The Two Sides of Tupac

Listen to this episode

S1: Hello I’m chatting. And welcome to the firstly plus upset for a slow burn season 3 this season we’re exploiting the death of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls two major figures in the world of hip hop in the 1990s.

S2: So let’s talk more about what to expect this season. I’ve got host Jill Anderson and producer Christopher Johnson here with me today. Hello Chow what’s happening. How are you. Good. Good.

S3: So you guys you could always just call him to pack like all of you to get an official pronunciation guide for this only the way that he says his own name right.

S4: But I’ll go with the pack. Yeah I mean like watching all of that fake archival footage from the 90s white announcers almost certainly insist on call. I feel like they know his real name and just unlike first used to. Yeah yeah.

S3: OK. So I want to introduce you guys a little bit. Can you talk a little bit more about your backgrounds and what you guys have worked on.

S5: Yeah. Well I am originally from Houston Texas went to college at Texas Christian University go frogs and have worked all around. My background is mostly in print or online. So I started the Associated Press Shreveport Times Tampa Bay Times Atlanta Journal Constitution the Tampa Bay Times again and I moved to New York in 2013 to work for BuzzFeed. And that’s kind of where you know a lot of things really took off for me. I was sort of a national news correspondent so I covered like Ferguson and Baltimore uprising. Lot of that stuff there and that just was like a lot of work that got a lot of attention.

S6: I was like you know like my career was built on my tragedy and in some ways and so I probably really thoughtful about the work I do and like not you know just know that like this could have been anybody anybody else could’ve got a sign of those stories I just happened to have gotten it. So anyway after that I got burnt out and said I want to cover college football for two years. Mm hmm. And then Slate came to me with this opportunity.

S7: Can I say something like cause this dude is being ridiculously humble which is Inky. It was consistent. But you know I remember when I first was looking into taking this position and working with you and of course did my background research and I found the story that you did we talked about it on the phone your story about Jabbar during Katrina. Right. So tragedy. But the way that you told that story told me everything I needed to know about like my trust for you handling this kind of a story. Right. So handling the story that we’re working on now that it wasn’t going to be a sensational project and certainly the editors have control over that but the host also at my experience anyway does have a lot of this a lot of say say as he or she should in driving that direction in the voice and the tone and the way that you treated the experience of that black man in the middle of this legal and whether or not even really whether but like this chaos you know told me a lot of the stuff I needed to know.

S8: So Chris is being much too kind and I’m a wait for him to say what his background is before I do this.

S9: That’s right. All right well let’s hear it Gaspar.

S7: Yes. So I was born and raised in and out of Washington D.C. between D.C. and McHenry County. I grew up on Gogo and D.C. punk and 80s RB and soul music.

S4: My mother’s fried chicken. I mean that’s what that’s what that’s what raised me. And I went to rockers university and then I went on to grad school. I’m kind of in my previous life and academic and Peachtree dropout. That kind of stuff dropped out and went to work for NPR. My first media gig was at NPR in D.C. I was a producer kind of you’re like grunt producer at Morning Edition. I did that and then went out to NPR West in L.A. started a couple shows out there day to day and then News and Notes which was NPR’s black show the black show.

S9: Pedro Yeah program.

S10: I did that for a while and then I decided to go freelance and move to Southeast Asia for a little while and live there and bounced around and then came back to the states and conceived and wrote this podcast called 100 to 1 the crack legacy which was looking at some of the more contemporary roots of police violence in black communities and things like violence in black communities. There are lots of explanations for it but we were looking at the War on Drugs it’s it’s kind of like catalyst for a lot of this. The 80s war on drugs did that and then after WNYC was there for a little bit and did a co-host of a podcast called The Real ness about the late rapper prodigy half of the legendary rap group Bob deep and his lifelong struggle with sickle cell anemia. I did that with now Slate’s Mary Harris right bringing the team back and exactly getting the band back together and now I’m here first of all I’d heard the rumors.

S8: And so when we go talk to people about what this podcast is and who we are I hate to say a lot of people have not heard a slate. We don’t have any credibility necessarily with certain people in certain communities right. I mean it’s just because they haven’t heard us they don’t know who we are. Yeah and I’m not like a hip hop head like I’m not a dude who’s done music journalism before like you know. I mean like so talking with Christopher I was like yo like that is the person I need to like right if we’re gonna do this we need to have somebody has like bona fides in this game. And like the realness is that like it was like that of a game changing like of a project and I was like yo like All right you may not think I know what the hell I’m talking about but look he doesn’t even know.

S6: I was like Yo Christopher knows exactly what he’s doing. And and it’s just like I just trusted him implicitly and his judgment. And so. Slate Plus Episode 1 love fest.

S3: Yeah right. So how are you trying to sell this show. How do you explain the show to them then.

S4: It depends but also to start with some of the questions that people raise especially people who have told this story a lot and people who both have told the story a lot and they told it because they were close to one or both of the subjects of the podcast host a pocket and or Biggie.

S11: And so for them there are two challenges one is that they’ve told the story a lot and they have a deep kind of professional understanding of these guys like they understand their impact on the world but they also had personal relationships with them right. And maybe a third thing which is that if you’re black in America you’re also thinking about what it means to have two black men killed at very young ages and whether they’re celebrities or not that’s just the thing that we live with them many American lives with that but black people process that in a very kind of immediate way. And so all that kind of triple thing for a lot of people they’re just like I don’t want to go there anymore. Like I’ve been going there for 20 some odd years. And so. So the way that we try to sell it is honestly again it depends on the source. But part of it is saying we are not interested in reinvestigating their deaths we’re certainly interested in that story.

S4: But our goal is not just to sit around and kind of go through an autopsy and talk about you know the kind of forensics around how they died and are they still are they actually dead. And that kind of stuff. It’s promising people that we are going to go into their lives and talk about the role that they played in American culture and the role that they played as fathers as husbands as artists. You know what I mean as dudes in the community and as complicated problematic sometimes men and black men because it’s true we’re not just doing that to sell it. That’s what we are interested in those kinds of things and because especially with the life of Tupac that’s complicated enough like he did so much and touched so much it costs so much stuff in his very short life. There’s

S11: a lot of drama there just in his living setting aside how he died and for a lot of people that seems to open them up. And it also gives them a sense of trust in us that at least you’re thinking the right way. Right. Well you’re thinking about it in a different way. Yeah.

S8: They’re not corpses to us right. No I mean we’re trying to make them three dimensional where it’s like they’ve been sort of reduced like these two dimensional Tupac Biggie that they represent like this one singular moment in American history and that’s it. And like we’re trying to get a little bit beyond that and talk to the people whose lives they touched. Talk about how they touch their lives and all of our lives and all of the music we even listen to today like the impact they’ve had on that because there is that that we have to explore. It’s like yo like there are books documentaries TV mini series that are dedicated exclusively just to their deaths. And like that just seems boring to me. You know I mean like this background has been heavily tried. And again we’re not running from that that is gonna be a piece of the podcast. But that’s not it. And you know hopefully by the time we get to it you will have been so interested in everything else that you’ll be like Okay we’ll see how this ties and everything else. But like that is not like that was not why we wanted to do this and that is not the only story we hope to tell here.

S4: Yeah. I consider myself a hip hop head. I don’t know everything but I’ve earned my stripes and loving rap music and whatnot and there’s plenty of stuff around these guys stories in the larger world outside of the studio and off of the albums and outside of the clubs that in their lives that that they touched it impacted in some really complicated ways that makes the series super exciting.

S3: I mean that goes back to one of my questions is just what did you know before starting this project about Tupac and Biggie.

S6: I mean I think of this new the basics like I was a teenager right when Tupac and Biggie were out and when they died. So I basically knew that they were great rappers who did not like each other for whatever reason and that was about the surface of it.

S8: My then as I got slightly older and maybe read a little bit more about it. I was like OK they may have had some sort of relationship at some point that went south. Right. But I did not know much more than that and I knew their music is like I had of general knowledge of it but I had not done a lot of reading on it before. Right.

S11: So one of the things that comes up in our interviews pretty consistently with people who even were more sympathetic to Tupac. People say pretty regularly that like two parks thing wasn’t necessarily that he was the best rapper.

S4: He was a great rap artist in the all the larger kind of like constellation of things that go into making a rap artist or rap artists like all the swagger and soft marketing and promotion that kind of stuff.

S11: But as like a straight emcee Biggie was incredible. And so what I’m backing into was my own bias.

S4: A lot of this stuff on East Coast bias but it’s not just the East Coast bias. I love plenty of Cali rap but I remember I used to live. I lived in Cali for about ten years and both in L.A. and in Oakland and both of those places obviously have real deep love for Tupac. And it was hard to have like a real rap conversations because inevitably would always come around to like you’re sort of top five favorite rappers.

S10: Dead or alive like any of that kind of stuff.

S9: And for a lot of people Tupac was on that list which was read dickless to me top five of all time everything.

S4: Right. Like

S9: since rap started in 1977 or whatever Tupac is your top five. OK. And we’re not talking about like your favorite.

S4: That’s fine. But objectively greatest rappers is a different thing. So anyway my point is that like I came into this with my own biases around music. I mean I’m no dummy I get to pox impact and have a lot of respect for that impact on the culture and the swagger. The thing for me that I still find the most compelling about Tupac and I know George ty to hear me talk about it is his black panther roots right. This is again like the Bay Area influence like living in the Bay and also like I have this black studies background and so that Panther activist thing is super interesting to me and the way that his Panther life and not just his mom his godparents are Assata Shakur and Geronimo Pratt like two of the most well-known Black Panthers or black activists.

S11: You know black radicals and so that panther blood and that activist blood kind of sort of knew about in the air but learning more and more about how that shaped him. That’s one thing and then also early on his itinerant life moving around. So so much and yeah his family basically being broke how that all must have shaped him. You can see the arc in a lot of ways not to like psychoanalyze him but you can sort of see the arc and see some of the choices and see decisions that he made make more sense to me now knowing a little bit more about where he came from. Biggie story I knew a little bit more.

S10: Again it’s like a lot of the kind of larger cultural and political moments that were unfolding around these guys and in some ways because of these guys like this stuff around censorship and see Delores Tucker stuff which is coming up in the series. This stuff is super interesting to me and it’s stuff that I kind of knew in the background but I’m now learning so much more about and it’s fascinating to me so be bringing back to the series.

S2: I mean you’re talking to how you’re not trying to make it seem like it’s just only about their deaths. I mean you’re trying to think about these bigger themes and questions right. Can you talk a little bit more about that about what you’re gonna be exploring throughout the series.

S6: I mean I think we’re trying to balance like the personal relationship between the two. Right. And like their friendship the end of their friendship and then put it in the context of the moment right. So you have you know all these conversations around police brutality all these conversations around poverty. And like you know black communities are just like decimated by crime and drugs and gang violence and then like changes in the music industry like not just hip hop but in the music industry at large and like the role that they actually played in that which was much bigger than I would have even suspected before we even got started like there is an episode. I hope you listen to it. You should because it’s a second one.

S9: So you got there. You know we really messed up.

S6: But the second one about like people that tried to say the two parks music influenced them to kill police officers and like reading about that and like you know the impact they’ve had in law and with law enforcement like how they responded to this sort of stuff. It’s just like sort of fascinating. And so like those are some of the things that we’re like trying to poke out a little bit. We’re going to be some episodes that are going to be heavily influenced I like the personal relationship and these things that are going on between them and in the background between them and Puffy and sugar. And then you’ve got to like broaden the canvas right and talk about hey by the way Time Warner is gonna sell off its stake in Interscope Records for hundreds of millions of dollars or whatever and like why did that happen. What role that they play in that. And so like that’s sort of the stuff that we’re hoping to sort of dig into.

S11: People have asked us even very recently. How is this going to be different even after they’ve done the interview with us. Like how is this going to be different. But what I will say is that looking at the lineup that we have for the second episode that Joe was just talking about in that we have. I won’t give it away but we’ve got voices in some of these episodes that I have never heard in the telling of these two men’s lives and their deaths. And it’s precisely because of the way that we are showing this kind of flow chart of all of the different stuff that these men and their music all of that they touched here and so that means that you end up hearing all these different kinds of voices.

S2: So let’s just talk about this first episode of the season which is mostly about Tupac in this shooting a quite studios in New York in 1994. So why did you decide to start there.

S6: I think because that is the start of the conflict. I mean up until that point you can argue the degree to which they were friends but Tupac and Biggie they would consider themselves friends. Up until that night at the quiet studio shooting. Right. So it’s just kind of the right way to get everything started. I think you know this is like OK we start there and we sort of back feel like how they got to be friends and what they sort of saw in each other. And then it’s also against the backdrop of me and Tupac was like having a really rough nineteen ninety four. All right. The shooting was may have not even been the worst thing that happened to him that year but he was sort of in this spiral some to a lot of it of his own making. And so like everything that led up to that moment it quiet studios it seemed like it begged like a little bit more exploration and it’s just more because after that like the story speeds up man you know but there’s so much other stuff that happens in the background and how old was Tupac at this time. He was 23 years old. He was a baby.

S3: Yeah he was a child but there’s already so much going on in his life.

S8: It’s I mean man. I mean a Christmas talked about this but I mean it’s just sort of fascinating like he was a 23 year old that I’ve never ever heard of before in my life like just everything that he’d experienced and even like going through these old clips like Christopher’s share this video with me last night. He’s so smart and so charming and so like thoughtful it’s just sort of jarring to like see him like that. And it’s so different from what we saw on TV at the time because remember in the 90s you would get these TV clips of him you know spitting at the camera you know as he leaves the courtroom or like throwing up the west side and all this stuff and like there’s not there wasn’t the opportunity to see all this video and all this other you know hear all this other audio when I was growing up. So like I’m like Oh wow. Like Tupac was it was a motherfucking soldier man.

S6: You know I mean like the things that he was saying I was it’s just sort of jarring because for sure bringing this back to the quad you’re watching all of this tape here and all of this and you get a sense for like why things happened the way that they did that night like why he got shot you know why he thought the people that shot him were big and Puffy and like how that sort of happened. And so anyway.

S2: Yeah.

S3: I mean you’re talking about how you’re going to watch these videos of him now but did people sort of know these two sides of him at that point or did people only know of him as like kind of like a gangster.

S11: I guess you mean like back in time.

S7: Yeah I mean Biggie seemed to have a kind of understanding almost sort of a instinctive understanding right. Well where was it the biggie was just saying that’s just Bishop.

S8: That’s after their confrontation at the Soul Train Music Awards. I think in early 96. Right. And it’s like the first time they’ve seen each other since Tupac gets out of prison. But also the last time they confront each other in like real life. Right. And like Tupac like this like you know West Side of August that I mean like in biggies like you know that’s Bishop right. That’s Bishop Bishop is the character the Tupac played in the movie juice who is like this teen who just like wilds out like outside. He just turns on his friends and kills a couple of them and ultimately is killed himself. But yeah. Biggie like even sees this like duality of Tupac. Right. Right right.

S11: And so that’s the thing like it’s it does seem like at least Biggie and probably other people like on the low amongst themselves knew Tupac story they knew that Tupac was a successful trained actor you know trained in that he went to one of the best performing art schools.

S12: You know he you know he couldn’t finish because he had to move around so much. But anyway I think that people knew that Tupac was an actor and they knew that he was an excellent actor even in movies that were pretty mediocre.

S10: He stood out really stood out as a very talented performer and that seemed to carry over and that video that you’re talking about this is video from him in prison. It’s an hour long video and you can find it on YouTube and you see a very different Tupac than what you see in videos and when he’s sort of promoting his music he’s got you know like a little sort of low afro.

S12: He’s in prison fatigues you know and he’s being interviewed in something like a library a prison library or something and and he’s very cool. He’s very peaceful. He’s reserved. He’s got that. I can imagine and Charles is such a wonderful line that when Joel describing Tupac confronting reporters outside of a courtroom the way that he’s kind of defending himself is reminiscent of probably the way that his mother would have when she defended herself in court as part of this crew of Black Panthers. Yeah he’s very technical and very clear and very sort of self-aware and self possessed and it’s so different.

S11: The difference is so clear that part of the challenge in making this and part of what’s honestly been fascinating for me is accounting for that space between the two Tupac. Right.

S2: Well I mean that goes into to like this episode too where there is a sense of that he is very paranoid. Tupac is right. So you talked about how after the shooting or because of the shooting he’s immediately suspicious of Biggie. He leaves the hospital after getting shot because he doesn’t want people knowing where he’s at. He says that courts only think of him as a thug. So like why do you think Tupac in particular would have been paranoid in this way.

S6: Well I mean I think as Christopher smartly goes back to his black panther roots that there’s like always sort of this idea that there’s this cloud or this apparatus that’s always trying to bring you down if you’re especially if you’re somebody. This is dynamic and smart. I mean first I think Tupac. One thing I don’t even know if we got a good chance to get into it. If Rap had not worked out he was prepared to take over like a chapter of the New Black Panthers in Atlanta. You don’t say it like if his record deal had fallen through like he had already accepted this position to like become like an official within the New Black Panther Party. Right. Which is. Well yeah. Yeah right. And so when you’re from that tradition it’s totally reasonable to be paranoid and think that people are out to get you or to stifle you. Right. And so you’ve got that you’ve also got that. I mean hell if I’d gotten shot in the people would never apprehended. I probably would be a little suspicious of everybody that was around to and that’s one of the things that like I know we’ve interviewed a lot of people that like sort of suspicious like a Tupac shoot himself did he set this up like is this all just some drama. But like I mean if you think about it from his perspective I mean you could have died for one. You know there’s no way there’s no safe way to shoot yourself. And also there were people that legitimately wanted they’d had beef with him and he’d been sort of you know disrespectful. I mean he’d started beef with a whole bunch of people like I mean you know and we’ll get into this in a second. He had all these court cases from people that he had attacked or like had conflict with. And so there were no shortage of people out there that would have wanted to bring some drama to Park’s life. And so it makes sense that like he would be paranoid and be wondering hey somebody’s out to get me because he was already sort of born into that tradition. And then you’ve got everything that happened to him you know and like this short span of time where he says Well shit you know maybe somebody is trying to get me.

S2: Yeah that makes sense. OK. So let’s focus on this plus episode here. We’ve got an interview with Shawn Holley who was a public defender who worked with Tupac in L.A. right. So can you talk a little bit more about her.

S8: So Shawn Holley is somebody we found from our cover story. She she was one of two parks media attorneys. In fact she told us just like fascinating nugget that like apparently Tupac had a national coordinator for defense attorneys because he had so many cases going on in so many places that there was one coordinating attorney that was you know sort of the center. Who she thinks was Charles Ogletree in and anyway so she gets assigned one of his cases which is an assault case involving one of the Hughes brothers who you know directed menace to society. And I think they did the president was anyway. Tupac was accused of assaulting them. She was on the case. And so he had to meet with her you know a bunch of times. Right. And Tupac took a liking to her. Shawn Holley is like attorney to the stars like you can’t really name a celebrity in Hollywood she hasn’t defended like Lindsay Lohan Snoop Dogg. I mean didn’t even have to list Tupac. Paris Hilton Nicole Richie Cardassian generous Katt Williams people who share more and more as I don’t know Michael Jackson anyway. She has like a huge list of people she’s defended but like she always goes back and during this interview and talks about how great she basically says that there’s not been any celebrity any person she’s ever defended. That was like more dynamic than Tupac and I think in suspect that’s because Tupac really turned it up for her really turned up the charm for her. And it’s not just because he wanted her to defend him in court really. So yeah. Is that a good tease.

S3: She also she has worked with Johnnie Cochran right.

S8: Yes she was a member of Johnnie Cochran’s firm for many years and now she works at another firm now. And she was on like that which she was in the OJ trial. Yes he was she handled some of those they trial. That’s right. So we get some good stories from her. Yeah. Tupac. Yeah.

S9: And a seafood tower and her forgetting if she was married and while this talk was around this just how charming he was far too far may people forget that.

S13: Oh yes. I don’t because I’m saying I just don’t. Well let’s listen to the interview then.

S14: My name is Shawn Holley. I am a partner at Kinsella Weitzman ice camp and elder cert which is an entertainment litigation and business litigation firm in Santa Monica.

S15: I worked at Johnnie Cochran’s office for a long time. I was part of the OJ Simpson defense team and I started out my career as a Los Angeles County public defender and I consider myself a public defender at heart.

S16: So yeah. So what made you want to be a public defender.

S15: I had a professor who suggested that I do a clerkship in the public defender’s office. She had been a public defender and she thought that it would be something that I would love and so I did it still not thinking I would be a public defender. But from day one I was mesmerized captivated madly in love with the work of a public defender. It was clear that you could make a real difference in people’s lives with you know huge issues like oh I don’t know liberty in the United States Constitution I mean it was like This is important stuff. And I I just fell in love with it and I was a public defender for five years. And then Johnnie Cochran saw me in court one day and recruited me to go to his firm. And at that time his firm was all civil rights police misconduct to work. So I started learning how to do that.

S16: When the OJ Simpson case came to the firm can you just kind of explain to me that your first meeting with Johnnie Cochran and how he was able to lure you out of the public defender’s office.

S15: Well in L.A. Johnnie Cochran was always like the guy I mean especially for young black students young black law students. You would always see Johnnie Cochran drag driving around town. He had a very distinctive Rolls Royce. He had personalized plates. He was larger than life. I had seen him speak you know many of my classes over the years. So we all knew who Johnnie Cochran was and loved Johnnie Cochran forever long before the country and the world came to know who he was. So you know seeing him in court was not an uncommon event. But having him come up to me after I had been doing something in court and asking me if I might be interested in coming to work at his firm was definitely a big deal.

S17: What was working for Johnnie Cochran like that most of it was like a whirlwind because especially in the 90s like. I mean they based a character on Seinfeld about you know I mean so like that must have been crazy right.

S15: Yeah it was the greatest thing in the world. I mean Johnny was an amazing just human being wherever he was. Was the life of that place. I mean he just he didn’t drink he didn’t need to drink. He was just charming and charismatic and fun and brilliant. I actually told a story at his funeral that goes like this. He was living in New York. I usually teach a class in New York at the same time every year and we had had dinner. Me and Johnny and his his wife Dale and at the end of the night they put me in the back of a taxi and Johnny was kind of talking to me as I was in the back seat and he was standing on the curb and Dale was standing on the curb and this was right after the OJ verdict. So you know which is very polarizing white people for the most part felt one way black people for the most part felt another way. And the cab driver was an older Eastern European guy. And as we pulled away from the curb the cab driver said Who was that guy. That guy looks so familiar. Who was he. And I said Well that was Johnnie Cochran and he said that was Johnnie Cochran and I said Yeah.

S18: He said I hate Johnnie Cochran but I loved that guy which just sums it up. I mean you could not possible whatever you thought whatever your preconceived notions were about Johnnie you could not possibly be in his presence and not love that guy.

S16: Is it fair to say that it changed your life and change the trajectory of your career.

S15: You know that particular drawing Yeah it absolutely did. After the OJ trial we started to get calls from you know every one from Tupac to Snoop Dogg to everyone wanting us to represent them sometimes in criminal cases. And at the time prior to OJ we didn’t have a criminal division of the firm though Johnnie had been a criminal lawyer many years before. So I said to Johnnie can I run the criminal division of the firm which didn’t you know hadn’t existed. And he said yes. So I started you know handling criminal cases for celebrities then and you know that continued later on at the firm where I am now.

S16: OK. What you brought him up so I’m just gonna go ahead and ask you about. So explain to me how the Tupac call comes in and how.

S17: Like how did that get started. That relationship that business relationship.

S19: What was interesting about that is that Tupac had a person who was his national legal coordinator and never heard of somebody who had a national legal coordinator which is to say there were so many cases is across the nation that there needed to be a point person who found lawyers in the various cities where cases had been filed to handle his cases and that person was you know I guess the person who farmed out the cases determined he would be the best lawyers for those cases. But the point being there were cases and a lot of different places. Now you know I don’t want you to get the impression that that meant that you know Tupac was some like one man national you know crime spree. That wasn’t the case at all in fact really what I found with Tupac and then later you know I represented Lindsay Lohan for many years. I saw a similar thing in representing both of them which is that there would be a perception out in the world that with respect to both of his people that they are somehow bad actors but they have a lot of money. So I think that they both in many respects were targets for you know I was going to say predators and I could say that but I’ll be a little kinder. People who who thought that you know this is kind of a perfect opportunity to get something here because everybody is going to presume that this person be at Tupac or Lindsay did whatever it is I’m alleging and because these people have a lot of money they’ll be willing to write a check to make it all go away.

S16: You know when we started this project I never anticipated that Tupac would be analogous to Lindsay Lohan’s but that’s who was the national legal coordinator. But as you remember who.

S19: Who that was I think at one time it was show queen Lumumba and then it may have been Charles Ogletree at one point. Those are the two names that come to mind. I think shock way was the first and then maybe Ogletree took over at some point. I think if I’m remembering correctly.

S16: OK. OK. So the national legal coordinator calls it and what were you handling the case that involve the Hughes brother was it.

S19: Well so there were a number of things. And you know and I think that whoever it was contacted Johnny and Johnny brought me in immediately. So I was dealing with the national legal coordinator as I recall my friend and colleague. I think it was Michelle what are two at first. Represented Tupac in the Hughes brothers case and I think I took that over at some point. So I think that was one of the cases and then there were a lot of civil cases that kind of arose out of you know alleged criminal behavior. And of course it’s noteworthy that those particular civil cases did not have criminal components.

S15: I mean you would think that if he had done some criminal act that would have been a criminal case and a civil suit arising out of the same conduct. But the reality is many of these cases there was no criminal component it was just someone alleging that he had done something to them for which they should be compensated.

S20: Well OK.

S17: So at this point you know 2019 you have sort of the distance to be like well there is this perception of Tupac is like a one man crime band or you know whatever. But at the time when you get a call from a national legal coordinator and I’m assuming you’d heard of Tupac just view movies music whatever like we’re sort of your perceptions of him before you’d even had a chance to meet him and then you get this call.

S19: I don’t know that I had any perception of him in particular I don’t think that I thought he was bad home notwithstanding the fact that you know he was coming to me through someone who obviously was shepherding out a whole bunch of cases that he had.

S21: I don’t think that I that that caused me to you know make any presumptions about him but I’m pretty sure that I’ve met him shortly after that whatever I would have thought would have immediately gone out the window because there was like no more amazing brilliant charming fabulous person than he.

S22: So whatever you might have thought you know if it was bad you wouldn’t think that anymore.

S16: While we can you can you tell me what you remember that that first meeting of sort of the circumstances of it. Did he come to your office or did you go to meet him or how did that work.

S22: He came to the office. He was one of these people who you know almost is like glowing. They’re so special you know and was just incredibly charming and you know a little flirtatious which wasn’t about thing either.

S23: But I think that we just kind of went through the cases I think that there were probably a couple that were pending at that time that I was gonna be dealing with. And you know it’s so crazy when I think about that time because it’s so different now. My practice when I’m representing celebrities I mean there has to be like an entire plan as to how to get in and out of wherever you’re going I mean there’s just so this was you know before TMC or any of that.

S22: So I mean I could like meet him at the place where his deposition was gonna be taken which might be some office in Century City.

S23: You know right outside the office building like the grassy area you know I mean like it’s just crazy when I think about that because that could never in a million years happen. Now I remember one occasion because he would always be late. And so finally on this one occasion I’m like I’m not getting there on time because I’m sick of him being late and me waiting and me admonishing him every time this happens and then of course that was the time that he was on time because he was showing me that he could be on time and then I was late. So I guess that we were not really in sync.

S16: So like was he alone when you went out.

S18: Because really I know he would just he would just feel alone which is part of what’s so crazy about it.

S24: Like I said that just could not happen now at all ever.

S17: Well you know what it doesn’t even sound like him either right. Because I haven’t talked to people who sound like they were always dudes around. Right. Whenever he he moved but what they do around him. He just came. You just come over by himself.

S22: Yeah. I mean maybe a dude like you know dropped him off somewhere and picked him up somewhere but where he would be meeting me he would be like rolling up alone just walking up like crazy.

S25: Yeah. Sorry. Was he wearing the bulletproof vest then.

S26: Now I don’t think so. I mean if he was you know I mean this is way before yeah. He was unlike Interscope then so it wasn’t like the death row period. So. Oh OK. Yeah. So I don’t feel like there was a sense of danger about him if there was I wasn’t cognizant of it.

S16: What year is this. This is 93 94 maybe.

S26: Yeah I mean actually this may have been around and during the OJ time because what I remember is that at some point he was in prison in Dannemora because of a new york case. And so he was there we wrote great letters to each other while he was there. Those are amazing. And then I was contacted by Shug Knight and David Kenner from death row and I learned that they were posting an appellate bond for him to get out and there were a number of things that I had to do in the criminal courts building to facilitate that. And then after he got out I think of that as kind of like before death row and after death row I mean I represented him before and it was different than after. So I can’t you know so long ago I can’t put it all in like a perfect sequence but in my mind that’s how it was.

S16: Were you a crazy busy then but like 1994 it was also like a crazy time in two parks life. Do you remember having some sort of insight or I mean just in the span of a couple of weeks or a couple of months he’s accused of rape you know he gets shot. Were you in contact with him then. Did you talk with him around then or were you in communication at that point.

S22: I think we were in a little bit of communication. But you know I think all of that was on the East Coast. So you know our communication would primarily be when he was in L.A. and we were handling you know his L.A. matters. So that’s when we would talk when he was here and so when he was back East not so much.

S16: You said you got straight letters and I’m not going to ask you unless you want to tell me about the substance of those letters. But I mean I’m just sort of everybody talks about what a great writer he was and how smart he was and how lyrical he was and do you mind like would you remember those letters and like you know what you went over in that.

S22: Well yeah I mean it’s everything that you have heard is is true. I mean not only are they beautifully written just substantively like what he’s conveying but grammatically and lyrically beautiful and able to you know express the feelings just incredible.

S21: He would talk about whatever he was going through the difficulties that he was going through there in prison but also about I mean poetry of his life and creative mind.

S20: You know one of the things we’ve talked about with people is like how difficult jail in prison was for him right.

S17: It obviously had an effect on him. Did you get a sense from those letters and from from dealing with him that that that time behind bars like really had an impact on him.

S22: Yes definitely had an impact on him. I mean you know as you know he was so multi faceted and multi-dimensional.

S21: I mean I I also came to know his mother. So there was the whole Black Panther piece where you know she had been I mean didn’t she like deliver him in jail.

S19: I think if I recall correctly she was pregnant with him in prison at least.

S16: Right. I think he should. She got out just before she delivered. But yes she was pregnant for most of the time with him.

S19: So I mean there’s that whole kind of revolutionary piece where now he’s in jail and his beloved mother had been in jail so there was that but also you know it’s obviously very very very difficult and traumatic just to be where he was because he is the most fabulous free bird of a person generally who’s you know living life to the fullest.

S18: I mean so we would be in court at the Criminal Courts Building.

S27: I also had dinner with him a couple of times because I would need to get something signed and he would make it so that the only way that I could get it scientist come meet him for dinner or something.

S18: For papers signed. So I definitely was like out in the world with him as well.

S21: But wherever it was I mean be it’s the last time I saw him was at the Peninsula where we had appetizers and drinks at the peninsula or in the hallway at the Criminal Courts Building where there might be a bunch of seemingly like uptight older white jurors or wherever it was.

S22: I mean he instantly captivated whoever was there around.

S18: I mean it’s just unbelievable.

S21: He was just really really really a likable person and somebody who you would be drawn to whomever it was who was drawn to him.

S28: So I mean I guess I went off on that tangent because I was thinking about that person who is so dynamic being in a place where there’s no freedom. I mean that it’s you know it wouldn’t be good for anybody but for someone like that I mean it’s just crazy. It’s crazy.

S16: You know Kevin Powell said when he left him at Rikers for instance he said I had this feeling that we wanted to take him with us. Like you know he just felt he looked seemed so vulnerable. And I’m just kind of wondering you got to know him. It seems like you know slightly beyond attorney client relationship. Did you sense some of that in him what this vulnerability is like this is. You’ve talked about how like magnetic is right and drawn to him but like Did you sense the vulnerability as well.

S23: Oh for sure he said that the dinner that we had where he made me come to Monty’s in Westwood to get the paper sign. He told me as such it was such a crazy night by the way.

S21: But he told me at that dinner that it was very difficult for him to find a woman to be in a relationship with because he had two very distinct sides. One was you know like the thug life side. And one was this incredibly sensitive fragile vulnerable side and women would be attracted to one side of the other. And so if they were attracted the sensitive side they had no understanding whatsoever of the other one night if they were attracted to the thug life one they had no understanding of the sensitive vulnerable fragile one. So he would just talk about how difficult that was to kind of have these two very distinct seemingly inconsistent sides of himself OK without me being like Chris. That was Tupac trying to hold it was.

S25: He.

S18: Yes. I mean whether he was legitimately or whether it was just part of his you know charming way. One thing I remember is he would say like you know we have to go out we should go out and I go Listen first of all there’s a million reasons why we’re not going out not the least of which is I am your lawyer and he’s like I can fire you right now and I go OK well here’s another when you you have a tattoo that says outlaw on your arm. And he said but it’s a work in progress. It’s going to say without law society is in chaos just like just like off the top I mean it was clear to me that it was not anything he thought of before but it just looked.

S16: Like you were a younger attorney at this point right. You don’t I mean like like this is like they must have just been like overwhelming it was.

S18: It was. And that particular dinner was overwhelming because I mean there were like four hours waiting. I mean trust. This was like a business. I really was going there to get these papers signed like I wasn’t thinking it was making it difficult in that the only time I’m available is at this time at Monty’s in Westwood. So you can bring the papers and I’ll sign them.

S28: So you know I mean I have unlike work clothes and I’m tired it’s the end of the day and I really just have these papers to get signed and you know I get off the elevator because it’s you know it’s on the top floor of a tall building in Westwood and there’s a guy like waiting when you write when the elevator door is open and he’s like Are you here for Tupac. And I go Yes and he’s like Come this way.

S18: And then Tupac is in this like circular banquette where he’s got this long gold box of like I don’t know two or three dozen long stem red roses there’s like a bottle of Cristal.

S28: This he’s like Elvis seed I’m like Oh my God I’m just here to get the paper signed but you know there’s just no way you’re not going to sit down because he’s amazing and interesting and it’s going to be like a great conversation and it was out of that conversation that without last societies and got chaos and I mean as I recall I mean another reason that we obviously could not date besides all the other ones is I’m pretty sure I was married at that time.

S18: OK. So my first husband I’m trying to think of why not marriage is ended but I’m kind of thinking I was married because as I recall when I left he had the waiter give me a bottle of Cristal to take home I had the giant long box of long stemmed red roses. He made sure that I got to take the steak and lobster dinner home. And you know I’m coming home all these hours later where I was really supposed to get the papers with champagne and roses and steak and lobster and sure my husband was just like a brother you are ridiculous.

S16: Like you had to have gone when this is over like call your friends and be like yo like this is crazy because like I mean you know to be fact like Tupac was like a beautiful looking dude too right.

S22: Yeah. Yeah no doubt I mean not only beautiful just standing there but with that you know charisma and personality just multiply that times a million.

S28: You know I mean yeah for sure.

S20: Well OK. You’ve worked with like all sorts of celebrities people that I like that charm is their job. Have you met anybody that was more so than him or had more of it than him.

S18: At the risk of insulting any of my clients who might be listening to this they all are charming and charismatic.

S29: However in answer to your question I mean you know what.

S27: To be honest I think that he was really on to something with that thug life part you know soft vulnerable poet. I mean that I think is a rare combination and a person I mean it doesn’t have to be like the thug life. But I mean just kind of like the tough bad ass vibe you know. I mean like you don’t really find that in too many people. I mean maybe that’s.

S18: I’m just trying to think of people that we perceive as being that way maybe like I don’t know like Brad Pitt maybe I don’t even now I don’t even think of anybody who has that mix.

S26: It’s pretty special.

S20: OK. Without bringing it down to make it a bummer of it you know at this time he went through a rape trial right. And like you knew this. So you’re talking to him during this. Did he talk about that did you feel because he was adamant that he was not guilty right. What was your take on that if you know let me ask you.

S24: You know the information that I had most of which I had from him but some of it was also in what I consider to have been corroborating documents seemed like to me that he was not guilty. You know I didn’t have access to the entire file. It’s not like I pored through all of the evidence but everything that I heard and everything that I saw caused me to feel that he was not guilty.

S21: Were you surprised then that he he got convicted and had to go to prison over No because I had been a public defender and I’m a criminal defense lawyer so that is often you know I mean that can happen. That’s the scary thing about going to trial. You know there’s just no guarantee as to what the outcome is going to be and particularly especially now you know representing a lot of people who are well-known that is loaded you know I mean you just can’t know what a jury is going to really think. I mean there are lots of ulterior motives for being on a jury of you know the case of someone whose fame I mean there’s just a lot a lot of variables and you can only really know about or control some of them. So it’s always particularly risky in my view as a celebrity to go to trial especially a trial like that.

S22: So no I wasn’t surprised. I was sad and I believed that he didn’t do what he had been convicted of. So yeah we definitely talked about that.

S27: And you know as I’m thinking about it now you’re like really kind of jogging my memory I feel like we had some conversations to while he was in prison on the phone and I think that that was expressed as well. And you know what. And I’m not naive. I mean I’ve had a lot of clients say they didn’t do something that they did. But I I believe him. So my last memory an image of him is after we let you know and at the Peninsula at this time it was you know maybe a Friday night.

S21: So it’s just a lot of you know mainly kind of older white people there all of whom again were captivated by this young black rapper because he was great with this giant Seafood Tower.

S23: And then we went out to the valet and his car came before mine and he had this midnight blue convertible Bentley and the top was down and the music that was playing from his car as it came up was Frank Sinatra Fly Me To The Moon. And that is my last image of him driving off with that which was a great memory for sure.

S25: Yeah. Wow. What do you remember what he said or how you said by now I just know that he was always either jokingly or not trying to like get me to go to the next place with him.

S18: Literally and figuratively. And I’m like I’m not going. So I think that that was Fergie’s share your dad. I’m like I’m positive.

S22: Then he went Yeah. And then you know when he was in the hospital after he’d been shot in Las Vegas I was talking to his people there and we. I was gonna go out.

S27: I mean they thought I should come out but there was no thought that he was going to die. In fact it was just a question of when I should go. Like they were like You should probably come tomorrow because he’s still really out of it.

S26: And it’s kind of making flight arrangements and so you know I have some regret about not going out earlier but I I’m sure he wouldn’t have known that I was there and I’m. And it’s nice to have the last image that I have instead of whatever that image would have been.

S16: Yeah sounds like like a lot of people that you were just surprised that.

S22: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I mean and I don’t you know I don’t know what your research is uncovering but certainly the feeling that was told to me and from the people who were there.

S24: Yeah it was that like everything was gonna be fine just you know you should maybe come out in a couple of days when he’s feeling a little better. I don’t think there definitely was no sense of this is the end and you better get here quick at all not at all.

S17: Do you remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard.

S26: Yeah I was at Johnny’s office I was at work and yeah the call.

S21: I mean like it mean literally that day we were making arrangements for me to go and just trying to figure out when I was going to go but there was no real sense of urgency at all. And then very shortly after that getting the call that he had passed which was just shocking. Horrible.

S18: Yeah yeah yeah.

S24: What a great loss for all of us because I really honestly feel like he was about to do some like great stuff that everybody would have been know impressed with.

S16: Well let me ask you that because you did mention that after death row was different and obviously like he still had all this charisma and you felt that way so you felt he was gonna do good stuff. So like when you you saw him like what sort of state of mind was he in when when you came you saw him that these last few times.

S22: Well when I saw him outside of court staff I mean you know he was just great and funny and funny and laughing and charming and all of that. I really do feel like things were different. Post death row I mean he was still the same person but obviously he was like around different people than he had with before and so that was kind of a mixed bag in some ways.

S27: I mean at the same time he was doing amazing stuff right. I mean like all of that. America’s Most Wanted and California. I mean all of that stuff. That was fantastic. But you know I was a little bit different but in my mind has talent and this special quality that he had just the sky’s the limit.

S21: I mean he would just have been you know I had to say discovered because he already was discovered.

S26: But I guess discovered by people who had not discovered him before. Yeah.

S16: If you don’t mind me asking a little bit more about the people that he was around a death row. Was that really the difference. The people that he was around and sort of the intensity of the the moment around him or what shadows.

S30: You know I mean it’s it’s hard all these years later to separate out what I might have been thinking at the time to what I see now.

S22: You know you see all the time that and I can’t I don’t know if he was there maybe you do but like that big thing was it the Beattie awards or Soul Train Awards with Shug up on the stage kind of calling out Diddy and that whole East Coast West Coast thing. I mean that was so silly and ridiculous and dangerous. And I just did not really see him as somebody in that kind of group.

S24: But I’m wrong you know cause there definitely was the thug life part of him that was that which is kind of the dichotomy that he would speak of but around me for the most part it was more of the vulnerable sensitive guy but because I’m working with him in the context of the thug life guy I mean I guess you know I got a little bit of both but the person that he showed me was more of a brilliant sensitive poet you know. So now I kind of I guess maybe in hindsight think about all that kind of East Coast West Coast shenanigans and you know I mean I’ve seen footage too where he’s being like a big mouth and obnoxious and all of that.

S23: So it’s not like you know I just think that he was just this sweet perfect little lamb who got corralled into it. Now I mean I’m not that naive I know that he was down with a lot of it too for sure.

S16: Was it sort of surreal to see him. I mean because I mean maybe there’s probably nothing more surreal than sitting next to OJ Simpson right in the middle of that. Yeah probably is like you know surpasses anything in any conspiracy anybody could have. But it was it sort of surreal to see this guy on TV who I think is that point. Like you said when he got out of prison like he was like you know probably one of the most famous black people in the country.

S17: So wasn’t surreal to see him on TV and to sort of act out in that way and to know that hey I know that guy like that’s not I don’t know this now.

S30: And you know why. Because I really do feel like because it was such a different time and there wasn’t this saturation of media as there is now where there is TMC and a million things like TMC and your news feed and social media and all of these things where you really are bombarded with images of celebrities.

S31: It wasn’t that I mean that’s kind of how I could meet him before the deposition in the courtyard in front of the century city law office and nobody even paid any attention to it. You know I mean it it’s hard to remember that there was a time that wasn’t like this time. So you know I mean it’s funny now when I think back on that and it really is astounding and I get why you ask the question because it’s like how could I not have just been like amazed just that I was with this person but can you imagine somebody like that now just like driving out of the valet of the peninsula like no one is even around but the valet and whoever else is just waiting for their car. Nobody even really knows who he is the top is down he’s driving out of the valley by himself you know I mean like that’s what it was that could never happen today ever in a million years man.

S16: Was at the night you said you all had like a huge Seafood Tower that evening down was it.

S18: Yes that was the night of the seafood. Do you bring flowers again. No. It was kind of as I recall like an impromptu thing. You know he would I don’t even know what touring whatever and he would say I’m in town for a little bit let’s get together and I’d just be like really need like yeah I’m going to be gone let’s just get together let’s just catch up and again you know you would want to be in his presence for sure.

S27: And so I just think I met him there because he was gonna be leaving soon and we just met for like a glass of champagne and a seafood. I didn’t know that was going to be a Seafood Tower when I got to the Seafood Tower was already there and he was already there with the champagne holding court among a whole bunch of like kind of corny older white people.

S18: Who all loved him and probably had no idea who he was.

S16: Wow. That’s what we’re talking about that different air. Did he ever go to serve his time on the Caltrans crew. Because I saw that you went to court with him he got you got thrown in for violating probation one time and you get counted. Did he ever have to do that.

S26: I don’t think he ever did it.

S28: I what I remember from those days is the judge only gives you so many chances to do the thing you’re supposed to do and then finally the judge is like that’s it. You’re going in. And so I remember that happening.

S18: It seems like it happened more than once because what would happen is he would have to take off eight billion chains like gigantic thick heavy gold diamonds necklaces bracelets rings all of which I would be holding in like two hands of all of this stuff because he’d have to take it all off to go out. So that would take like I don’t know 10 minutes of removing the stuff the drape ness. That’s fantastic. So that’s what I remember most. I don’t remember him ever doing the Caltrans I kind of think that was maybe with the probation violation was all that I care.

S16: Yeah. I think that’s right. That’s right. Yeah it was it was OK. Yeah. Yeah I know that you were his attorney and you may not know about this but one thing that people said is that financial problems were big for him right.

S17: Like that was something that’s sort of always dogged him because he had to take care of his mother and family members and so on and so forth.

S16: Did he ever talk about that at all with you because a lot of people also seem to think that that may have been what drove him to death row but is that your memory of him at all.

S26: No I had not remembered that. But now that you mention that I do remember yes having some financial issues and I think that also he thought that you know this move to death row was also going to be helpful as far as all of that was concerned for sure.

S22: I mean he definitely you know had reasons good reasons as far as he was concerned for making that transition there.

S14: I really appreciate you making up for me OK. Absolutely. Good talking to you. OK good talking to you.