How did you even first learn that Tupac was your brother?
It was actually when Juice came out back then. They had the advertisement for the movie in the newspaper and my dad came to me and my little brother and said, “I have to tell you guys something. This guy right here is your brother.” He took us to see the movie and he was Bishop, so I was a little scared. Of course I thought he was young and wild and a little intimidating, but even being so young, I remember thinking he stole the show with so much charisma. I remember being glued to him and I don’t know if that’s because I knew he’s my brother. I remember focusing on him and not taking my eyes off him. He was that movie. It was spellbinding to watch him in that. I looked over at my dad and he was crying at the end. I guess it just touched him just seeing what he accomplished and then not seeing him in so long. Now that I’m older, I can watch and see so much talent in that movie, but back then, I was like, “He’s crazy!” I was probably 8 or 9 years old in that movie.
What a way to be introduced to somebody!
[Laughs] A good thing about my dad is he never hid anything. He sat us down and told us the real deal about everything that happened and losing touch with Tupac and his mother. From my understanding, it took my dad a long time to track Afeni down and he wasn’t able to find him. One day he knew where they were and the next he didn’t. He grew up thinking someone else was his father.
Take me from that point on.
From that point on…forgive me, it’s blurry because I was young. But I remember every day after [watching Juice] we were playing his music. I knew all his songs. I was so touched by “Brenda’s Got a Baby.” I made my dad talk to me about certain things because of Tupac’s music. I remember my father telling me we were going to meet him one day and telling me about when he was younger and taking him to the movies. We watched his videos and interviews. I got in touch with him the same way most of the world did—through his art. I don’t think for me personally that the contact came until my dad started visiting him in Upstate New York, when he went to jail. That was ’95 and I was 10 or 11.
How did your contact with him start?
I was in the living room one day and my dad gave me the phone and said, “Somebody wants to speak to you.” I got on the phone with him and I was very shy at first because he was famous and I never spoke to him before. He told me this isn’t the place he wants me to meet him for the first time and that we would have our day to meet. He was just really cool. He was silly and goofy. I told him, “Daddy told me you cheated in Monopoly and you can’t dance” and he said, “Yo, I ain’t cheat and I could dance!” I remember telling him that nobody at school believed me that he was my brother. Tupac told me, “One day you’re not going to care what anybody says to you.” He told me to not believe stuff that I read about him. I think that was our only conversation and we had a couple letters that we shared. I also remember him telling me how he saw pictures of the family and we looked a lot like him and he can’t wait to meet us. I definitely hold onto that conversation.
But unfortunately you never met him?
I was supposed to meet him—I remember my dad told me—that we were all going to meet him Thanksgiving of ’96. We were really excited…and then that happened.
Where were you when the news of Pac’s death hit?
I was living with my mom in New Brunswick, New Jersey and my dad was living in Jersey City. When it happened, my dad went to Vegas. I thought it would be like the first time that he was shot. I thought it would be fine and we’re still going to meet him Thanksgiving. But I remember Friday the 13th and I was watching the Jason marathon and my dad called me. I just knew by his voice what had happened. I couldn’t believe it. That brief conversation and moment I had with him, that was going to be it.
How did you get into writing?
I started my first book when I was 17. It wasn’t meant to be a book. It was more of a personal thing that turned into a book. It’s funny because I recently wrote a couple chapters to a “White Man’s World” and said to myself, “This song is touching so many people in such a short amount of time,” and what I’d do is challenge myself to write like that. I challenge myself to get as deep as him.