rourke, The Rap superstar had many burgeoning famous people around him in the last year of his life. Keyshia Cole, Rashida Jones, and Kxng Crooked (a/k/a Crooked I) are just some of the 2000s would-be notables who have accounts of Tupac during his All Eyez On Me era.
Actor Bokeem Woodbine is another Hollywood leading man that knew Shakur towards the end. Already having appeared in Jason’s Lyric, Dead Presidents, and Crooklyn, the New York actor played a close friend of Shakur’s in “I Ain’t Mad At Cha” (posted below), the Daz Dillinger-produced All Eyez video single featuring Danny Boy. In the eerie visual, Shakur prophesized his own death—tragically similar to what would take place in September of 1996.
Speaking with The Fader surrounding the anniversary of Shakur’s death, Woodbine revealed a very important private conversation he shared with the MC. There, Tupac allegedly planned to re-position the ongoing East vs. West Coast Rap beef towards its profiteers. The video itself portrayed Shakur as a marked man, possibly leading him to discuss greater plans with the actor two years his junior.
“He had a plan to put everybody together on one record and just squash the beef,” Woodbine said of a conversation he had with Shakur. He too had worked on Juice in a far less capacity than ‘Pac, one of the film’s leads. “He wanted to take the power away from the labels that were exploiting the situation. It angered him that they were profiting; he wanted to stop the cash flow. It wasn’t something I was supposed to tell people about, you know what I’m saying? I honored that, and I just waited for that record to come out. But unfortunately, as you know, it never did.”
In the last year of his life, Shakur had begun recording what was known as the One Nation album, featuring involvement from Black Moon’s Buckshot, Smif-n-Wessun, Nice & Smooth’s Greg Nice, Snoop Dogg, Tha Dogg Pound, Tha Outlawz, and others. That album never completed, though some recordings have leaked.
On “How Do U Want It” B-side, released in June of 1996, Tupac and Tha Outlawz released “Hit ‘Em Up,” a vitriolic video diss aimed at Biggie Smalls, Junior M.A.F.I.A., Puff Daddy, and Mobb Deep. That Death Row Records single’s A-side would go to #1.
To many, “Hit ‘Em Up” was a response to February 1995’s “Who Shot Ya?,” Biggie’s B-side to “Big Poppa.” That song never mentions Shakur by name, but many saw it as a blatant subliminal tie-in to the 1994 Quad Studios shooting-robbery in New York. Biggie and Puffy (who famously blasts ad-libs on the Bad Boy Records platinum single) were present in the same studio the night of the incident.
Mobb Deep had participated in “L.A., L.A.” along with Capone-N-Noreaga and Tragedy Khadafi, a response to Tha Dogg Pound and Snoop’s 1995 video single, “New York, New York.” ‘Pac would reply fiercely, especially at Prodigy—who he mocked for his battle with sickle cell anemia. M-O-B-B replied on 1996’s Hell On Earth, care of song, “Drop A Gem On ‘Em.” That song released as a promotional single by Loud Records the same month Shakur was killed.
In his last recordings, Shakur had dissed other artists, including Nas, Lil’ Kim, Jay Z, De La Soul, and former label-mate Dr. Dre.
Other Tupac associates, peers, and friends, have corroborated Bokeem’s report. Easy Mo Bee, who produced extensively for ‘Pac and Biggie, says he was aware of Shakur’s desire to make peace with many figures on the East Coast. Biggie and Mobb Deep are not specifically mentioned in Mo’s most recent account. Greg Nice (Nice & Smooth) also recalled reaching out to connect Shakur with Mo Bee, as well as people such as DJ Premier (Gang Starr), Showbiz (Showbiz & A.G.), Fat Joe, and Busta Rhymes.
From late 1995 through the time of his death, Tupac Shakur was a Death Row Records artist. After his death, the label released more than nine titles—including remixes, group work, compilations, and unreleased material.
Late in 1996, Shakur began promoting Makeveli Records in interviews. The label would never release product during Tupac’s life. His estate created Amaru Entertainment in the late 1990s.
#BonusBeat: The video for “I Ain’t Mad At Cha” starring Tupac Shakur and Bokeem Woodbine: