Afeni Shakur, Survivor [Story from XXL’s October 2003 Issue]
Did you think the first shooting, in New York in 1994 was going to kill him?
I didn’t know. I thought that the first shooting was going to be catastrophic, ‘cause the night after he was shot he was also convicted. So from the time he was shot, the courts were demanding that he surrender himself to prison doctors. My fear, and his, was that he did not want to be in jail in a physically vulnerable position. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to go to jail, but he didn’t want to be in a hospital bed in jail.
He wanted to heal first and then go, but they insisted that he submit himself to Bellevue hospital, Bellevue has a prison ward also. Ultimately that’s what happened but that was my biggest fear. My biggest problem around that was— he was wounded, he was injured, and even though he was able to stay out a little while like a week or so. A week and then from that he went Upstate, and then they took him to a maximum security prison when the time didn’t call for that. They gave him all that they could do to hurt him or to break him. They did everything they could to his physical body and they tried to break his spirit.
Are your excited about the release of the movie?
It’s the seventh year since Tupac has physically left and for seven years his family has listened to other people talk about him—try and explain him—have opinions about what he might’ve thought. And with this movie we felt all the time doing it, that it had to be in Tupac’s words. What’s surprising for us is how powerful his words are in America. I think that’s what hits everybody who sees the movie. He’s just sitting down talking to you, and explaining the things he knows you want to know about. So to the extent that that happened, we are basically elated, because we have always known that no one can speak for him or explain him better than him. We are really happy that Tupac has an opportunity to explain himself, and then we don’t have to do this anymore. We don’t have to say, “This is what Tupac thought or what he said in his life time.” The only answers are right there, and if there are more, we don’t have them.
What’s your relationship with Death Row like right now?
Whatever relationship we have is based upon the relationship that Tupac built business-wise that we are stuck with. Whatever we are here with, we’re here with. But Amaru is Amaru—built solely on the sweat, blood, and tears of Tupac Amaru Shakur and his family. And we stand on that. We answer to him and his vision, and to what we think, or believe, or heard, are his wishes. And that’s the only thing that guides us. We don’t function off what’s good for anyone else. It makes it easy for us. We only have to look to answer to Tupac—who we feel speaks in our ears, or yells at us when we’re not pushy enough. [Laughing] Everybody has had it when you’re kind of moseying along, feeling sorry for yourself mostly, and then that boy starts talking in your ear. And you’ll get back to work so he can shut up. Like, “OK, shut up! Alright already!”
What do you think about people always trying to create a new Tupac or rappers trying to take the Tupac throne?
It’s good for marketing is the best thing I could say because I think that Tupac is Tupac. And it’s not fair to any person, certainly not in the rap industry, to try to get them to be anything like Tupac. I have a lot of respect for 50 Cent, for his answer to stuff like that. He be like, “Man, I ain’t Tupac. What y’all doing? What y’all trying to do to me?” I feel him. I understand. That’s a lot of pressure to put on somebody who’s trying hard to make their own name. Tupac came into the industry with, I wanna say baggage but I don’t wanna say baggage. But he came into the industry wearing stuff already. You can’t invent that. You can’t make that happen. If he could’ve changed those things, he would have. They didn’t give him joy all the time. Not even most times, but that’s who he is. And that had more to do with the elevation of him, I think, then anything else. So I don’t want people to go through what Tupac went through to be successful at what they’re doing. I would love it if they could learn from him, though—actually look at what Tupac was trying to show them.
What did you think about the Los Angeles Times article that connected Biggie to Tupac’s Murder?
Let me tell you what’s puzzling about that for me. Chuck Phillips worked on that article a very long time. But the article he worked on was not the article that came out. The article that he was working on for two years was about Las Vegas’s police department refusal to listen to the Los Angeles police department’s information on that car and on who they believe committed those murders. That is what we believed he was doing an article on until two weeks before press passed when he called us and said cryptically that the article was going to name Tupac’s murderer and that’s all we knew until we read the article. I don’t know what happened ‘cause what he told me was that something happened in the process of his working that turned him on to that. I don’t know, and I don’t speak on it. I don’t speculate on it.
Do you have any ideas on who was involved?
Let me say this, it’s very important. You see I’m so basic. I think the person who killed Tupac, I think he’s dead. But beyond that, if I’m wrong and it’s somebody else, I still believe that that person has to carry that. What I know about the criminal justice system in America is that they cannot punish him like God is going to punish him. And I don’t mean when he’s dead. I mean in his everyday life and not just him. Imagine being the grandchild of the person that murdered Tupac. You have condemned your entire family forever. What can the criminal justice system do? Not to mention the fact that the criminal justice system is not very successful at doing criminal justice like that. Many people feel that police caught the person that killed the person and then they get 10 years and they home. I don’t wanna be bothered with none of that. I don’t wanna be off into it. I’ve never cared in that sense. Whoever that person was, I know that person got big problems.
Did you think he’d make it out of that second shooting after making it through the first?
Tupac was never conscious from the time I saw him. He was never conscious. I believed that he would make it through because the doctor said that even with one lung, Tupac was extremely healthy and strong, and it was entirely possible that he could recover if we could put him somewhere quiet for six months. We were prepared to do that, but Tupac’s organs started to shut down. Once they tried to take Tupac out of the coma, and Tupac started to fight, we believe that Tupac was not interested. Tupac died seven times and they revived him seven times, [and then] I asked the doctors to allow him to be. And that’s what we did. We let him be.
And what do you think of people believing he is still alive?
It used to bother me. In lots of ways, it still does bother me. Because on one hand it’s, you know, it’s irrational. And at some point you have to deal with rationality. However, I was speaking to some students at a college in the South. It was just packed. And I always ask, “Are there any questions?” and the question came up, and I said, “It is ridiculous, and why would I be…” And a young girl in the back held her hand up and I called on her and she said, “Ms. Shakur, I respect you and I appreciate what you just said, but if they have Elvis, why can’t we have Tupac?” And you know what, I had no answer for her. So in that sense, I get it. And I don’t have anything to say. But on the other hand, I just want people to know this: This is the thing to know: Know that yesterday, which was June 16th 2003, we put Tupac’s ashes in the ground. After seven years. As the person who did the service said, seven years is the number of completion. And we pray that people will allow him to be gone. He did everything he could do—and what he’s available for still. He’ll always whisper in your ear and encourage you. If you’re having a hard time, he’ll be there. He could still do that. But otherwise, I think we should let him be. He earned it. He earned it.