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In his 25 years on earth, Tupac Amaru Shakur was a man of many words and emotions. Often they were captured on tape in the form of music and film. But Pac was in rare form when being interviewed. On Kendrick Lamar’s new LP, To Pimp a Butterfly, K. Dot captures another glimpse inside the mind of the late rap star on the closeout track “Mortal Man.” The song features a Shakur interview from 1994, surreally edited by Lamar to appear as a conversation between the two MCs about the still relevant topics of fighting and overcoming oppression.
If you take a look at YouTube’s cache of Tupac sit-downs, or were old enough to remember when they aired originally, it’s evident Shakur generally showed a more ethereal side when dealing with the press; one that was often different from the Thug Life persona that overpowered his values to many outside observers. Pac shined like no other on the mic with his presence, realness, and a gravitational aura. But the music legend was just as awe-inspiring when he spoke, showing off a sharp, calculated intellect and unfaltering will. Even when he was wrong, he spoke with conviction.
“When people say ’Pac is the best rapper of all time, they don’t just mean he’s the best rapper,” said Digital Underground frontman Shock G in an interview following Shakur’s death. “They just mean what he had to say was the most potent, most relevant and that he was the better human being.”
It was indeed deeper than rap for Afeni’s son. He was not just one of the greatest rappers of all time but a worldly icon whose status in hip-hop culture can never be replaced.
Check out five other must-hear interviews from the late rap luminary, below.
C. Vernon Coleman II is a writer living in Atlanta. Follow him @Vernon_Coleman.