Saturday, January 30, 2016
2Pac is Readying His Reunion Tour--Ready or Not
'Pac is back.
Ever since his alleged murder in Las Vegas back in the 1990s, rumors had circulated that Tupac Amaru Shakur, the rap virtuoso and radical activist, had merely faked his death, and fled to Cuba in order to plan his comeback, wherein he'd finish kicking off the black uprising he started. These conspiracy theories only amplified with the ready availability of the Internet; many claiming 2014 to be the year he would return. When that didn't happen, like many things that don't happen on the year they're supposed to happen, the theories lost a lot of credence. Then, however, out of the blue, Mr. Shakur revealed last month on FaceBook that he is, in fact, still alive.
Like many others, I bombarded the account with questions, and I'm pleased to say that my questions were a great deal more articulate than other people's, although on FaceBook, perhaps that's not saying much. This may be why I got a private message from 2Pac stating that he would like to talk. I used this as a chance to interview him, where he provided extensive details as to what happened between then and now.
Thomas Fairfield: The obvious first question is, why did you fake your death?
2Pac: The whole gangsta feud I got caught up in with Biggie was getting out of hand, people were gonna die; I don't just mean the big guys like me and him, but also the crew's following us, and to bring a stop to it, I felt I needed to go to send a message first. Look at the cover of Don Killuminati; I'm there nailed on a cross; I died for black America's sins.
Thomas Fairfield: The other subtext being that you would rise again?
2Pac: Lol yeah; there's lots of subtext on that album, and a lot of the fans have been pretty sharp in pegging it. The name change to Makavelli referred to Nicolo Machiavelli, who wrote the Prince, which was a treatise on conspiracies to grab and hold power, and yes; one thing is to fake your death. Then obviously there's the title. The Illuminati, of course, are known as the big guys supposed to make big conspiracies, and the "Kill" part is because I'd need to be "killed" to get my conspiracy started.
Thomas Fairfield: When you faked your death, did you understand a lot of people would blame BIG, and do you think his murder was a revenge killing?
2Pac: Fact is that shit was happening already. Already there was an attempt on my life, and I knew there'd be more. Again, the shitstorm needed to stop and so I faked my death, and yeah; I'm sorry now if it caused Biggie to get killed for real, but gang violence did decline. You turn on the radio these days, rap's still huge, but the bit about feuding isn't really around anymore, and that's good. Black America is still pretty fucked up in a lot of ways, but it doesn't have that civil war shit anymore.
Thomas Fairfield: Is it true that you fled to Cuba?
2Pac: Yeah, and the shit that went down in Cuba was so crazy it nearly killed me for real, and it really opened my eyes. People who idolize me seem to treat it like I did it all on my own, but that's not just not how it is. I had guys working with me to pull that sort of play; the main one was a cat we called Barrio Joe. I met him in LA, where he'd hook me and my crew up with black market goods and all that good shit, and we called him that because he had a slightly Latin accent, but he looked just like another LA black man. Well, after a while of getting closer with Joe, he talks to me in private, and yanks the rug. His real name was Jotoso Fiameto, and he was a Cuban that got to talking about how he was working to bring down the "evil white capitalist system" in America, that sort of shit, and he said I was the man to help with it. I think the big thing with Joe was he didn't like me getting caught up in that gang war with Biggie's crew; he said it was ruining black men and they needed unity. So he and his group helped me pull it off.
Thomas Fairfield: So when you say he was Cuban, I'm assuming you don't mean the sort of refugee fleeing the Castro regime and being no fan of such revolutions.
2Pac: Well he posed as one when he came here for a while. This guy knew how to disappear and get off the radar when he wanted, and also how to make up fake shit about himself, so when he met me, he was just making like he was an Angeleno to most people there, but he was always an agent, and he trusted me with that secret because by that time, things were seeming like I was already unpopular with the US authorities, and knowing I was in the commies' pockets wouldn't help.
Thomas Fairfield: How did he get you over to Cuba?
2Pac: After they fake-shot me--you can pretty much get the straight deal on all of the fudging that happened there if you watch those YouTube videos--he and some other man drove me to Jean Airport. I don't remember the other man's name, but he was a lot lighter and had a much thicker Cuban accent. They got me on their private plane, and we flew to New Orleans, where I was told just to stay on the plane. After refueling, we flew to Jose Marti Airport in Havana, where instead of leaving into the actual airport, some Cuban Army trucks just picked us up from the plane, and they took us to some base. I figured then they were just working to keep me hidden, but looking back, it was a capture.
Thomas Fairfield: It sounds like you don't think highly of the Cuban government.
2Pac: They're thugs. I mean that as someone who knows thugs, knows the whole "Shits going down, we're attacking and you better get primed for it" attitude. That's what the Cuban soldiers who spirited me into their base presented at the start, but also, they were up in my business and wouldn't leave. They were flatterers, a lot of "We like you and know you are the man who will bring La Revolucion to America" shit, but a lot of times, they didn't make clear if they'd even heard my music. I was an asset to them and it just got more obvious.
Thomas Fairfield: Sort of what the Soviets called "useful idiots"?
2Pac: They hoped I was useful, though pretty soon they figured out I wasn't an idiot. The soldiers who met me first, they would prod me with some rebellious buzzwords, and I'd share my thoughts on the matter, and they'd be making these funny faces, like either they weren't on my level, or didn't really like what I said, or both. They were always trying to butt in to tie it back to commie-speak.
Thomas Fairfield: How long did that go on?
2Pac: It was hours, but they let me leave that night, but not free; they stuck me in a limo but with a gunman watching, and they took me to this building, one of those typical Cuban buildings that is pretty but decaying, and that was where I lived all of while I was in Cuba. They'd make like hotel staff, bringing me stuff like bedding, like food--pretty damned good food, I'll admit--and they even offered me hookers, but the guards were always around, and for months I wasn't even allowed to go anywhere without them.
Maybe two weeks into it, they took me to meet the big boss Fidel Castro himself. He's some weird shit, really not like a human. Think of a computer, not running a program, and then it is running a program, and then it's not again. When my captor walked me into his palace, Castro came in from a different room, methodically, not much emotion, he sits down, and then suddenly he's acting like a human. He greets me affectionately, showers praise on me for fighting the good fight. I think Castro was lots more aware of me than his stooges that grilled me at the base. He knew my music, knew of the feud with BIG, knew of my family history with the Black Panther Party, and he could level with me. That first meeting, we had a lot of fun chatting, but once it was over, suddenly all the humanity left Castro again; his face went stoic, he about-faced and near-marched out the door with no more words.
The next interaction with Fidel Castro wasn't in person; his troops delivered me a shitload of papers proposing a bunch of new songs for a new album, they said based on his suggestions. Not just ideas; lots of lyrics, and a lot of them I wasn't cool with. There was this one called "Charge, Niggas Charge", maybe a reference to "Run Nigga Run" by MC Pooh, basically telling black men in America to charge at police and soldiers, even if unarmed and knowing that a lot of them would get mowed down, and that was when I knew the shit was hitting the fan; these red thugs wanted niggas in America to do the bleeding and dying for the so-called good of Cuba and international socialism. Another proposed song was "Mickey Dead", which was asking people to go to war on McDonalds, some really gruesome shit like killing its managers and putting their own meat in burgers. There were other proposed songs I didn't mind in themselves, but they weren't my songs I wrote; they were still telling me to be their mouthpiece. I knew by now for real, I was being played, and the only way I'd get out of this shit would be to play right back. I'd played the US, and now here I was in Cuba, and this was Level 2.
So I got vague; told Castro's goons I was excited to release a new album for the cause, but that I also wanted the words to be ones I wrote. They said they'd go consult with him, and that's how I bought me some time.
Thomas Fairfield: So Castro thought he'd made a convert of you?
2Pac: I'm betting he was a little bit unsure of what was happening, but he also knew he had a potential golden opportunity. So eventually, he sent me back the go-ahead to rephrase the songs, and to mark each so they knew I'd still done all the songs they wanted. It's about that time I finally got a grace period, where I could wander around Havana how I liked. They always checked back on me, but I got to have some fun tooling around, which is about that time people started noticing me, and the "2Pac is alive in Cuba" bit finally came out, though a lot of people were skeptical.
Cuba is a neat place in some ways, those pimpmobiles are just cool, but it's also a damn shithole in ways I don't think anyone who hasn't been there really gets. I've seen the ghettos of America; the very bottom, but communist Cuba is far more fucked. It's a failing society; buildings falling apart, cracks in the street that you can smell sewer shit out of, and this was in the capital; not Cuba's take on Compton!
Thomas Fairfield: Did it change your worldviews any?
2Pac: Oh yeah; shitloads. The culture wafting around black America, and Mexican America, and all those non-rich sections of America, is one of telling them to bite the hands that feed them, because it tells them they ain't being fed enough. They're taught to hate white men, hate capitalism, hate America, and to think Fidel and Che and those types are prophets of a better way for all the people who ain't rich in America. Not many actually see the shit those guys turned Cuba to, where almost everyone's poor and those who aren't are fixing to kick you around all the time. I know people talk a big talk about the rebels kicking the Mafiosos out of Cuba, but now they've stuck their own in, because they've had to pay people more and more to stand around with guns pointed at everyone else, and they've got less and less to pay.
Things weren't ever boring, though. I'd always be meeting people, people who'd gotten wind that I was alive in Cuba, and a lot of them came up to get autographs just like they'd go and get weed slightly under the radar in any city. By the way, US government snoops were very aware of it, at least that's what I was told, but I believed them in that case because we weren't even trying to be secretive, and there's no way the US isn't watching Cuba closely. Castro's men always assured me that nobody from the US would ever come gunning for me, because then the Cubans would make a big stink about it and a lot of people in America would start rooting for them and against their own government. That gave me the bright idea of giving the tourists I met a warning, that if the Cuban goons ever tried gunning me down themselves, sound the alarm around the world. Tourists talk a whole bunch about what goes on with the Castro government; that government would probably wish they didn't, but you can't really censor this shit when everyone sees things literally falling apart. So I ended up with my life in the hands of multiple people blackmailing each other, and the funny thing is it worked! I wasn't free, but I was untouchable, and soon I was getting more into testing just how much.
Thomas Fairfield: Did they still push you to release the new album?
2Pac: They wanted me to, but I always managed to buy myself some time. Flattery goes a long way with these types; I would tell them I loved what I saw in their socialist paradise, and I wanted to see more and write about it, and they bought it; they thought they owned me, or made like they did. So I tooled around Cuba, and observed, and I would even submit writings I didn't really believe and say they were a preview of the album to come. I met Castro a few more times, and he still always seemed a lot of smarter than his thugs. I know his type well; they're plenty good at looking out for their own neck. But Castro also has a big-ass ego not many men can match, you don't even need to know him personally to get that, and it's too big an ego to admit his economics are full of shit, even if doing that and dumping them would be better for everyone, him included.
Thomas Fairfield: How long did you stay in Cuba?
2Pac: It was my permanent home for almost five years, but I did get to go on some trips; trips the state said I should do to better explore their socialist dreams. I went to Democratic Republic of the Congo, which Che helped found and which is a shithole; maybe even a bigger shithole than Cuba, and I also went to Vietnam, which is on good terms with Cuba and still has a communist government, but has made economic reforms and you can see the difference; Nam is pretty blinged out.
At some point, I met some Jamaicans who somehow managed to dock their yacht in Havana. Looking back on it, I think they were pirates, because they were gun-runners and it's possible they got the guns right from the Cuban government--one thing communist states actually are good at is building shitloads of weapons--but they were really in it for themselves, and they offered to smuggle me out. That's what Barrio Joe had said, too, and I wondered whether I was going into the hands of other captors, but at this point, after living as a Very Important Prisoner in Cuba, I was up for some unpredictability. So I got onboard their boat with basically no possessions in tow, they fixed me up with a dreadlocks wig to look full-Jamaican--which hid me pretty well, because baldness had been one of my trademarks--and took me to Jamaica, where I was a free man soon after.
So there I had it; the socialists riding the high horse of ideological government captured me, while these Jamaican capitalists outside the law liberated me. It was about the final eye-opening I needed. I'm still in Jamaica; I don't feel good saying which town now, and I'm still planning my comeback, but it's gonna be a shock to some people.
Thomas Fairfield: Because of your changed perspective?
2Pac: Damn right! I'm a libertarian now; not like Ayn Rand levels of crazy lawless, but I've got a new appreciation for personal aspiration and the American way, and lots of disgust for the sort of shithole alternatives that too many uninformed Americans still believe in. I'm planning on calling my album "Metamorphosis", and hopefully I'll be able to promote it with a Metamorposis tour, and it's gonna drop some truth bombs! I'm gonna have a track on there about Che and a lot of the nasty shit he did when fans weren't watching, a song satirically called "AmeriKKKa the beautiful", where I end up praising the sort of shit other rappers complain about, and there's also gonna be one called "Four Year Fellatio" where I dump some shit on the sort of self-righteous, pretentious shit fed to niggas and women and Latinos by college professors, junk degrees that give their groups a blowjob for four years, only to leave them unemployed when they get out and find businesses aren't interested in employees who try to guilt-trip them and bring them down!
Stay tuned, because the best is yet to come! I'd say some Thugnificent-style shit, like "the new album is gonna be crazy", but who'm I kidding?! This album will be damned sane!
That was essentially the end of the interview. I was rather alarmed at that last bit, and asked some more questions, like whether he was swinging the pendulum too far the other way, but he didn't answer. All I can say to 2Pac fans at this point, is brace yourself for a rug-yanking!