Yes, it’s another 2Pac cover. What did you expect? It’s the 15th anniversary of his death, and I’m a ’Pac die-hard (along with a lot of other rap heads), so we had to do it right and honor the legend. It’s just so crazy that it’s 15 years that he’s been gone. I so clearly remember the night he died. I was such a fan, even as a corny high school weirdo, but that night I never knew I would spend so much of my life covering and documenting his. It kind of blows my mind that, with all the coverage XXL has been involved in or done on ’Pac, and with all the people I interviewed who were close to him, I never met him. And never will.
I do believe there will never be anyone like 2Pac again in hip-hop. We’ve had rappers to make comparisons to, had MCs who tried to do their best ’Pac impersonations, had actors play the role of the wild MC the best that they could, but I really don’t think there will be anyone that comes close to him again. He was a rarity. I interviewed Justin Bieber two months ago, and he said ’Pac was his favorite rapper of all time. The Biebs was, like, one year old when ’Pac died! As I write this, I’m sitting at club Love in Washington, D.C., where Rick Ross, Wale and Meek Mill lumber around the stage, mouthing the words to “Tupac Back,” the chantlike hook of which everyone in the sardine-packed club echoes along with while throwing two fingers up in the air for ‘Pac. The love doesn’t die.
You could go on and on about the fascination people seem to have had, and still have, with ’Pac. Go ahead, argue that he wasn’t lyrical. That tends to be the biggest argument when it comes to ’Pac. He gets blamed ’cause he wasn’t some lyrical beast. As if his political content and bold personality weren’t enough. Must have been, considering the legacy.
Every couple of years it seems like ’Pac makes some resurgence in hip-hop—whether it’s a popular rapper or rappers remaking their own versions of “Hit ’Em Up,” or a cover of another ’Pac record, or a new documentary or book about his life, or an album with posthumous or remade tracks, or an unheard verse that floats out. And that serves as a reminder of ’Pac’s importance to hip-hop.
XXL has been covering Tupac for 14 years now (seeing as this is also our 14th-anniversary issue) and unbelievably has never had a real interview with him. We came out after the death of ’Pac and The Notorious B.I.G., in a time when hip-hop was mourning their losses and figuring out its new direction. And since then, we have put ’Pac on the cover four times, including this issue, and even had his mother, Afeni Shakur, on the cover, with a special tribute interview at the significant seventh anniversary of his death. Our last ’Pac cover was five years ago, marking the 10th anniversary of his passing.
During the past 14 years, our mag has explored the legend of ’Pac from so many different angles. We’ve interviewed anyone who was close to him and then some, dissected the making of his albums and music and looked at almost every photo ever taken of the man. For this issue, it was time to catch up with the few folks we had yet to speak to: ’Pac’s first manager, Leila Steinberg; his first and only wife, Keisha Morris; his stepfather, Mutulu Shakur; and his crew the Outlawz. (They actually smoked ’Pac’s ashes when he died. Am I jealous? Maybe. I’m on the fence on this one.) And we talked with his real father, whom he looks just like, Billy Garland. We also got a bunch of rappers’ thoughts on ’Pac’s importance, explored the bizarre suicide of one of the wild MC’s go-to producers, Johnny “J,” and investigated the new claims from the man who recently said he was hired to rob and shoot ’Pac at Quad Studios in 1994. We tried to catch up with Kidada Jones and Jada Pinkett Smith, but they weren’t interested in speaking on ’Pac.
I think that’s weird, but whatever.
The issue is mostly ’Pac related, so if you don’t like it, you can save the complaint letter. It doesn’t matter. This is how we were gonna do it anyway. And for the haters, there’s some other stuff in the issue that doesn’t have to do with ’Pac. You’ll just have to keep reading to find out what it is. And if you didn’t get enough 2Pac, get ready for the special blowout on XXLMag.com.
Wish I could take a shot of Ciroc with ‘Pac (okay, not really, just split a blunt),