Tag Archive: 2Pac


 

westside_pac

So as you can imagine, I have Grown Man Responsiblities now, 24/7/365.  That means my time to play video games ain’t what it used to be.  So yes, I picked up GTA V on (the morning after) opening day, but in the past week plus I’ve played it maybe an hour…TOTAL.  Yep, I’m an adult now.

So I’m checking it out, and it’s cool.  Hey, there’s my city in ‘virtual form.’  Figueroa and Olympic. Hollywood Boulevard.  Santa Monica Beach.  Cool.  Not overwhelmed though like I’m used to with the series.

And then I jump in some random car…and one of my anthems starts up.  Right up there with ‘Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough’, ‘Let’s Go Crazy’ and ‘Wanna Be Startin Somethin’ on my greatest Track 1’s of all time…

So many battlefield scars while driven in plush cars
This life as a rap star is nothin without heart
Was born rough and rugged, addressin the mad public
My attitude was, “Fuck it,” cause motherfuckers love it!

WHATTTTTTTTT?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!!!!!  DAMN THIS MISSION, WHERE THE TATTOO PARLOR AT?!?!?  EAST COAST AIN’T GOT NO LOVE FOR SAN ANDREAS?!!?!?!?!?!?!

So anyway, after I found my shirt, I played for another half hour or so.  It’s a classic Grand Theft Auto already.  If you’re a fan of the series (and like me) can only, maybe make time for a few games a year at this point in your life, this needs to be one of them.

And on that note, have a good weekend.  WEST SIDE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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yaslinbey

I just finished re-reading Manning Marable’s analysis of Malcolm X.  Marable ends with his belief that Malcolm would have denounced the 9/11 attacks as being fundamentally against everything Islam stands for, despite the claims of those who carried out the terrorism.  Marable’s thesis at the end is Malcolm should be held up as a symbol for hope and dignity across all cultures, in the way he’s an icon among the culture he fought the hardest for (the black underclass).

I use that introduction because that definition of Malcolm is very symbolic of how important, in a much larger sense, the ideal of ‘community’ is in Islam.  It’s tied into how we greet each other (Peace be unto you, and unto you be peace).  It’s tied into our facing the same direction, using the same physical prostrations.  It is, I believe, why we are considered to perfect half of our religion when we marry.  Beyond our internal community, I also feel that it extends to our larger sense of ‘community’, and our interdependence on each other as beings who are ‘renting’ this physical space we’re all sharing for however long we’re meant to share it.

A few of you know this, but 2Pac has been my example more than Malcolm when it comes to community works.  Specifically, 90 percent of your service is off the radar; only you and God and the recipient needs to know about it.  I’m not suggesting you’re wrong if you want more ‘credit’ for the good things you do, but I may be questioning who you need credit from if it’s truly a selfless act.  Truthfully if you find it in yourself to do anything for others, you’re one of the good ones.  This came up in the dinner conversation I had last night, and most of us see it whether you live in a metropolis or not, but the gap between the haves and the have nots isn’t getting smaller.  That’s just the way the world is going; what’s a little worrisome now though is that the haves seem much less inclined than ever to have empathy for the have nots.  Yeah, this could be a whole blog into itself, so let me get back on point…

As I’ve settled into my ‘spot’, I’m very thankful to have likewise found the right wavelength where I can contribute in whatever way I feel comfortable to spreading good karma in the world I live in.  As I’ve been telling friends recently, I bring 100 percent of my ego to my professional life, so it’s nice to balance that with trying to make the world a better place in relative anonymity.

Last Ramadan post for the year next week.

 

young2pac

On the list of great 2Pac singles, this one (kind of understandably) is way down the list.  I only think I hear this once every couple years.  So I was still hyped when it came on the radio and I still knew all the words.

And is that a young John Singleton in the background trying to look hard?  I think it is…

 

tupac5-in-spectacles-from-lascafiablogspot

Can’t close my eyes cause all I see is terror
I hate the man in the mirror
Cause his reflection makes the pain turn realer
Times of Armageddeon, murder in mass amounts
In this society where only gettin the cash counts
I started out as a beginner
Entered the criminal lifestyle became a sinner
I make my money and vacate, evade prison
Went from the chosen one to outcast, unforgiven
And all the Hennessy and weed can’t hide, the pain I feel inside
You know, it’s like I’m livin just to die
I fall on my knees and beg for mercy, not knowin if I’m worthy
Livin life thinkin no man can hurt me
So I’m askin — before I lay me down to sleep
Before you judge me, look at all the shit you did to me, my misery
I rose up from the slums, made it out the flames
In my search for fame will I change? I’m askin…

 

Once a week for these, I’ll try to give a detailed breakdown of a song I post.  This one was easy since it’s a personal favorite…

Got My Mind Made Up is hiding on ‘All Eyez on Me’, and it still plays as a great ‘one-upsmanship’ song between great rappers.  This song should have been much bigger, but Death Row never released it as a true single.  Of course you know why: this is the peak of the West Coast-East Coast beef, no matter how good the song was, at the time we couldn’t pretend anybody on the West Coast would do great work with anyone on the East.

Anyway, here we go.  Beat kicks in…I have the heart of a DJ (obviously) more than an MC, but the beat is one that anyone would try to freestyle over.  Daz starts it off, he does well.  Feels like just another high quality West Coast single.

Then ‘Pac shows up…

‘So mandatory, my elevation, my lyrics like orientation; so you can be more familiar with the n***a you facing’

This is one everyone perks up.  A little pet peeve of mine is once in a while I’ll hear someone say 2Pac was just average lyrically.  This is one of those songs/verses that should shut that argument down.  Redman hasn’t dropped the blunt yet, but he’s listening to Pac flowing…

‘My lyrics motivate the planet. It’s similar to Rhythm Nation, but thugged out.  Forgive me Janet!’

Uh oh!  Did we just get a Poetic Justice shoutout?  I think we did.  The stakes are rising…

‘Bear witness to the dopest f***ing rhyme I wrote. Taking off my coat, clearing my throat.’

With everything I just said, I don’t think it’s the dopest 2Pac verse, but everyone recognizes the effort.  Redman is walking around the studio now…

Kurupt was the MC with something to prove, and it shows here.  And I’m not hating, but I’m sure he looked around before he got here and knew he had to hold his water…

‘Your whole camp’s under siege, and I’m Jason Voorhees.’

Yeah that’s not bad.  But Redman went and sat back down on the couch.  He’s not overly impressed.  Then his partner in crime Method Man starts off with this…

‘F**k you losers, while you fake jacks, I makes maneuvers; Like Hitler, sticking up Jews with German Lugers.’

WHOA!!!!!!!!!!  Everyone’s turned around and is completely listening to this verse.  Redman is back up off the couch…

‘Johnny Blaze out to get loot like Johnny Cash; play a game of Russian Roulette and have a blast.’

Great lyric!  So what you got Redman?  You get the last verse, what you got son?!?

‘Ayyo, lyrical gats spitting the criminal tactics; non-believers get my dick and genitals backwards…’

Oh sh–.  Everyone’s eyes light up (no pun intended)…

‘Got the clear spot, from the rear block. To bust til every n***a here drop. Men I fear not.

Hold your nose and blow out til your ears pop. 

Since your crew suit you to shift, now you claim that you gets lot.’

benchreaction

‘Lick off your shot and hit your fam by mistake. So I erase the whole front row at your wake.

I planned my escape in case Jake or a snake bust it; I’m the one pushing the hearse in the first place

Confidence for you shaky ass folks; pumped for Rockafella for the day he got smoked

Choke off this anecdote, got you ope

Get roast by my lyrics, Billy Dee, .45 Colt!’

In the final mix, Dre cuts off the mic before every hip hop head in the room goes absolutely phucking ballistic!

And Redman casually grabs his junk and walks away from the mic…

 

How about something fun for my last post of 2011?

So 99 times out of 100 when I’m sent sides (an audition script), I can look at the product as a whole, look at where the character fits into the story, and build something from the ground up.  But there was one screen test I did this year where I had to do things a little differently…

2Pac.

When I first heard about the project (when Antoine Fuqua was still attached), I was actually aiming for the part of Mopreme, one of Pac’s older relatives who in the story (real and fictional) acted as his conscience.  Then word went out that there was an open call for the title role, and they wanted an ‘unknown’.  To be truthful, I was still a little hesitant (since at this point I’m older than Pac was when he was murdered), but after a few ‘Fuck That!’ conversations and reminders that every biopic I like uses this rare technique known as ‘makeup’, I decided to go in.

So now it’s a question of craft.  Creating a completely original character is one type of challenge.  But how do you create a character that based off a real person whose own persona is iconic in its own right?  We all know what Pac looked like, we know how he sounded when he talked, how he sounded when he rapped.  If you do a pitch perfect impersonation, you’re seen as an impersonator and not an actor.  But you stray too far away from the public persona, and you’re rejected for not being ‘accurate’ or ‘realistic’.  This is why playing real people, living or dead, is generally seen as the greater challenge.

So the sides went out and as a 2Pac fan I recognized it instantly from my teenage years.  You have to take me at my word when I say I didn’t rewatch this until after I did my screen test:

So I learned the words, thought about the emotions behind them (frustration) and made some choices.  Part two of the screen test was doing any Pac song that we liked.  The choice I made in that regard was to stay away from his best known videos, where again we all have an established ‘visual’ performance to go with the lyrics.  I lucked out a little since my favorite Pac song doesn’t have the ‘iconic’ video to go with it.

So my last gift for you this year, my loyal readers, is the screen test I did for ‘Tupac’.  You can judge for yourself if the choices I made ‘worked’ or if I could’ve gone farther with it.  I heard John (Singleton) is calling the shots now, so if you’ll excuse me I have to go butter up one of my fellow Trojans.

Feliz Ano Nuevo!

 

A Day Later

When something dramatic happens, I try (if I can) to wait a day before really reacting to it.  The gut reaction is usually the right one, but emotions can severely cloud judgment as well.

So to go from the initial reports (‘The President is making an announcement, and it can’t wait until tomorrow’) which create nothing but dread, to the rumors that led to what Obama was really announcing, I had, and continue to have conflicting emotions about it.

Death: as Biggie said after Pac died, ‘There ain’t no coming back from that.’ A few of you have found a great quote that Dr. King that is a more eloquent way of saying the same thing.  While as a country we don’t officially teach an eye for an eye, I know I wasn’t remotely surprised when I saw kids dancing in the streets when the announcement was made.  And I know the next generation of terrorists were watching that too, using it as proof we want to ‘get them’ as bad as they want to ‘get us.’

But how can I not feel a degree of closure in knowing the man who financed the worst terrorist attack on American soil finally met his end?  You know and I know that what happened that day made ripples way outside of Manhattan; it created a dark cloud over every aspect of American life.  The way we travel obviously, the way we react toward other cultures, even in some ways I think the loss of respect between our two political parties.

I wasn’t too worried it would happen, but it is nice to know the powers that be recognize they’ve only killed the figurehead of an anti-American movement that will continue.  It would be nice to believe that we could bring all the troops back in six months, but that doesn’t seem practical.  There’s a whole new set of questions to start asking now (that I’m sure my more politically minded friends are already working on).

You know who I’m happiest for?  Our military.  I had and have family and friends stationed all over the world, and it has to be gratifying for them to know this ‘goal’ they’ve been working on for so long has been accomplished.  You’re aware of it, but last night was one of those reminders that there are cats risking their life everyday to protect our way of life.  Can’t say that about my job, can you?  So to any of my people in the military who happen to reading this, thanks again for what you do.

Now let’s see what comes next…

 

Today the hip hop nation takes pause for 2Pac’s birthday.  He would have been 39.  It’s a strange reality to me to know there’s a generation who know of 2Pac through videos and old footage, but who didn’t live through his peak years.

Like some but not all, I had a love/hate relationship with 2Pac while he was alive.  I loved the passion of his voice, I loved the depth of his lyrics.  In my circle we define a movie star as a guy the guys would hang out with and the girls would bone.  By that definition 2Pac is still hip hop’s biggest ‘movie star’ to date. 

What I didn’t care for where the extremes of his personality.  How could the same man who made ‘Keep Your Head Up’ and ‘Dear Mama’ be part of a gang rape?  How could the son of a Black Panther throw a whole Coast of black people under the bus so…violently?

If Pac was our real life version of Bishop, or Tony Montana, or Nino Brown, then it feels no less sad but maybe less surprising he had the same violent end those characters did. 

The Hate U Give Little Infants Fux Everybody.  Was this prophetic?  Ironic?  Both?  From the time Pac died (and really after Biggie died), the shift started.  Some really do grow up with no sense of ‘options’ or ‘hope’ of living a life different from what their parents or grandparents had.  But for pretty much any young black person who grew up in at least a lower middle class background (like myself), we had to ask ourselves, “Look I love the music and I love my culture, but I’m not trying to DIE over this!”  There were of course those who were talking down to the gangsta rap culture from day one, but how often do people react positively when they know you’re talking down to them? 

Baby steps.  Sometimes one step forward, two steps back.  Where I went to college, there was a very infamous ‘Welcome Back to School Party’ where a member of one historically black fraternity pointed a gun at the member of another historically black fraternity.  And yes, choas ensued.  I still chuckle as I remember one of the freshmen, his eyes still bugging out of his head, coming up to me and saying, “Malik, is THIS what college is like?!?” 

(As an aside, I’m not trying to ride my high horse for those of you who vividly remember that night in our lives.  As a matter of fact, it was one of my fraternity brothers who took me out to shoot my first automatic.  Riding around Douglas County Kansas bumping Makaveli’s ‘Me and My Girlfriend’.  Now THAT’s irony!)

Anyway in pop culture black artists have gone from being genuinely tense, to mocking how we took some things a little too seriously.   Everything from Chappelle’s ‘When Keeping It Real Goes Wrong’ to the Huey/Riley dynamic on the Boondocks to the Wire have deglamourized the gangster lifestyle (since 99.9 percent of the time it ends only one of two ways – death or jail).  These shows have all illustrated how we both embrace the ‘outlaw’ lifestyle (and always will) but for the most part have learned the lesson about letting real gangsters do gangster things, and the rest of us will watch from a safe distance.

In some of his last interviews, Pac talked about forming a new political party and running for President.  That’s still funny to me, but none of us would have ever imagined a little more than 10 years later there would actually be a black President.  Or for that matter, Snoop and Diddy sitting next to each other courtside at a Lakers game.

I guess what I’m really saying is that for all my complaints over the years about 2Pac or the ‘thug culture’ or the state of hip hop today, in the end, it is still my culture and I will still take pride in its success and defend it.

 

I woke up this morning, jumped in the car and turned on the radio.  The radio version of ‘Ambitions as a Ridah’ was on, leading me to almost kill my engine on the way to work.  And you’re right, there is no radio version of that song.  But that didn’t stop me from yelling at the top of my lungs, “My attitude is fuck it, cause motherfuckers love it!!!!”  I get in the car on the way home and the Dogg Pound’s “New York, New York” is bumping.  After nearly causing another 25 accidents, I made it home safely.

L.A. Radio was one of those little jewels I wasn’t expecting when I first came here, and now it’s a luxury it’s hard to imagine not having.  Steve Harvey cut his teeth as a morning radio host here before his show went national.  The original Strawberry Letters and Hoodie Awards were a welcome throwback, and Steve’s silliness and trash talking would remind me daily of the fools I left behind in Lawrence.  Big Boy has been doing his thing since longer than I can remember, to hear the daily interviews with singers, rappers, actors, and actresses was a culture shock and introduction to ‘Hollywood normalcy.’

Now I’ve been here long enough to take it for granted: I’ve been listening to CDs in my car for years.  But when my CD player busted I got over it pretty quickly.  I’ve heard ‘Return of the Mack’ three times in the past 48 hours, and I’m not ashamed to say I was jamming all three times.  Don’t hate.

differentworld

Spun off from The Cosby Show, A Different World began as a sitcom about Denise Huxtable (Lisa Bonet) going off to college, then quickly evolved into a show about all the characters (and issues) that went down at fictional HBCU Hillman College.  As critically acclaimed as it was popular, A Different World was nearly as popular as the show it was spun off of.

On to the tale of the tape…

Relevance: I will go out on a limb and say this will be the only network television show ever that will be take place at a Historically Black College or University.  When the show debuted, future Academy Award winner Marisa Tomei was part of the cast as Denise’s roommate Maggie, but once Debbie Allen (an HBCU grad) took charge, one of her first moves was to replace the white roommate with a pair of black roomies.  Hard to say it wasn’t authentic.

Legacy:  There is statistical evidence that enrollment in HBCUs went up while this program was on the air.  Beyond that, the number of names who passed through Hillman for an episode or a season is a who’s who of 90s black culture (Sinbad, Jada Pinkett, Tupac, Jesse Jackson to name a few).

Craft:  Over the course of the show’s run, A Different World was always very good for hitting us with the ‘A Very Special Episode’ at least once a season.  Whether it was Jesse Jackson’s visit, the date rape episode, the domestic violence episode, or any of the numerous episodes that dealt directly or indirectly with race and class, A Different World was able to tackle issues that were probably very important to Dr. Cosby, but would have felt ‘forced’ or otherwise inauthentic in an episode of The Cosby Show.

Crossover:  Thanks to its incredible lead in program, A Different World was always respected by the mainstream, even if it didn’t receive the same amount of overwhelming praise.  It’s hard to call it a crossover smash, but to have the run it had on NBC; it’s hard to imagine another show with a such a pronounced African-American backdrop getting that kind of play (sadly).

Apollo:  I think the entire Whitley-Dwayne Wayne relationship was kind of an Apollo moment.  I actually remember watching with my mother the episode where Whitley was about to marry that well to do, pretty boy brotha, but Dwayne came to the wedding and was getting dragged out when he begged Whitley to marry him (and he said yes).  This isn’t the space to get on a soapbox about the whole ‘new money’ vs. ‘legacy’ kid thing that plays out inside the black community, but I think every black kid gets fully introduced to that (as I did) in college, whether you went to an HBCU or not.

#9 is another landmark show of the 90s; come back later to find out what that is…