11 March, 2010@9:34 am
Jon Shecter, aka Shecky Green, is a man of many accomplishments. Among them, co-finding The Source Magazine (and walking out on it when the Almighty R.S.O. took it over), the brokering of DJ AM to a lucrative deal with Pure group in 2006, launching Game Records / Video, and being one of the first people to discover the Notorious B.I.G. Last night he tweeted a story about how he was sold on Tupac Shakur…. Read on…
Tonight it’s only fair that we discuss the other Fallen Icon of rap, Tupac Shakur.
I want to say right up front that for the longest time I was NOT A FAN. I thought he was wack actually. I mean, the first time I saw him was in that Digital Underground video, being carried around on a blanket or something, wearing a kufi. “You know I clown around, when I run around with the Underground..” that was his first line ever, right? Then 2Pacalypse Now came out and it was a complete snoozefest. Brenda’s Got a baby? Hey, I’m happy for her.
So one day in 1991 I get invited to attend an event in Miami, it was called How Can I Be Down. I was offered flights and a room. At the time, even tho The Source was building a big following, we were making peanuts, so a free trip to Miami was a rare and welcome treat. So myself and photographer David “Shadi” Perez got down there and soon enough we realized this event was “rough around the edges”. First off, it was taking place in a private house. A nice house, mind you. The house seemed to be overseen by shady-looking Jamaican dudes. Everyone was cool to us, but it was clear that this was no New Music Seminar-type thing. I was surprised to see [Doctor] Dre and El Lover there.
They were filming a segment for Yo MTV Raps.. looking around the only real faces I recognized were those two, Puffy Combs and Tupac. There’s also a healthy amount of ladies around, freaks of all shades and sizes. I had my eye on two petite cuties in sexy yellow shorts. So with only a few stars there I start to pay attention to this Tupac cat. The guy was charismatic, that is no doubt. I noticed that he constantly had a drink, a cigarette and/or a joint in his hands. Constantly. I mean like THE ENTIRE TIME. I’m looking at this guy like: how does he stay in shape drinking and smoking like that? He was slim, with wiry muscles and a 6-pack. Needless to say, the biggest stars there ended up getting all the chicks, and none of them cared about getting with the white boy writer. I was struck with Tupac’s charisma and energy, but still viewed him as a wack rapper.
A few months later, I get a visit from two Hollywood producers. They wanted to pick my brain about a hip-hop movie they were working on. Again, this was something rare for a New York-based hip-hop critic, so I was kinda curious what they had in mind. They start asking me about which rappers would be the best for the lead in a movie. They mention Tupac as someone they had their eye on. I told them he wasn’t that popular, so maybe they should look elsewhere. Shows how much I knew. The movie they were working on was Juice.
Eventually the movie comes out and of course like everyone else I was blown away by his performance. He killed that shit, no doubt. So now ‘Pac is a rising star in hip-hop. And this is when he’s hangin’ with Biggie and all that. And he’s developing a look and a style. But I still didn’t like his rapping at all. Until one fateful night that I will never forget. It was Lord Jamar’s birthday party in Brooklyn, circa 1993. My man @DanteRoss may remember this. It was being held in an outdoor courtyard.Beautiful weather that night, I recall. I went ‘cuz I knew a certain female would be there, and she was.
For those who may not know, Lord Jamar was part of Brand Nubian, the talented crew that DOMINATED New York in the eary ’90s. I’m at this awesome outdoor party in Brooklyn and who do I see? Yes, Tupac Shakur. Full regalia–bandana tied on bald head, shirt open. Pac is holding court, basking in his newfound star status. Chicks all over him, the whole nine. I see this other kid watching him. I realize something funny and weird as shit about this kid watching Pac. The kid is dressed EXACTLY LIKE HIM.
The kid has a bandana like ‘Pac, tied just like his over a bald head, plus other accessories clearly influenced by ‘Pac. Now comes the weird and unbelievable part. The fake ‘Pac starts walking towards the real ‘Pac with FIRE in his eyes. So the fake Pac gets close to the real Pac and says something to him. I can’t hear it, but I do hear the real Pac reply in a loud voice. “Oh no he didn’t!” Everyone starts to look in that direction and gather around. The 2 Pacs (ha) square off against each other.
Then fake Pac starts rapping. He stumbles at first but he keeps going. He’s repping Brooklyn. And pretty soon it’s clear: he’s GARBAGE. Fake Pac is a walking contradiction. He makes no sense. He’s dressed like the guy but wants to battle him. And in Brooklyn, the land of legendary rhymers and rhyme skills, he’s displaying wackness. He sucks balls. Everyone in the party knows it. Even before he’s done his first “verse,” I start looking around furiously. Where is Lord Jamar? Where is Sadat X? Where is Buckshot Shorty? Remember, I’m an East Coast head and I still hadn’t heard a Pac record I liked. I’m wanting so bad for a skilled BK MC to show skills.
So while fake Pac is half-ass rapping, real Pac is just eye-ing him. He looks calm. He looks confident. He’s gathering material. By now there’s a crowd of 50 people gathered around watching. And now it’s real Pac’s turn, and now is where my paradign shift occurs. Real Pac starts rhyming and he’s tight as shit. He’s got snappy one-liners, he’s got punchlines. He’s ripping fake Pac a new asshole. He’s pointing out the obvious, but he’s being funny about it. “You’re even rockin your bandana like me!” The assembled roar with delight. Real Pac can rap and he’s taking the crowd’s energy with him as he continues to demolish this sad sucker. No longer does geography matter. Real rap is what we want, skills is what we want, and Pac is delivering.
Then the icing on the cake, for me at least. Mind you, I had barely spoken ten words to Pac back in Miami, and had not met him since. Mid-verse I see him dart his eyes in my direction. “I’ll crush you in front of my man from The Source!” I’m honored, but a bit embarrassed. Pac easily wins the battle against his 2nd rate copycat. The chick I went to see is impressed he knew who I was, and that was good for me.
We all laugh, clap and party into the Brooklyn night.
Follow this man on Twitter @sheckygreen.
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