Did you move to Death Row for some sort of protection?
Hell, no. There's nobody in the business strong enough to scare me. I'm with Death Row 'cause they not scared either.
When I was in jail, Suge was the only one who used to see me. Nigga used to fly a private plane, all the way to New York, and spend time with me. He got his lawyer to look into all my cases. Suge supported me, whatever I needed. When I got out of jail, he had a private plane for me, a limo, five police officers for security. I said, "I need a house for my moms"; I got a house for my moms.
I promised him, "Suge, I'm gonna make Death Row the biggest label in the whole world. I'm gonna make it bigger than Snoop even made it." Not stepping on Snoop's toes; he did a lot of work. Him, Dogg Pound, Nate Dogg, Dre, all of them-they made Death Row what it is today. I'm gonna take it to the next level.
Is it true your marriage was annulled?
Yeah. I moved too fast. I can only be committed to my work or my wife. I didn't want to hurt her; she's a good person. So we just took it back to where we were before.
I wanna put a rumor to rest. Did something happen to you in prison? Kill that rumor. That got started either by some guards or by some jealous niggas. I don't have to talk about whether or not I got raped in jail. If I wouldn't lay down on the floor for two niggas with pistols, what the fuck make you think I would bend over for a nigga without weapons? That don't even fit my character.
Do you or Death Row have any beef with Puffy or Biggie?
[Laughs] I don't got no beef with nobody, man. I let the music speak for itself. If you know, you know; if you don't, you don't. Ain't no mystery-niggas know what time it is.
So is this an East Coast/West Coast thing?
It's not like I got a beef with New York or nothing, but I do have problems. And I'm representing the West Side now. There's people disrespecting the West Coast-"It's only gangsta shit, it ain't creative enough, it's fucking up the art form"-even though we made more money for this art form than all those other motherfuckers. The artists now who selling records stole our style. Listen to 'em-Biggie is a Brooklyn nigga's dream of being West Coast.
You used the word jealousy-
Let's be real. Be real, Kev. Doesn't Biggie sound like me? Is that my style coming out of his mouth? Just New York-tized. That big player shit. He's not no player-I'm the player.
What about all the kids who look up to you and Biggie who don't understand all this?
Regardless of all this stuff-no matter what he say, what I say-Biggie's still my brother. He's black. He's my brother. We just have a conflict of interest. We have a difference of opinion.
How can we stop this disagreement before someone gets killed?
I don't want it to be about violence. I want it to be about money. I told Suge my idea: Bad Boy make a record with all the East Coast niggas. Death Row make a record with all the West Coast niggas. We drop the records on the same day. Whoever sell the most records, that's who the bombest. And then we stop battling. We could do pay-per-views for charity, for the community.
What about Death Row and Bad Boy doing something together?
That's as together as we can get. For money. What about getting together as black men? We are together as black men-they over there, we over here. If we really gonna live in peace, we all can't be in the same room. Yellow M&M's don't move with green M&M's. I mean, you don't put M&M's peanuts with M&M's plain. You hear me?
What about this hostility that people are feeding into? Can you and Suge and Puffy and Biggie sit down-
But that's corny. That's just for everybody else-they just wanna hear what the conversation is about. I know my life's not in danger. They shouldn't feel like they gotta worry about me. Puffy wrote me while I was in jail. I wrote him back that I don't got no problems with him. I don't want it to be fighting, I just wanna make my money. You can't tell me I've gotta sit down and hug and kiss niggas to make everybody else feel good. If there was beef, niggas would know.
Your new album is called All Eyes on Me. Can you describe it in a phrase?
Relentless. It's like, so-uncensored. I do not suggest that children buy this album. There's a lot of cursing. There's a lot of raw game that needs to be discussed in a family moment before you let them listen.
What would you suggest parents tell their kids to prepare them for it?
Explain to them that because I'm talking about it doesn't mean that it's okay. This comes from someone who just spent 11 and a half months in a maximum-security jail, got shot five times, and was wrongly convicted of a crime he didn't commit. This is not from a normal person.
Do you feel that you're a leader?
I think so. I think I'm a natural-born leader because I'm a good soldier. I know how to bow down to authority if it's authority that I respect. If Colin Powell was president, I'd follow him.
I wanna get into politics. That's the way for us to overcome a lot of our obstacles. Nothing can stop power or recognize power but power. If Bosnia disrespects America, they gonna go to war. 'Cause America wants its respect. And we sit down after they recognize that they should respect America. Before we can communicate, there has to be mutual respect. And we don't have that.
Where's Tupac gonna be in the year 2000?
I'll be much calmer than I am now.
Why aren't you calm right now?
You know-how would you feel if someone violated you? I was set up. I would rather have been shot straight-up in cold blood-but to be set up? By people who you trusted? That's bad.
Why do you think so many young black men around the country identify with you?
'Cause we all soldiers, unfortunately. Everybody's at war with different things. With ourselves. Some are at war with the establishment. Some of us are at war with our own communities.
What are you at war with?
Different things at different times. My own heart sometimes. There's two niggas inside me. One wants to live in peace, and the other won't die unless he's free.
What about the Tupac who's the son of a Black Panther, and Tupac the rapper?
Tupac the son of the Black Panther, and Tupac the rider. Those are the two people inside of me. My mom and them envisioned this world for us to live in, and strove to make that world. So I was raised off those ideals, to want those.
But in my own life, I saw that that world was impossible to have. It's a world in our head. It's a world we think about at Christmas and Thanksgiving. I had to teach my mother how to live in this world like it is today. She taught me how to live in that world that we have to strive for. And for that I'm forever grateful. She put heaven in my heart. Kevin Powell (VIBE)