Tupac Shakur, dressed in a suit, stared darkly at an enlarged photo erected on an easel as if at a memorial service. But the mood along a block of Hollywood on Wednesday pulsed more like a party.
Family members, close friends and fellow rappers and collaborators hugged, laughed and exchanged memories on a red carpet along a road closed to traffic.
Pressing against steel barricades, a crowd of hundreds beat out his songs and chanted his name: Tupac, Tupac, Tupac. Street vendors pulled boxes full of Shakurs T-shirts out of their vans.
Nearly 30 years after the 25-year-old died in 1996, the New York-born rapper, actor and activist, whose fame and influence only rose after his death, has won his belated deportation in Hollywood: a star on the Walk of Fame.
I’m feeling too high, and I’m not even getting high,” Shakur’s cousin, Jamala Lesane, told The Times after the ceremony, letting out an infectious chuckle. It’s just memories, the energy of it all here, it’s just a great feeling.
Nearby stood Shakur’s sister, Sekyiwa Set Shakur, who spoke and accepted the star on the artist’s behalf. She remembered seeing her brother when he was a teenager performing at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, where he had a role in a local production of Lorraine Hansberrys play A Raisin in the Sun.
Before anyone recognized his name, Sekyiwa Shakur said during his speech that he knew he was dreaming of having his star on the Walk of Fame.
While presenting Sekyiwa with the city council’s resolution declaring June 7 Tupac Shakur Day, council member and Watts native Hugo Soto-Martinez spoke enthusiastically about his love for Shakur, saying the rappers’ music inspired me. literally kept alive where I grew up, it was there in my darkest times.
Although Shakur moved frequently during his childhood, from Harlem to Baltimore, eventually landing in Marin County, California, it was in Los Angeles that he rooted himself as a recording artist. His music, which vibrates with urgent political messages and tragic scenes of life in the low-income black and brown neighborhoods of his youth and in Los Angeles, was rooted in West Coast hip-hop but exploded beyond it. from the city. He has sold over 75 million records worldwide, with albums going platinum and diamond. Artists of later generations, such as Eminem and Kendrick Lamar, cited Shakur as a direct inspiration.
The phenomenon that made Shakurs so successful was something director Allen Hughes attempted to convey with his recent Hulu documentary Dear Mama, which delves into the lives of Shakur and his mother, former Black Panther Party member Afeni Shakur.
As Hughes noticed that murals of Shakur covered the walls of cities across continents, he realized the rapper had become a global symbol of rebellion…as visible and important as Malcolm X and Che Guevara.
It means he is the people’s champion and feels their fight and their message, Hughes told The Times after the star ceremony. It means the world when you see this, he continued, pointing to Shakurs’ star, because it lasts forever.
Hughes was a frequent collaborator with Shakur, directing some of his music videos, such as Brendas Got a Baby, alongside his brother Albert Hughes. A disagreement in 1993 led to Shakur and a group of others assaulting Hughes, leaving him injured. The rapper eventually apologized for the incident. With support from Shakur’s estate, Hughes directed Dear Mama, which delved into moments such as those that complicated Shakur’s legacy.
I feel like cinema, the movie of it, never met him where he is,” Hughes said of Tupac’s stature and the movies and shows about him. So that was my goal with [the series]is my eternal goal.
The series was told from the perspective of the Shakurs family, close friends and collaborators, primarily his mother, Afeni Shakur, who died in May 2016. Hughes used archived recordings she made after the death of her sons in which she told the story of her life and her sons life. The director drew parallels between her struggles with the criminal justice system and the FBI’s COINTELPRO program, and her sons’ legal battles.
It shed light on Shakurs’ shooting of two off-duty police officers involved in an argument with a black motorist and his conviction for sexual abuse in New York. Other subjects in the film included Lesane and Jamal Joseph. Joseph was Shakurs’ godfather and a former member of the Black Panther Party who, along with Afeni Shakur, was among the Panther 21 arrested by the FBI in the 1970s.
The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce voted in 2014 to honor Shakur with a star, but his mother, who controlled his estate, declined recognition. Now, the Tupacs’ star ceremony comes amid the release of Dear Mama, and a year after a touring exhibit opened, Wake me up when I’m free, which was featured on LA Live. However, beneath the surface of these events celebrating Shakur, there remains a lingering tension within the Shakur domain.
Shakurs’ sister, Sekyiwa Shakur, filed a lawsuit against Afeni Shakurs’ estate trustee, music manager Tom Whalley, in early 2022. In the lawsuit, Sekyiwa accuses Whalley of embezzling millions of dollars while hoarding items that once belonged to the rapper she believes is now hers.
Those involved in the lawsuit had apparently set aside the legal dispute for the Wednesday celebration. During the Shakurs star unveiling, a photo op moment in which only a few designated guests are usually present, family and friends defied decorum, crowding the platform, overshadowing the Chamber of Commerce and officials, as the group excitedly snuggled up to catch a glimpse of the pink terrazzo tiling.
Joseph, Shakurs’ godfather, was also among the speakers and guests at the Wednesday ceremony.
After he and his wife landed at LAX a day earlier, Joseph said, the driver sent to pick them up coincidentally bumped Shakurs 1995 song Dear Mama over his car speakers. The driver, who immigrated from Georgia (not ATL Georgia, Joseph clarified), shared how he and his friends grew up listening to the rapper.
When you think of this global influence, when you think of this shining star, you think of Tupac Amaru Shakur, said Joseph, who is now a writer, poet and director who teaches at Columbia University, during his speech at of the Wednesday ceremony. I think today he would want us to celebrate the message, not just the man. And he would like us to continue on the charge he left us, which was to always rise, to be that rose that crosses the concrete, no matter where you are.
Earlier in his speech, Joseph asked the audience to raise their hands if you love Tupac, then called on them to put your hands over your heart if that phrase, A rose that grew from concrete, applies to you. , your life and your dreams.
Attendees seated on the red carpet and crowds of fans outside the barricades, some of them climbing to the top of a plastic road barrier for a view, stood in a rare moment of silence at the middle of the noisy ceremony, hands raised or pressed against their chests.
That’s the impact he had, says Joseph.
Times writer Kenan Drauhorne contributed to this report.
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