This past August marked the 20th anniversary of the 1995 Source Awards, an event many believe changed rap forever. Besides OutKast letting the world know that "the south got something to say," the award show turned a simmering feud between Death Row Records and Bad Boy Records into a full-fledged beef. Very few people know the turmoil that erupted between 2Pac and the Notorious B.I.G. better than Kevin Powell. A political activist, author, and journalist who first became known as a cast member on the original season of MTV's The Real World , Powell made perhaps his biggest impact as a senior writer for VIBE magazine in the mid-'90s. It was there that he had the opportunity to chronicle the life and career of Tupac Shakur. He penned three highly acclaimed cover stories about the enigmatic superstar. including one based around an interview conducted when Pac was locked up on Rikers Island.

Today, Kevin Powell released his new memoir The Education of Kevin Powell. The book chronicles the life of a child born in dire straits to a single mother who went on to become one of the most important voices in music journalism. Complex had Powell come by to speak about his life as a music journalist, what it was like covering Shakur, and what readers can expect to glean from his memoir. To illustrate his relationship with Pac, Powell shared three minutes of a never before hear audio interview with the rapper. He also allowed us to give you a sneak peak of the book via an exclusive excerpt.

The Education of Kevin Powell is available now.


Chapter 25: Tupac and Me

A few weeks after the video shoot I spoke to Tupac again. Apparently, much had changed in Tupac’s mind since our last conversation about a year before. He told me how angry he was, and with everyone. But he said that he could trust Suge Knight and the Death Row family to protect him from his enemies. I remember hanging up the phone after that interview, on December 2, 1995, and feeling sick. Tupac had displayed a side of himself, a darker, more menacing side, that made me think, Damn, maybe I never really knew him. I didn’t want to speak to Tupac Shakur anymore. I guess a part of me knew it was only a matter of time before he would get his wish and be gone from us forever. I never stopped following Tupac’s life, though, and whenever I heard someone mention his name, I listened as carefully as I had in 1992.

Tupac was me, and I was him, ghetto children from birth, living until it was our turn to die. So, in a way, the “new” Tupac made me feel as if I had lost a friend, and that I couldn’t do anything about it. He was gone.

Around that time I also spoke with Snoop Dogg in person—he was more paranoid than ever—a nervous Dr. Dre, and finally Suge Knight, who gave me the most bizarre interview of my career. In his overly air-conditioned office with red carpet and gigantic Deathrow logo in its center Knight kept his very big dog Damu (which meant “blood” in Swahili) with him the entire time and lectured me sternly about the questions that he did not like.

As I got into my rental car that night, I was shocked to see Faith Evans, The Notorious B.I.G.’s wife, in a car. Why was she there? Was Tupac having an affair with Biggie’s wife, as he claimed? I decided to leave Faith out of my piece to avoid adding more fuel to this fire. A few days later I spoke with Tupac by phone and he was short, tense, and mumbled things about M&M peanuts of different colors not going together, so why should East Coast and West Coast go together? I sighed to myself a few times as I listened to Tupac’s rant. This was a year after he had admitted his many flaws, vowed to be a better person, and even said that he should have stopped the men in his hotel room from sexually assaulting a woman there. The woman charged him with the attack, which he adamantly denied, saying that the sex was consensual. I hung up the phone from that latest conversation with Tupac Shakur not knowing what to believe or what to do.

The Education of Kevin Powell is available now.