|Mike Benedetti -> Content -> Drama -> TUPAC|
|Bob Stanton did the Play||and Day Walsh the Images.|
First production: April 24, 1999, Highwire, Philadelphia. As part of "OPEN WIDE"
Other video formats
Second production: May 15, 1999, AFA Gallery, Scranton. As part of "Between Heaven and Hell."
“Dr. Dre is too powerful.”
Our thanks go out to those without whom this performance would not have been possible: A. Villani, $ MacKenzie, the staff at Burlington County’s public library, and Stanton-Walsh.
June 16, 1971–September 13, 1996
Compton Police Department. “Search warrant affidavit for Orlando Anderson.”
Gass, William H. “Representation and the War for Reality.” Habitations of the Word. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1985.
Hirschberg, Lynn . “Does a Sugar Bear Bite?: Suge Knight and his Posse.” New York Times Magazine. January 14, 1996, pp. 23-57.
MacKenzie, Moneybags. Personal interview. March 22, 1999.
Office of the Coroner Medical Examiner, Clark County, Nevada. “Report of Investigation.”
Ro, Ronin. Have Gun Will Travel: The Spectacular Rise and Violent Fall of Death Row Records. New York: Doubleday, 1998.
Robertson, Robbie. Up On Cripple Creek.
Run-D.M.C. “Sucker M.C.’s.” Run-D.M.C. CD. Profile Records, Inc., PCD-1202, 1984.
Scott, Cathy. “Shooting Timeline.” Las Vegas Sun.
White, Armond. Rebel for the Hell of It: The Life of Tupac Shakur. New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 1997.
Wurman, Richard Saul. Las Vegas. New York: ACCESS PRESS, 1996.
Young, Andre. “California Love - Long Radio Edit.” How Do U Want It. CD single. With Tupac Shakur and Roger Troutman. Death Row Records/Interscope Records, 422-854 653-2, 1996.
Interview with A.N.M. Villani recorded June 14, 1996 in Pasadena, California.
Tape: Interview with Villani on meeting Dr. Dre. Villani reports what Dre had to say about Tupac and his gangsta image.
The hand reaches out and turns down the volume. The man groans in a long drone. He groans a second time, using throat-singing techniques to create a drone and an overtone whistle. He groans a third time, very briefly, and stretches. He turns on the light.
Man: One upon a time, there was a man, who, like all men, had an interest in promiscuity. But, unlike most men, he could indulge at will, and did.
Once before this time, he was, like most men, unhappy. He was sleeping on Greg Jacobs's floor. And as you might guess of someone sleeping on someone's floor, he wasn't doing too well in any area of his life, especially with the ladies.
Now, this would be an interesting incident in a couple of otherwise boring lives were it not for the fact that the man on the floor was Tupac Amaru Shakur, and that Greg Jacobs was better known in the Bay Area, where he lived, as Shock-G, and known to teenagers around the world as Humpty Hump.
sitting up, snapping fingers in rhythm
Pronounced with the Umpty
And oh the ladies how they love to hump me
And all you rappers in the top ten
Please allow me to bump thee.
We can see that the man has been sleeping in a t-shirt and tight-fitting boxer shorts.
Now, one evening Pac was sitting around Greg's living room, eating some cereal, watching a game show on television, when Greg comes in, and he's like
--Hey, Pac, you gotta get your life together.
--That right, holmes?
--Yeah, that's right. You gotta get your life together. You gotta find a real place to sleep. Tell you what, tonight there's a big Bay Area Music Industry party, a big shindig, and you're going with me. There's a lot of important people there, and a lot of fine women. Maybe you can get something hooked up, and get the hell out of my living room.
--Whateva, holmes, whateva.
--Holmes? What's with this holmes? Holmes. Why're you always acting like this gangsta, like this tough guy? People take one look at you, and they know you're no tough guy. Holmes...lemme give you some advice. When you're out there tonight, trying to mack on some pretty thing, there's two tactics you can use. One is to just act like yourself. This has worked for some people. The other tactic is to act like me. This has worked for more people. Just keep that in mind...holmes.
The man starts to get dressed.
So they're at the party, and Shock-G is getting a lot of respect. You know, "Humpty Dance," Digital Underground, big-time MTV rapper, right? And Tupac is getting some of this respect reflected onto him. He's all riled, in the moment, a white Cadillac with California plates, and ready to get some sexual motion going on.
About ten minutes after they arrive, Pac comes up to Greg, and he's like
--Man, from the looks of the women here, I'm gonna be sleeping on your floor awhile longer.
--Check her out.
--Good eyes, good eyes.
So Pac walks over to this fine woman. She's talking to some guy, but Pac is all wound up and doesn't even care. So he goes up to the guy and says
The guy's like
--I don't believe we've met before. What label are you with?
--Actually, my colleague and I teach at Berkeley. Poetry.
--Really? I'm a poet myself! Y'know, I recently graduated from the Baltimore School for the Arts, and now I'm out here on the Coast, making my way through the cultural scene.
--That's very surprising, meeting another poet at an event like this.
--Well, I've been working as a lyricist with some local musicians. But as much as I love music, there are some things, human things, that can really only be expressed in words.
--I've often though that myself. What sorts of things do you find to write about for these groups? To tell you the truth, very few of the popular songs I hear seem to have a poetic imagination behind them.
Tis love, my dear, that occupies my rhymes.
As subjects go, the heart's said to be trite--
It's been criss-crossed with countless breathless lines,
Its red faded by verse to black and white,
And evr'y poet's take on his condition
(No matter how unique, or sharp, or true,)
Is weakened by the reader's repetition;
The dawn's bright flower brown 'fore morning's through.
Bards, your inkpots yawn when you approach!--
Drunken-eyed, inspired by some girl's glance.
The band grows tired, bedtime doth encroach--
Pick an eager stranger for this dance.
But my love is a love words have not seen--
They boggle at the ass inside those jeans.
she winces, turning away with her companion.
He's been dissed. As he's trying to regain his bearings, he feels a darkness loom over his body, and turns to see that a huge man has approached him.
says the man.
--I could not help but notice that you're not having much luck.
Tupac made no reply.
--If you want her, I can get her for you
--Yeah, (said Pac), and what do I have to do for you?
The man, now dressed, stoops over the stereo and turns it off, making a dull boom as the speakers power down. He folds up the sheets. He drags several boxes from offstage.
Those sucka MCs, sucka MCs
Always gamin' and dicin'
They're losing their shirts
Losing they shirts
They bite my rhymes like Tyson
I got a towhee
I got a towhee
I got a towhee all night
I keep a towhee
I keep a towhee
I keep a towhee all night
Those sucka MCs, sucka MCs
Always fail to the last
They try checkin' the mic
Always checkin' the mic
But we only take cash
Starting to rap more than sing--
It's your crackhead momma's fault
You're a shrimp like Peter Drucker
Cause like Walt
Communicating just like Ed the horse
With the international language of excessive force
Set down small accordion. Arrange boxes into two stacks which serve as easels. Place a stack of posters against each stack of boxes. Put on large, full-size accordion. Drone for a few seconds. Signal confederates in the audience to remove the posters slowly from the stacks, one at a time. Meanwhile, play "Amazing Grace." Refuse to resolve the final chord--instead move into dissonance. When the posters are all removed, set down large accordion.
(The text is punctuated to indicate phrasing, where applicable.)
On September 7, 1996, Mike Tyson knocked out Bruce Seldon in a boxing match at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. In the front row of the fifteen thousand seat arena sat 32-year old Marion Suge Knight Junior, C-E-O of Death Row Records, 25-year-old Death Row recording artist Tupac Amaru Shakur, and several other Death Row employees. Tupac was wearing a silk shirt, but because it had been a hot day and despite the advice of his chief bodyguard, Frank Alexander, and his chief girlfriend, Kidada Jones, daughter of Quincy Jones, creator of the famous "Sanford and Son" theme, and despite his own misgivings, he was not wearing his bulletproof vest. Since surviving an assassination attempt two years earlier in which he was shot five times, an assassination attempt he believed was masterminded by Death Row's rival Bad Boy Entertainment, nobody had the right to lecture Tupac on personal safety.
Because Death Row neglected to send a letter in advance to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department asking that their security be allowed to carry guns, the bodyguards were not armed. Chief bodyguard Frank Alexander's cellular phone was with another guard, who had not come to Las Vegas due to a dispute with a third guard. Accompanying the Death Row staffers were several members of the Los Angeles-area Bloods gang, who may or may not have been armed.
When the boxing match was over, the party stayed a moment to relish Tyson's one hundred nine second, fifty punch victory.
At 8:30 P-M, one of the Bloods, Travon Tray Lane, noticed six-foot Orlando Anderson in the crowd. Two months earlier, Tray and fellow Bloods Kevin K-W Woods and Maurice Lil-Mo Combs had been shopping at the Lakewood Center Mall Foot-Locker when they were ambushed and robbed by several members of the Los Angeles-area Crips gang, among them Anderson. Tray alerted Tupac to Anderson's presence and told him of the incident. Tupac, named after the eighteenth-century Incan rebel Tupac Amaru, literally shining-serpent, backed by the Bloods and Death Row employees, confronted Anderson.
As a fire in a barn of green hay ignores the moisture and draws strength from the warm decay, blasting the barn into a thousand flaming fragments, so the rappers and Bloods fell upon Anderson. The party beat him until security arrived. Anderson did not wish to involve the police, and the party left to form a convoy in the parking lot.
The convoy traveled South on Las Vegas Boulevard to the thirty-story pyramidal Luxor Hotel, where they were staying. At the Luxor, Tupac removed his silk shirt and changed into a black basketball jersey. He took in his soft black hand a diamond-encrusted gold medallion with the image of a death angel, admiring the design for a moment before putting it on. The death angel was the symbol of his newly-formed Eufanasia Records, the company for which he would record once his Death Row contract had been terminated.
The convoy reformed outside the Luxor. Tupac asked bodyguard Frank Alexander to chauffeur The Outlaws, a group of youths from New Jersey, in Kidada Jones's black Lexus 400. The Lexus was nearly out of gas, so they turned off the air conditioner and rolled down the windows. The convoy drove North on Las Vegas Boulevard, a-k-a The Strip, and returned momentarily to the MGM Grand, where the final photograph of Tupac Shakur was taken. Satisfied, they again drove South on Las Vegas Boulevard, turned East on Sunset Road, passed McCarran International Airport, and six miles later entered the gated community where Suge had a home. Security logs show that among those entering were Bloods Alton Buntry McDonald, Roger Neckbone Williams, Henry Hen-Dog Smith, Allen Lil-Wack-Two Jordan, and K-Dog. They arrived at Suge's sprawling one-story mansion, about half a mile from the homes of Mike Tyson and music superstar Wayne Newton. Suge disappeared.
As a bunch of rural kids stand around the railroad tracks Saturday night getting drunk and waiting for adulthood to bring them freedom or to extinguish the nagging embers of ambition, so the party stood around admiring Suge's newly-installed blood-red swimming pool with a Death Row emblem on the bottom. Death Row had grossed three hundred million dollars in the past four years, and while the very gangsta irony that this pool and house were purchased with royalties that Suge had swindled from his musicians would ordinarily not be lost on the assembled rappers, most of them were very stoned and didn't care. When Suge returned, the convoy assembled for the trip to Suge's Vegas night spot, Club 662.
The first car was driven by K-Dove.
The second car, a brand-new black 1996 BMW 750 I-L sedan, was driven by Suge, with Tupac in the passenger seat. Suge had not yet put on his license plates, nor had he installed a custom stereo system, but he and Tupac made do with the factory equipment, rolling down the windows and blasting Tupac's upcoming album Makaveli.
The third car was the Lexus driven by Alexander, by now running on fumes. Once again he'd been given custody of The Outlaws, none of whom could drive and all of whom planned to get drunk at 662. The Outlaws included Muta, Yak Fula, Kay Fula, Fatal, and Malcom Greenridge. The convoy was rounded out by approximately ten other Blood-driven cars, among them a white Suburban, a black BMW station wagon, and a light-gold Mercedes.
The convoy left the gated community at 10:30 PM. I was sitting in a nearly empty bar in Parkersburg, West Virginia, drinking with boyhood friends. In New York City, Bad Boy Entertainment CEO Sean Puffy Combs was driving his prized artist Christopher Notorious B-I-G Biggie Smalls Wallace to a nightclub. Smalls had been disappointed by the brevity of the Tyson fight, and Combs hoped to keep his friend's spirits up with strong drink and entertaining company. Probably you were in a bar, too.
The Death Row-Bloods convoy headed west on Sunset, then North again on Las Vegas Boulevard. Rather than taking Eastern Avenue they had decided to take the Strip. It was jammed and slow going, but it was fun to watch passersby gawk at the world's most popular rapper, his entourage of authentic criminals, and their excellent car stereos.
Near the Hacienda Hotel, the convoy was stopped by two bicycle cops. They warned Suge about playing loud music, and asked where his license plates were. Suge turned down the stereo and opened the trunk of the sedan.
There, resting on the fresh carpet like jewels on velvet, were the plates. Satisfied, the cops biked on.
The convoy continued north on Las Vegas Boulevard, quickly accumulating a parade of pedestrians who wondered where Tupac was going. Rather than turning right on Tropicana and entering 662 the back way, Suge decided that they would take Flamingo and pull up at the front door. Due to Suge's many legal problems, the Las Vegas Metro Police had closed 662, but on this night he had managed to open the club by holding a benefit for a retired boxer. Run-D.M.C. would be performing, and the crowd would surely swell beyond 662's six hundred eighty person capacity.
Suge barely beat a red light at Harmon Avenue, forcing the rest of the convoy to run it. They all stopped for a red light at Flamingo, then turned right. They were now about three miles from 662, and approaching Suge's alma mater, the University of Nevada at Las Vegas. Surprisingly, Frank Alexander and The Outlaws had not yet run out of gas.
At 11:15, about one mile from Club 662, at the intersection of Koval Lane, the convoy stopped at a red light. Suge and Tupac took the opportunity to chat, their arms hanging out the open windows of the sedan.
As a viper approaches a flighty lamb with steady nonchalance, so a white 1996 Cadillac with California plates pulled up on the right side of Suge's car. The men in the Cadillac began shooting into the BMW. Tupac instinctively tried to jump into the back seat; Suge instinctively tried to pull Tupac onto the floor. Thirteen shots hit the BMW. One shot pierced Tupac's hand, another his leg, two more his chest. Shrapnel struck Suge's shaven scalp. The Cadillac turned right on Koval.
Suge skidded into a U-turn and zoomed West down Flamingo, jumping every median in his way. K-Dove followed, trailed by Alexander and The Outlaws. Suge made it to the intersection of The Strip and Harmon, where the BMW ground to a halt, jammed in traffic with two flat tires. Suge exited the car and was immediately pushed spread-eagled and bleeding to the ground by the police. Alexander arrived and explained the situation to the cops, who released Suge. Suge and Alexander rushed to the BMW, where they fumbled with the latch. I was, coincidentally, trying to open the front door to my parents' house without waking them. In New York, Sean Combs was wondering why people felt the need to stay up so late on weekends. Across the street, fun-lovers were enjoying the Aladdin Hotel's seventy five thousand square foot casino, two Olympic size swimming pools, three lighted tennis courts, and three full-service bars.
After some struggle, the door to the BMW opened. Tupac was in the front seated, coated with blood.