Love is Not Enough: 2Pac’s Ex-Wife, Keisha Morris [Feature From Sept. 2011 Issue]
Keisha Morris has some reservations. While preparing for a XXL photo shoot at a New York City studio on a rainy June evening, the pint-sized, caramel-complected 38-year-old sits on a folding chair, straight-faced and uneasy. The first and only wife of Tupac Shakur hasn’t done any interviews since the 2003 release of the biography Tupac: Resurrection (Simon & Schuster), in which she felt she was unfairly portrayed. As an educator with a master’s degree and a mother of two, the New York City native also feels worlds removed from the intense life she shared with ’Pac back when she was 20 and he was 21.
The two met in N.Y. in the summer of 1994, while Keisha was attending John Jay College of Criminal Justice and working as a camp counselor. 2Pac had already released his first two albums, 2Pacalypse Now and Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z., and had appeared in the movies Juice and Poetic Justice. He was recording Me Against the World and also in the middle of major legal drama, as he was facing charges of sexual abuse and unlawful possession of a firearm. He was later found guilty of just sexual abuse and sentenced to four and a half years in prison, of which he did 10 months.
Morris was immediately thrown into the hectic life of one of rap’s most controversial new stars. She married ’Pac while he was behind bars at N.Y.’s Clinton Correctional Facility; their union was annulled 10 months later. The two remained in contact up until days before ’Pac’s September 1996 murder in Las Vegas. Now, three months before the 15th anniversary of the beloved MC’s passing, she has decided to end her silence and tell, one final time, what it was like to be Tupac’s one and only “Mrs. Shakur.” —Mariel Concepcion
XXL: How did you meet Tupac?
Keisha Morris: We met when I was 20, at the Capitol [nightclub]… We were dancing, and we spoke briefly. He was going through something legally at the time, and I told him to just be careful of the people he’s around and that I hope everything works out… I saw him a month later at the Tunnel [another nightclub], and…he remembered the whole conversation… He told me he had been looking for me for a month—going to every club. He tried to invite me back to his hotel room. I was like, “No, that’s not happening.” He gave me his number, and I gave him my house number. It was too expensive to have a cell phone back then, so he gave me his SkyPager. The next day, I had to go work…and he called me when I got home. I was in shock! We started talking from that day on.
Did you meet him before or after his sexual-abuse incident occurred?
It was after. I know he was going through depositions. That’s why he started to stay with me in New York. He had a hotel, but he stayed with me. I don’t know [what happened]. I wasn’t in the room. I was nowhere around. I know he stated that he didn’t have anything to do with it. I didn’t wanna see him go to jail for something he said he didn’t do. That kind of thing is tough on everybody. I didn’t know what to believe. I was 20 years old. I didn’t know what was going on. You know, of course my parents didn’t want me to be involved with anything like that. Being a good girl, you don’t know. It’s excitement. That taught me lessons. Would I do it again now? Absolutely not. But at the time, you’re young, you don’t know.
What made you stay?
Because I got to know him. He told me one time, “Everything I touch, I damage, I mess up. I don’t want you to be involved in any of this. I don’t wanna hurt you. I don’t want you to be damaged or anything like that.” And it was hard, because when you care and you love a person, at that point, what do you do? Do you walk away?
Before Tupac went to jail, he proposed to you, and then you two got married four months after he went in.
I just didn’t feel like, Okay, now [that] you might be going to jail, I don’t know if I even want to be a part of you or deal with this. We got married April 29, 1995. [For him] it was more like, “I don’t want you saying you’re my girlfriend. I want people to take you seriously and let them know that you’re my wife.”
How often did you visit him?
His thing was he wanted a visit every day, so he could get outta that cell. It was hard. It was such a dramatic process, like, Oh, my God. I dreaded to do it. But, you know, I did it. If I wasn’t able to be there, I would make sure that someone else was there.
Your marriage was annulled 10 months later—not long after he got out of jail. What happened?
I thought that things were changing, that he changed. Things were getting very different once he got bail, and I felt like I wasn’t needed anymore. It wasn’t a good feeling. Like, Okay, of course you don’t know from being so young. But I just felt like, Wow, okay, it was over. Like, Okay, I don’t need you anymore. I’m getting out. That’s it.
You know, looking back now, there was no conjugal visits or things like that. It was just so funny how people have said all different kinds of things—and it’s, like, that didn’t even happen, that’s not even true—and make up all kinds of stories unnecessarily.
FOR MORE KEISHA MORRIS, GO TO PAGE 2
So people basically would say ’Pac married you just for conjugal visits, but those weren’t even allowed? And you really were a mental and emotional support to him?
That wasn’t even an issue. The thing was, like, we would never do anything like that. He wouldn’t do it, and neither would I. And that’s what people would say.
What was the relationship between you guys after the marriage was annulled?
It was, like, you know, you move on, I move on, that’s it. But the funny thing is that he would still call me and leave messages and say, “Listen to this song,” or “How are you? It’s Tupac.” So he always kept me, like, “It’s gonna be all right.” I remember him specifically saying, “You don’t understand now, but you’ll understand later,” because he always had this notion that we were gonna get back together. So I remember him telling me he didn’t want to damage me. He didn’t want me to get hurt in any of whatever was going on with him, so he’d rather leave me alone. Was I hurt? Absolutely. Did I feel like I was used? Absolutely. But I understand now. Am I angry? Absolutely not. But when you’re young, you do so many things. You know how many times your parents tell you not to do something, and you do the opposite? It’s life lessons. It’s growing for you. I knew Tupac. No one can take that away. I really knew him, and he would never hurt me.
Did you ever feel like, Oh, he just wanted some security while he was in jail?
Of course. I’ve never dealt with a whole bunch of people in jail, but of course they want to keep communication. Remember, I was the one who basically stopped my life when he was in jail. I moved closer to him. I made sure I was on visits. I made sure he had packages. You can’t just send a package to prison. You have to go to the store and have the store ship it to the prison. It was like my day revolved around him and what his needs were. So when it was getting closer to him getting released, it was like, Yeah, okay, I don’t need you anymore. And that hurt.
I never wanted anything from him. I just wanted to be a friend to him, someone he could trust, someone that he didn’t have to worry about telling his business to the media or anything. I was truly, purely there for him. When he moved and he got out of jail, I was actually on vacation when that happened. And when I found out he was being released, he didn’t even tell me. I had to call the prison to find out what was going on. He didn’t tell me. I was actually out in L.A. at the time. And what happened when I heard that he was released and he couldn’t leave the state of New York, I flew back just in case he needed me to do whatever. And a member of his family came and said, “We’ll take his stuff. You had your 15 minutes of fame. Now we’ll take over from here.” I couldn’t even express to you the pain.
But somehow you guys still managed to become friends afterward?
Mm-hmm. It was like, “Hey, Keish, what’s up?” Like nothing was wrong. Like nothing. And it was like we didn’t skip a beat. He would just pick up the phone and act like nothing ever happened. Like, “Oh, Keish, wassup?” And I’m like, “Wait, what? Let’s rewind this. Let’s bring this back.”
When was the last time you saw each other before he died?
He came into New York. I heard he was here, but I didn’t try to reach him. When I came off of work, he left me a message and was like, “Keisha, I’m in New York. Call me. I’m at the Hotel Nikko. I want you to come down here.” And I was just like, Here we go. We saw each other prior to this, but this was the final time I saw him alive and well. I was like, Oh, no, not again. We were on the phone for half an hour. I was like, “But why? We’re divorced. We don’t have anything.” And he was like, “You will always be Mrs. Shakur.” I was like, “Okay.” So after a lot of coaxing, after the award show, it was the MTV Awards, I went to the Hotel Nikko. He opened up the door and was like, “Wassup? You look good.” And we spoke. It was weird. We spoke, but didn’t speak. It was more like he just wanted me to just lay down, and he went to sleep. No intimacy, nothing like that. It was just, like, he just wanted to lay down, and he went to sleep. I got up in the morning; he was still sleeping when I left.
And that was how long before he was killed?
A couple of days before. And then the next thing I heard was that he was shot out in Vegas. As a matter of fact, he went out to L.A., and then from L.A., I heard he was going to Vegas. We would talk, ’cause he would say, “Why didn’t you wake me up before you left?” And I was like, “No, you were sleeping so peacefully, and I wanted you to rest.” And that was it. But had I known more, I wish I would’ve went to wake him up.
How do you feel about the fact that it’s 15 years after his death and people still are celebrating him?
That’s why this is important. I was through doing any other media. Okay, I said what I said. It’s done. I’ve moved on in life. I have my own stuff in my life going on. It is relevant because it’s important to keep his memory alive and educate the people, the younger generation, who are interested, who are intrigued, who want to be a part of this industry, to look at the people who started, to see where it is that hip-hop has gone.
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