Poetic Prophet







Poetic Prophet By: Aliya Jackson

This prolific artist who fulfilled a dream through music and theater like “Above The Rim,” “Juice” and “Poetic Justice,” just to name a few, will be inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 7, 2017.

I’m not here to talk about the death of this musician who has been admired by his peers as one of the greatest artists of all time including Rolling Stone, which placed him at 86th on its list of ‘The 100 Greatest Artist of All Time.’

I’m talking about Lesane Parish Crooks. The world would finally know him has Tupac Shakur who was born on June 16, 1971 in East Harlem, New York.  Shakur’s double album “All Eyes On Me” and his “Greatest Hits” are two of his best-selling albums in the US.  He sold over 75 million records worldwide, but before all the fame he began his career as a roadie, backup dancer and MC.

His mother, Afeni Shakur (aka Alice Faye Williams) and father, Billy Garland were members of the Black Panther Party in New York in the late 60’s and 70’s.  Tupac grew up in an era where his parent’s family, friends and acquaintances were either convicted with serious criminal offenses or were in prison.  Tupac would get his first acting roll and debut it at Harlem’s 127th Street Repertory Ensemble in the play called “A Raison In the Sun.”  By 1986, his family moved to Baltimore, Maryland when he would build a close relationship with Jada Pinkett until his death.  After a friend was shot and killed Shakur found himself embraced with voice through rapping. He became popular at school because he had a sense of humor and won many competitions with his rap and beatbox beats. Some of his influences were Irish Pop singer, Kate Bush, Culture Club and U2 and Sinead O’Connor. Later, he would drop out of high school but found his way back by earning a GED.  In 1988, he called Northern California his home.  He had the gift of using words to make them flow and give them meaning due to his love for theater, contemporary English and Shakespeare.  He took poetry classes with Leila Sternberg and with her guidance she helped him organize a group called “Strictly Dope” and he was signed with Atron Gregory who would set him up with Digital Underground in 1990.

Digital Underground’s song “Same Song” would give Tupac his notoriety in the music business. His first solo album released on Interscope Records, ‘2Pacalyspse Now’ didn’t reach its full potential on the “Top Ten” but fans who knew his true direction viewed the album as an underground feel.  Tupac’s songwriting stems from his life in New York which reflect the struggles of inner city life and his political views about our society.  Tupac states, “I wanted to rap about the things that affected young black males.”  MTV’s Greatest Rapper Of All Time listed Shakur’s first album as “a certified classic album” along with ‘Me Against The World,’ ‘All Eyez On Me,’ and ‘The Don Killuminati; The 7 Day Theory.’  His second album, “Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z” released on February 1993 became #24 on the Billboard 200 and was considered his break out album do to it being more commercial.  ‘Thug Life’ was a group formed by him and his friends – Big Kyke, Macadoshis, Morpheme Shakur (cousin) and Rated R and they only released one album in 1994 by Shakur’s label ‘Out Da Gutta Records.’  His third album ‘Me Against The World’ was the magnum opus of his career.  It won for best rap album in 1996 Soul Train Music Awards.  “Dear Mama” would be the album most thriving single, topping the Hot Rap Singles chart and #9 on ‘Billboard Hot 100.’ His finally recording, “All Eyes On Me” (4th album) was recorded on October 1995 by Death Row Records and Interscope Records and has been rated one of Tupac’s best productions produced. He branded the name Makaveli after the Italian philosopher and strategist Niccolò Machiavelli when he was in prison, and on his 5th album, ‘The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory,’ which would be his final studio recording. The album was completed in 7 days on August 1996 and it generated the second-highest debut-week sales total of any album that year [65].

Now you know a little about the artist… now let me tell you how I met this soft spoken man in September 1996.  I would say it was about 2 weeks before his death, when I met Tupac at the American Music Award’s after-party at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, CA.  I was with a family member and decided to get something to drink and sit far away for all the commotion.  This was the time when celebrities would come to the after-party and eat, take pictures and chat it up with friends and fans.  Now, you can’t find one single artist that enters these parties anymore because they have parties of their own.   So I ask you where is the loyalty to your fans?  But that’s another story…  Going back to meeting Pac – I see this tall brown skin man in a mid-level trench coat coming my way.  Not thinking of anything, since the bathroom was behind me, he stops and says, “Someone wants to meet you.”  I looked around and say, “Who might that be?”  He says, “My friend.”  I say, “Well since his mother raised him right, he doesn’t need someone to talk for him… he can come over and introduce himself by himself.”  He tells me to hold on a sec and disappears into the crowd.  I go to get a small sandwich and devore it immediately cause I was hungry and the next thing I could feel someone was behind like one of those horror stories.  The tone in his voice was warm and he says, “Excuse me but what’s your name.” I look up and the first thing that I see is his brown chocolate skin that was flawless with a black mustached groomed to profection.  He was wearing dark jeans that were iron pressed and I believe a black sweater or black leather jacket.  He had these dark eyes that were intense but told a story of struggle with a hint of don’t f#@@ with me attitude. Those long eyelashes softened those eyes which made him approachable.  I kept my composure and told him my name.  He says, “It’s nice to meet you.  …are you having fun since I saw you all by yourself.”  I would say he stood about 1.5 inches taller to my 5’5” feet, plus I had heels on.  He complimented my eyes as I did his eyelashes.  He smiled because I told him I was going to take those lashes home with me. I would have to say his smile was infectious because people whispered as they walked by us.  They knew actually who he was.  I told him he wasn’t that aggressive but he was like a big teddy bear.  He smile and said, “Yeah, I think people just don’t or won’t get a chance to know me.”  “With that being said, what you put out there that’s what people know of you,” I told him.  He asked me if I was in the industry and at the time I was studying to be a veterinarian.  “Oh, a school girl,” he says.  Girls, where waiting to speak with him and I told him if he still wanted to talk I would be over there so go and handle your business.  He appreciated what I said and he signed some autographs and took pictures with the women.  He came back over and asked if I wanted a drink, but since I don’t drink liquor, I said a soda would be fine thank you.  He came back with it and we talked a little more before his producer told him they had to get ready to leave.  His final question to me was “Am I going to see you around.  I said, “Probably since my mother is in the industry but we have to see.”  “I’ll hold it to you,” he says.  We hugged and I told him in his ear it

was nice meeting him and to be careful out there in those streets.  “Definitely,” he says with a twitch in those eyes.



Above is his writing from his 1991 biography




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