Tupac Shakur: The 1993 Interview

Tupac Shakur 1993 Interview

Expressing Myself – Silencing The Demons: Part 1

October 11, 2012

I conducted this interview with Tupac Shakur on August 10, 1993, when I was working as a freelancer for the Calendar section of The Los Angeles Times. It was the first time I had ever spoken to Tupac. The LA Times had no interest in what the budding 22-year-old rap star had to day, so I pitched it to Rolling Stone.

At the time of the interview, Tupac was pissed at me – due primarily to my coverage of a 19-year-old car thief named Ronald Howard, who was subsequently executed by the State of Texas for a murder that law enforcement blamed on Tupac’s “cop-killing” lyrics. Howard had stolen a truck and shot a Trooper in the face while listening to Pac’s “2Pacalypse Now” album. The cops recovered the tape from the cassette deck of the stolen vehicle. A clever lawyer representing Howard decided to put Pac’s “cop-killing” music on trial.

As a result, police organizations across the nation took to staging angry protests against Tupac. Politicians, including then-vice president Dan Quayle, grabbed headlines during an election year trashing Tupac at televised rallies. Pac blamed me for inflaming the scandal because I flew out to Texas and interviewed the kid who shot the trooper, as well as the trooper’s widow, who later filed suit against Tupac and Time Warner, which was already entrenched in a political firestorm following its release of Ice T’s underground heavy metal hit, “Cop Killer.”

Howard was the one and only individual to kill a cop out of the 500,000 fans who purchased “2Pacalypse Now” in 92. As a poverty-stricken kid, growing up in the ghetto, he had a tough go of it. His dad beat him mercilessly, he told me, with an electrical extension cord, so badly, that blood streaked the walls. He’d been in and out of jail his entire life. Tupac and NWA’s lyrics spoke directly to him, he said. His own personal soundtrack: They detailed his bleak existence – to the bone. Where he lived, police were prone to brutality. Howard was not about to take another licking. As he watched the burly Trooper strutting up to his vehicle, something snapped. Over the years, Howard and I got to know each other. We exchanged Christmas cards until the end. He regretted what he did. In his final statement, just before they executed him, according to one media report, Howard looked over at the Trooper’s family and said: “I hope this helps. I don’t know how, but I hope it helps.”

I talked with Tupac by phone for our interview. In this conversation, as in every conversation I had with Tupac, he waxed eloquent on practically every subject he discussed. He was brilliant – and barely 22. I have never met anyone that age as sharp as him. He called out racist cops and crooked politicians who were ganging up on him, including then-Attorney General Janet Reno, who he blasted as a true cop-killer, referring to the law enforcement agents who got murdered when she decided to raid a cult leader’s compound in Waco, Texas. Tupac could see through it all. He wasn’t just smart. He was cool.

This week, while re-listening to the tape, I was impressed by how far ahead of his time Tupac was, and how, at 22, his dreams long ago eclipsed the empirical trappings most modern celebrities still covet. You never saw Pac shilling merchandise for corporations or lending his name or identity to some shameless commercial brand scheme, as is the fashion now for so many Benjamin-bootlicking sell-outs. Being rich on paper meant little to Pac. Being rich in spirit is what mattered. He was not motivated by greed, but by the transformative power of art.

Update: Below the audio recording are the links to the stories I reference in the post.


Fatal shooting of a Texas trooper during traffic stop sets up a conflict over the words in a rap song

Texas Death Renews Debate Over Violent Rap Lyrics

Rap Defense Doesn’t Stop Death Penalty

Rap Played a Role in Jury Deliberations

Gangsta Rap: Did Lyrics Inspire Killing of Police?

16 thoughts on “Tupac Shakur: The 1993 Interview”

  1. Very nice interview Chuck. Thanks for posting it. For the ’93 and ’95 interview did you do those in person or over the phone?!?

    1. If you notice the comments by the tapes, they show that Chuck Philips did both 1993 and 1995 interviews in person. In one, he was surprised to see Faith Evans walking out of Pacs studio and didn’t understand what it meant at the time. LB

    1. They should be working I’m not sure why you had a 3 minute mark problem but I checked them and they are up and running. Apologies for the inconvenience.
      Thanks for visiting.

    1. We are looking at alternate ways of hosting the tapes and fixing some of the warping that the cassette tape had suffered over time so this will be fixed.
      Thanks for your patience.

  2. Thanks you Chuck Philips for standing up to all of them – the hack filmmakers, the crazy cop, the Rolling Stone writer – the whole cottage industry making money off Pac’s death that savaged you for finding the truth about who shot Pac. You’ve been proven right.

  3. I like the interview’ Pac was a huge influence in my life and still is.. Im a young Chicano(Mexican) about to be 22 in Aug, i kinda see things the same as Pac in a way’ the only difference is that i see it with my race’ i try speaking up on certain things but words can only do so much’ i live that Thug-Life but appropriately.. Because i hope to be like Pac’ one day maybe not a rapper but to have a voice that can be heard and understood from any person, any race, any age’ all i want is to be heard….. Rest.In.Peace”MAKAVELI”

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