John Singleton Recalls Trying To Convince Tupac To Hang Up His Mic In 1993
While director John Singleton’s career spans a hearty three decades and is chock full of incredible stories to revel in, memories surrounding his cherished interactions with Tupac remain as fresh as ever.
In a new interview with The Daily Beast‘s Stereo Williams, which arrived in tandem with his Poetic Justice film being re-released on Blu-Ray this month, the acclaimed filmmaker reminisces on that one time he advised the late Hip-Hop icon to quit rapping.
“I’m the stupidest person in the world to be telling Pac [that],” he shared with the publication. “When we were working initially, he wasn’t that good a rapper. I was like, ‘You a’ight, but you a better actor.’ He was like, ‘F*ck you, man. Hip-Hop is my voice.’”
Considering Poetic Justice made its big screen debut in July 1993, months after Tupac’s sophomore album Strictly 4 My N.I.*.*.A.Z… was released, Singleton’s advice arrived while the MC was just beginning to cultivate his reputation as an authoritative voice in Hip-Hop, especially within the West Coast. While the director, who cast Tupac to star in the now-classic film, admits the suggestion was, in retrospect, not his greatest words of wisdom, he also recognizes why the rapper reacted in the way he did.
“Hip-Hop, being a rapper — that’s like being a gunslinger, that’s your manhood. Can’t nobody take that from you,” Singleton continued. “If you can spit 16 bars and take somebody down, that’s like having a multiple weapon. I’m telling him, ‘That’s not your weapon—your weapon is the fact that you’re going to be a major star.’ He couldn’t see it. I’m stupid for saying it, but also, he couldn’t see it. He couldn’t see how one thing could beget the other.”
As exemplified by his time on screen, as well as through his music, visual art, and poetry, Tupac was a multifaceted creative who was committed to speaking his truth, regardless of what others may have perceived to be his path or thought of him. Thankfully, as history can attest, he chose to let Singleton’s “bad advice” go in one ear and out the other, and did go on to become the star that the filmmaker saw he was capable of becoming.
Elsewhere during the conversation, Singleton addressed the decades-old rumor that Janet Jackson (who co-starred in the film alongside a cast that also included Q-Tip, Regina King, Maya Angelou and more) had required Pac take an HIV test before agreeing to film their love scenes.
“That was a joke!” he said, clearing the air once and for all. “Me and Pac didn’t know Janet [Jackson] was married, so we both were flirting with her and stuff. We’re on the set joking, with Janet there and the whole cast, and I was like, ‘I don’t know if I want you kissing my actresses—I don’t know where your lips have been. We gonna do this love scene with y’all, we’re gonna have to get you a double. He was like, ‘F*ck doing that, [I will only agree] if we’re really f*cking!’ We’re gonna have to get you an AIDS test for you to kiss my actress! And it became a joke.”
With 1991’s Boyz N the Hood and follow-up Poetic Justice under his belt, as well as the accolade of becoming the first Black film director to be nominated for an Academy Award, Singleton went on to expand his CV to include Higher Learning, Rosewood, Baby Boy, a Shaft remake, 2 Fast 2 Furious, and more. Most recently, Singleton created the crime TV series, Snowfall, which first aired in 2017 and was renewed for a third season in late 2018.
Not taking heed to Singleton’s advice, Tupac’s next two albums, Me Against The World and All Eyez On Me, both debuted at #1. With a career that has endured well beyond his 1996 death, Pac is widely revered as one of Rap’s most recognized songwriters.