In 1994, Entertainment Weekly writer Benjamin Svetkey asked Tupac Shakur where he saw himself in 10 years.
“Best case: in a cemetery. Not in a cemetery. Sprinkled in ashes, smoked up by my homies. Worst case,” he corrects himself, “I mean that’s the worst case. That’s the worst case. That’s the worst case.”
This interview has resurfaced thanks to Blank on Blank, a PBS web series that animates snippets of journalists’ interviews. In this installment, the iconic rapper muses on life, death and success in March 1994. At the time, Shakur was already a successful musician and actor, garnering attention from critics while at the center of the East Coast vs. West Coast hip-hop feud.
“If I was white I would have been like John Wayne,” Shakur explains. “Somebody who pulled himself up from their bootstraps. From poverty. From welfare. Now I am kissing Janet Jackson. I’m doing movies. I feel like a tragic hero in a Shakespeare play, you know what I’m saying?”
Most of the five-minute animation is filled with these no-nonsense, straightforward insights into how Shakur built up his “machine.” He discusses being ripped off by the press, having respect for the government and what his definition of a thug is. Most incredible, however, are the moments of vulnerability that seem all the more profound in retrospect.
“I have no resting place,” Shakur insists, “I never sleep. I can never close my eyes.”