In his 25 years on earth, Tupac Amaru Shakur was a man of many words and emotions. Often they were captured on tape in the form of music and film. But Pac was in rare form when being interviewed. On Kendrick Lamar’s new LP, To Pimp a Butterfly, K. Dot captures another glimpse inside the mind of the late rap star on the closeout track “Mortal Man.” The song features a Shakur interview from 1994, surreally edited by Lamar to appear as a conversation between the two MCs about the still relevant topics of fighting and overcoming oppression.
If you take a look at YouTube’s cache of Tupac sit-downs, or were old enough to remember when they aired originally, it’s evident Shakur generally showed a more ethereal side when dealing with the press; one that was often different from the Thug Life persona that overpowered his values to many outside observers. Pac shined like no other on the mic with his presence, realness, and a gravitational aura. But the music legend was just as awe-inspiring when he spoke, showing off a sharp, calculated intellect and unfaltering will. Even when he was wrong, he spoke with conviction.
“When people say ’Pac is the best rapper of all time, they don’t just mean he’s the best rapper,” said Digital Underground frontman Shock G in an interview following Shakur’s death. “They just mean what he had to say was the most potent, most relevant and that he was the better human being.”
It was indeed deeper than rap for Afeni’s son. He was not just one of the greatest rappers of all time but a worldly icon whose status in hip-hop culture can never be replaced.
Check out five other must-hear interviews from the late rap luminary, below.
Un-Aired MTV Interview, August 1992
This interview happened so early in ’Pac’s rap career he literally has to tell the interviewer how to pronounce his name. In the sit-down with MTV, which never aired because of the rapper’s legal issues later that year, the young MC speaks on his meager upbringing and the state of black youth in America. Even at 21 years old, the energetic son of a Panther was firm in his beliefs.
MTV Interview, March 9, 1994
Following the success of his album Strictly 4 My Niggaz, Shakur sat down with MTV News reporter Abbie Kearse in Beverly Hills to discuss his rising fame. At this point, ’Pac was a big name in music, acting, and controversy. He weighed in on all three topics infusing a number of now iconic quotes.
Jail Interview in Clinton Correctional Facility, 1995
While serving time for sexual assault, ’Pac was interviewed and gave a candid account of where his life was at. Clearly in a transition period, the rapper is shown at odds with his own thoughts and actions in the video. Plenty of jewels dropped.