Tupac’s Spoken Words: Why His Interviews Are Even More Compelling Than His Music (Video)

I want when they see me, they know that every day that I’m breathing, it’s for Us to go farther. Every time I speak, I want the truth to come out. Every time I speak, I want a shiver. I don’t want them to [predict] what I’m gonna say ’cause it’s polite…even if I get in trouble, ain’t [speaking the truth] what we’re supposed to do? I’m not saying I’m gonna rule the world, or I’m gonna change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world. And that’s our job: to spark somebody else watching us. We might not be the ones. But let’s not be selfish, and because we not gonna change the world, not talk about how we should change it. I don’t know how to change it. But I know if I keep talking about how dirty it is out here, somebody gon’ clean it up.” – Tupac Shakur, 1994

Tupac Amaru Shakur engaged with the media as effectively as any Hip-Hop artist, ever. Presumably influenced by Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X, John Lennon, and the great political and artistic minds he studied, Pac commanded the spotlight. Long before his albums and songs topped the charts, he was on the radar of MTV, BET, The Arsenio Hall Show, newspapers, and the magazines spilling off of the shelves in the 1990s. To get inside Shakur’s mind proved to be as exciting and rewarding as any listen to his music. Some of those statements, whether on Venice Beach, outside a Manhattan courthouse, or in the recording studio, are quoted as heavily as his lyrics.

As June 16’s theatrical release of All Eyez On Me seeks to capture the overarching statements Tupac Shakur made with his life, take a look back at some of his memorable interview moments. These conversations say so much about a complicated man, who demanded to be heard, understood, and sometimes exonerated for his controversial life and art.

His Role In Rap: “What the Rap audience ain’t ready for is a real person. You know what I want to say: A real ‘n-i-g-g-a.’ I’m comin’ at ‘em 100% real; I ain’t compromising nay’than.” (1992)

“I want to see a true picture. I don’t care if [a Rap critic] feels uncomfortable. ‘Cause what about when I felt uncomfortable for 400 years? Now, all of a sudden it’s bad to talk about [reality]…what we’re doing is using our brains to get out of the ghetto any way we can. So we tell these stories, and they tend to be violent. Because our world tends to be filled with violence…that’s all my music is about: the oppressed rising up against the oppressor. So the only ones that’s scared are the oppressors.” (1992)

Playing The Music Industry System: “I’m getting pimped [by record labels and executives], that’s true…but it’s not that you get pimped, it’s how long that you get pimped. If you really look at the situation, it’s not I who am getting pimped. If you look at the white kids with Raiders hats on, them white folks [are] getting pimped. I’m making their future; I’m writing down their curriculum right now. What I write in my album today, when it comes out in two months, that’s what white kids is doing. So who really is getting pimped? What I write in my raps is what them white kids gonna be saying to their mamas and daddys when they come home. So who really is getting pimped?” (1994)

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Police Brutality: “I had no police record until I made a record. As my video was debuting on MTV, I was behind bars; I was picked up by the police department. I had a $10 million lawsuit…you don’t see pictures of me with my eye busted and my head busted, you don’t see those pictures. You see pictures of Tupac coming out of jail in cuffs. You don’t see pictures of the police standing over me beating my brains in. You don’t see that. But I see that. That’s what I see. It’s all real.” (1994)

Violence In The Ghetto & How To Stop It: “We have to be honest about the tools that we use to survive. Why is a Black life any more [expendable] than a white life? We know that they don’t put the same security in the ghetto that they do in the white neighborhoods, so therefore, for me to be out here sayin’ ‘put your guns down’ and ‘no violence’ would be hypocritical. And if I didn’t talk about the violence then everybody would act like the violence wasn’t there. We as rappers brought the violence that we saw on the streets and put it on our records. We put it on our records for years. And after three, four years, people are finally starting to see it [and review] the statistics that’s goin’ on in the streets. If we wouldn’t talk about it, then they wouldn’t take statistics. And if they don’t take statistics, then we’d be killing each other in the street and these white people wouldn’t care no more. The only reason they [might] care is ‘cause there [would be] some stray [bullets] and we done slipped up in a White neighborhood. There’s kids in Iowa that want to be like us. There’s kids in Indiana that’s trying to be like us, ‘cause they can relate.” (1994)

A Man Of The People: “It’s like this: the masses, the hungry people, they outweigh the rich. So as long as I appeal to the hungry, and the poverty-stricken people, it’s all good; I’m gonna have a job for life.” (1993)

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Why He Move From The Ghetto & Frustration At Its Exploitation: “All my life, I’ve been around Black people and poor people. But I can’t be around poor people now, ’cause they’ll rob me. Why would they rob me? ‘Cause they’re starving! ‘Cause there’s no money. But [society is] tellin’ me, now that I’ve made a little money, that I have to move here. No one’s ever trying to deal with the [poor Black] section, they’re just moving away from it. We’ve got more stars coming from the ghetto, but they’re all gonna move this way. All that society is doing is leeching off the ghetto. They use the ghetto for their pain, their sorrow, their culture, for their music, for their happiness, for their movies.” (1994)

Education & Selling The ‘Thug Life’: “All I ever wanted to do was go to college–ask my mama. I went to school all the way, was ready to go to college. The only thing that stopped me was money. At the time all the kids in my school was writing applications to go to college, I didn’t have no lights and no electricity. And that ain’t my mama’s fault. So when I think back on that, I’m not thuggin’ for me, I’m thuggin’ for my family. I pay all the bills! I feed my whole family, wrong or right. I do. And I can’t stop. If thuggin’ is gonna make me a million bucks, ‘cause I just went platinum, then that’s what I’m gonna do. Constantly.” (1994)

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The Flaws Of And Contradictions Organized Religion: “I think some muthaf**ka sat down a long time ago and said, ‘Let’s figure out a way we can control them,’ and that’s what they came up with: The Bible. ‘Cause if God wrote The Bible, I’m sure it would be a revised copy by now. ‘Cause a lot of s**t has changed, and I’ve been looking for this revised copy, but I don’t see it.”

“I feel like we get crucified–I mean The Bible is telling us all these people did this because they suffered and that’s what makes them special people. I got shot five times [creates Christ on the cross with where the bullets hit], and I got crucified to the media. And I walked through with the thorns on. And I had the thief at the top and I told that n**ga, I’d be back for you… So I’m not saying I’m Jesus, I’m saying we go through that type of thing every day. We don’t part the Red Sea, but we walk through the hood without getting shot. We don’t turn water to wine, but we turn muthaf**kin’ [cocaine to crack]; it’s a profitable [hustle]. We turn words into money. What greater gift can there be? So I believe God blesses us. I believe God blesses those that hustle, use their mind, and overall are righteous. I believe [in] Karma: every thing that you do bad comes back to you. So anything I’m doing that’s bad, I’m gonna have to suffer for it. But in my heart, I think what I’m doin’ is right, so I feel like I’m going to Heaven.”

“If churches took half the buildings they have to praise God and give to muthaf**kas who need God, we’d be aiight. Have you seen these churches lately? There’s ones that take up the whole muthaf**king block in New York! There’s homeless people out here! Why ain’t God lettin’ them stay there? How these churches got gold ceilings and s**t? Why God got gold ceilings to talk to me? Why do God need colored windows to talk to me? Why can’t God come where I’m at–where He sent me!? If God want a spot like that, why the hell he sent me here? That makes ghetto kids not believe in God. So that’s wrong religion.” (1996)

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Why Rap Lyrics Have Gotten More Aggressive Over Time: “You’ve got to be logical. If I know that in this hotel they have food every day [and] I knock on the door every day, to eat, and they open the door and let me smell the food and see the party…they’re throwing food around but tellin’ me there’s no food in here, every day…I’m outside trying to sing my way in, ‘We 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, ‘Give me some food‘ and we’re bangin’ on the door! After a year, ‘I’m pickin’ the lock, comin’ through the door blastin’!‘ [Laughs]. You’re hungry, you reached your level, and 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 were asking, they’re all dead and in jail. So now, what do you think we’re gonna do?” (1994)

“[Irresponsibility with lyrics] is you talk about murder and death, but you don’t talk about the pain. Or you talk about killin’, and robbin’, and stealin’, but you don’t talk about jail, death, and betrayal, and all the things that go with it.”

“Marlon Brando is not a gangsta-actor, he’s an actor. Axl Rose and them are not gangsta-Rock & Rollers, they’re Rock & Rollers. Right? So…I’m a rapper. This is what I do. I’m an artist.” (1995)

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On His Sexual Assault Charges: “I’m guilty of a lot of things. I’m guilty, probably of being a male chauvinist pig. I’m guilty of probably not caring as much as I should. I’m guilty of not spending as much time with people as I probably should. But I’m not guilty of rape… I’ve been practicing my whole life [to] be responsible for what I do. I don’t know how to be responsible for what every Black male did. I don’t know! Yes, I am gonna say that I’m a thug. That’s ’cause I came from the gutter, and I’m still here! I’m not saying I’m a thug ’cause I wanna rob you and rape people and things! I’m a businessman!” (1994)

“I want to read [the same books that President Bill] Clinton reads. ‘Cause he does the same s**t that I do but don’t get in trouble. All his homeboys commit suicide. He get caught with his pants down in the bathroom, and this n**ga is still the President. I get women marching outside my shows! This n**ga’s the f**kin’ President! I’m 24; he’s 40. What’s his excuse?” (1996)

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“Anybody that thinks I committed that rape should go get ‘Brenda’s Got A Baby’ and ‘Keep Ya Head Up’ and listen to them thoroughly…I have no patience for anyone that doubts me. None. It’s too hard out here…‘Keep Ya Head’ ain’t a fluke, ‘Keep Ya Head Up’ ain’t no God damn come-up. I didn’t do that for n**gas to be smilin’ in my face and say, ‘Oh, he’s cool.’ I did that from my heart. So when they do put a rape charge on me my sisters can say, ‘Oh, he ain’t ‘bout that.’ If my sisters can’t say that, you won’t hear another mothaf**kin’ ‘Keep Ya Head Up’ out my mouth.” (1994)

“No matter what happens, innocent or guilty, my life is ruined. Because whatever they say in this verdict y’all [the media] are not gonna make it front-page news. It won’t be bigger than [the charges]. All that you want to hear is that ‘he’s guilty, he’s in jail, the reign of terror is over, the outlaw is gone.'” (1994)

Wanting To Live A Long Life, But Being Prepared For An Early Death: “If God gives me breath for 20 more years, I see myself changing the world. Because my thought patterns are so opposite of what’s the norm, so I would have to change the world or I’d have to be changed by the world.” (1996)

“If I do or whatever, [and] it can happen. If anything were to happen to me, there’s about three albums ready. And I like that.” (1995)

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Imagining His Death: “I know how it’s gonna be when I die. It’s gonna be no noise; you won’t have people screaming. I’ma fade out.” (1994)

The Game Of Life: “[Challenges] come harder and harder. It’s like every time I think this is it and I go all out to beat that and I win or I lose…I come into the next one and it’s worse. It’s like The Twilight Zone. It’s like some evil, unstoppable s**t that won’t let me go. It’s got its hands on me and it wants to see me fail. In my mind sometimes when I’m drunk or I’m just laying down..I keep thinking to myself, ‘Damn, is this true? Am I gonna fail? Am I supposed to fail? Should I just stop trying and give up?’ But then I’m like ‘Naw, hold up, hold on…that’s exactly what they’re waiting on me to do, They’re waiting for me to give up.’ So now this is just a fun little game that I cry at sometimes, that I laugh at sometime, that I smile at and have good times and bad times…but it’s a game. It’s the game of life. Do I win or do I lose? I know one day they’re gonna shut the game down but I gotta have as much fun and go around the board as many times as I can before it’s my turn to leave.” (1996)