Hi, I'm Kurt Loder, and this is "The Week In
Rock," coming to you from Times Square in New York City.
It was one year ago, September 13th, 1996, that the
controversial rapper Tupac Shakur, shot down by assailants
who remain unidentified, died in a Las Vegas hospital at the
age of 25. The controversy surrounding Tupac's life and his
work, however, has lived on. So we called in rapper Treach of
Naughty By Nature, a close friend of Tupac's since their days
as roadies -- Treach with Digital Underground, Tupac with
Queen Latifah -- to hash over the events of the past year.
FAN 1: We can feel where that man came from. His suffering
and his pain is the same suffering and pain we going through.
FAN 2: I wish I would have had a chance to actually meet
Tupac. His music meant a lot for our people.
MTV: In the year since the death of Tupac Shakur, the
emotions his murder stirred up have quieted. But the debate
over his legacy, who he was and who he might have become, has
begun to rage. Was he a gangsta who kept it real all the way
to an early grave? A James Dean style cultural rebel? Or was
he -- might he have become -- a political voice for the
dispossessed in the tradition of Malcolm X? Only now are
those questions starting to emerge, after a year in which, at
least in the minds of many fans, Tupac was still very much
TUPAC SHAKUR: Look, y'all can watch. I feel so confident
and so sure about the man I am that you can watch me. You can
watch me when I fall, when I cry, when I get shot, when I go
to jail, when I die -- you can watch it.
MTV: Maybe it was because everyone did watch, and because
Tupac had spoken about death so frequently, that his murder
seemed somehow both expected and unreal, just another chapter
in his dramatic autobiography.
Four days after he died, Tupac's label, Death Row Records,
released "I Ain't Mad At'cha." That set the tone
for a year in which release after release of Tupac's records,
films and videos, showed him in violent, even deadly
situations, but never dealt with the reality of his brutal
death. Rumors that he was still alive burgeoned in November
once fans got their hands on the cryptic notations inside the
posthumously released "Makaveli" album. Some even
suggested that Tupac had taken the real Machiavelli's advice
and faked his own death.
TREACH: Right now, it's like he's the black Elvis. You
know what I mean? "Yo, I've seen Pac. He out there. He's
PROFESSOR MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, Author of "Race
Rules": You have an album with Machiavelli at the heart
of it and Machiavelli's faking your own death, and people
ascribe, rightfully so, tremendous intelligence to Tupac. But
I think what they are trying to do is avoid the fact that you
deal with bullets and guns and you get brutal, you die.
SNOOP DOGGY DOGG: People in general who feel that gangsta
rap is dead, my album is gonna show you that gangsta rap is
not dead, 'cause I plan to keep it alive.
MTV: One year ago, Death Row Records had a sound and
reputation unlike any contemporary record company, and Tupac
was the label's newest and brightest star, willingly molded
into the very epitome of the gangsta rapper. Without him,
Snoop was again thrust to the forefront, but his long-awaited
second album failed to make an impression, especially when
released just a week after the hyper-vitriolic
Meanwhile, the night that was the beginning of the end for
Tupac may also have marked the beginning of the end for Death
Row. Label head Suge Knight was sent to prison for probation
violation thanks to a videotaped altercation just hours
before the shooting. Federal investigators continued to probe
Death Row's alleged gang ties and illegitimate business
practices, and the company's mighty stable of rappers was
suddenly dwindling -- turning what was once America's most
profitable independent label into the music industry's most
chaotic and unstable commodity in just 12 months.
TUPAC: If I die, whatever, it can happen. If anything were
to happen to me, it's about three albums ready. And I like
TREACH: When you think the end could be near, you're gonna
want the people -- you're gonna want the world to know
everything you got inside. That's why he stayed in the
studio, he stayed making something new because he had so much
in a little time to tell.
MTV: Tupac left behind over 170 tracks and several hundred
unpublished poems; but someone needs to cultivate that raw
material into a legacy. With potentially lucrative tracks and
substantial revenues to be earned from his image, there's
been tremendous legal wrangling over his estate.