Culture Vultures: Bozo in the Hood

Steyn, Mark

"Culture Vultures: Bozo in the Hood" Bozo in the Hood Tupac Shakur's short, violent, misogynist life....

...had played a part in his 1994 shooting, boasted on "Hit 'Em Up" that he'd "slept with," as Entertainment Weekly coyly phrased it, Mrs...
...Elvis...
...now, he's famous for being dead...
...A s his life ebbed away, many commentators, evoking timeless songs like "Thug Passion" and "Run Tha Streetz" with their deathless deathfui prose, rushed to discuss Tupac not as a gangsta rapper (which, sadly, has pejorative connotations) but as a poet...
...I see your face in every flower Your eyes in stars above...
...Presumably, Mutu la counts as a political prisoner because, when any black man is jailed by the racist white state, that act by defini tion is politi cal...
...We can only imagine how poor old Wayne feels...
...Moved by these elegies, I went out and bought the album...
...Friends of mine nominated for the wussier categories at the Grammies (classical, show album, best liner notes for a telephone-sales wartime compilation) told me that, where pop had once been merely metaphorically "dangerous," this year it was literally so, with warring rappers and their bodyguards, all armed to the hilt, taunting each other backstage...
...a3 The American Spectator November _T996 57...
...Wayne Newton...
...But nobody saw anything," said Sergeant Kevin Manning of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department...
...I recall Central Park in fall Where you tore your dress What a mess I confess That's not all...
...What did Wayne ever do to deserve that...
...Thank you for all the joy and pain...
...next, he was famous for being shot...
...C U L T U R E V U L T U R E S Bozo in the Hood Tupac Shakur's short, violent, misogynist life...
...I was vaguely aware that in 1994 Suge had paid $1.4 million to spring Pac from jail, and that Suge was a member of the Bloods, or maybe it was the Crips-anyway, not the Elks...
...Aware perhaps that, for most tastes, 2Pac had gone over the edge, obliging obit uarists tried to pull him back, to make him less dangerous...
...Twenty years ago in Britain, a guy called Pete Wingfield had a hit single called "Eighteen With a Bullet"-a reference to Billboard's practice of highlighting fast-selling records with a bullet motif...
...Strange, huh...
...His latest album, the prophetically titled All Eyez On Me shot (as we say) from 69 on the Billboard album chart to 18...
...Tupac says he dis covered his music and its themes `when I was out there with nowhere to stay, no money,' and that theme runs right through his lyrics, along with an impressive indif ference to mainstream politics...
...The media divided into those who were hip and those caught on the hop: the Village Voice was ready with rap insiders, men with one name ("Toure"), men with lower case names ("dream hampton," which is not apparently a New York realtor's designation but a hiphopper who knew Tupac well enough to call him Pac...
...like a vanity license plate...
...With 2Pac, on the other hand, you always knew where you stoodideally, on the other side of the street...
...In fact, Tupac has an impressive indifference, run ning right through his lyrics, to almost any th i ng except the ho or bitch he happens to be having sex with at the time...
...B. I.G.-or, as 2Pac put it: "I f---ed your bitch, you fat muthaf---er...
...In the New York Times, Jon Pareles's line seemed to be that, left to himself, zPac would have been a benign figure, the Andy Williams of gangsta rap...
...I never have figured out what Wayne's going on about there: some sort of easy-listening wilding...
...Pepper...
...Tupac had to make do with being denounced by Bob Dole and William Bennett, and they've proved ineffectual...
...What do they talk about over the fence...
...Poor old Tupac's album was literally 18 with a bullet...
...As for the rest of us, thousands upon thousands of ordinary Americans, we gathered in vigil with friends and family to sing our favorite Tupac songs...
...His, we're told, was a tragedy moving remorselessly towards its final act...
...In 1994, he was convicted for holding down a ho (or, as we used to say, young ladyindeed, a teenage girl) while his pals forcibly sodomized her...
...It doesn't alas, print the words, but, after several listens to, say, "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted" (a duet with Snoop Doggy Dogg), you get the gist of the lyric, which boils down to: "Don't motherf--- with me, you motherf , or you'll wind up like all them other moth erf motherf s (Repeat until fade...
...Like Oedipus, he was a real bad muthaf...
...So where were you when you heard the news that Tupac had been shot...
...I'm sorry, I've made a frightful faux pas: "motherf s" should, of course, be "muthaf z." As the CD plays, you see what his obit uarists are getting at: more than the James Dean of hip-hop, the Kurt Cobain of hardcore, or even the Hamlet of the 'hood, his was an inexorable tragedy of Sophoclean proportions, coursing relentlessly to its final scene with ululating Greek choruses of raptivists and industry insiders explaining what's really going down...
...And then we realized we didn't know any...
...Even his contribution to the supposed East Coast/West Coast rap wars was admirably single-minded...
...But, until the aftermath of Tupac's death, I never knew that Suge's house in Vegas was next door to Wayne Newton's...
...It's like discovering Saddam Hussein lives next door to Angela Lansbury...
...You remember Ray Noble's lyric to "The Very Thought of You...
...Still, as surgeons cut open his "Thug Life" tattoo to get at the three bullets inside him, Jesse Jackson and the Nation of Islam were both in attendance at the hospital, laying claim to his legacy: Tupac, it seems, is not just the James Dean of hip-hop, the Hamlet of the 'hood, but also the Gandhi of gangsta rap...
...Tupac has much the same problem: No matter where I go I see the same ho...
...Statistically, there's a pretty good chance you were with him: there were 49 assorted boyz `n' hoods and hoes 'n' bitches in his entourage, dozens more milling in the street...
...Obviously, there are variations on the theme: Possibly this is what the New Republic's Michael Lewis had in mind when he hailed rap as "the nearest thing to a politi cal voice of the poor...
...Le mort du 2Pac was full of distracting details like that...
...Bennett supposedly I won't deny it I'm a street fighter You don't wanna f-- with me...
...But, like Kurt Cobain, 2Pac is a model of contemporary shortcut celebrity: he became a household name without ever having had a household song...
...He looked at the high kicking dancers and denounced the whole thing as "decadent...
...As for more conventional politics, he calls, in his liner notes, for the freeing of "all Politikal Prisonerz," including his step father Mutula Shakur...
...That was more or less the line of his eulo 56 November 19 9 6 The American Spectator gists: there are 2 sides to every Pac, and we must understand both of them...
...Bob Dole, who'd been handed speeches in which he attacked zPac, was puzzled by the news, having assumed 2Pac was like Gopac, only liberal and Democratic...
...That is the question," he may have mused as he was picking out firearms for the MTV Awards, but, ultimately, he had no choice but to embrace his fate...
...It would be interesting to know if, up in heaven, 2Pac now takes the same line on his own black murderer...
...I hadn't thought of Wayne Newton in years, but, ever since he came up in connection with 2Pac's death, I can't get his maddeningly catchy "Danke Schoen" out of my head: Danke Schoen Darling, danke schoen Thank you for all the joy and pain...
...Traditionally, admired pop stars are hailed for being "on the edge," for "push ing the boundaries," for their "sense of dan ger...
...Lyrical forebears such as Oscar Hammerstein and Ira Gershwin disdained the term, but Tupac, it seems, was not just the James Dean of hiphop and the Gandhi ofgangsta rap but also the Shelley of the shoot-outs...
...Like Hamlet, any internal agonizing wasn't going to make any difference: "To pack or not to pack...
...Statistically, there's an even greater chance that you're one of the thousands who emerged to eulogize him in the press as "the James Dean of hip-hop"-both were talented young men, both died in automobiles (though Tupac was in the passenger seat...
...The day after Tupac expired, Juliet Prowse died...
...When Bing died, most Americans knew he was the guy who sang "White Christmas...
...2Pac, incidentally, was Tupac's preferred appellation: like many gangsta rappers, he opted to spell his name...
...This guy, Suge Knight, for example-the 3oo-lb...
...in 2Pac's case, his name was converted into a number, and ultimately into a statistic...
...Heartbreak Hotel...
...the squaresville publications were forced to go for the broader brush stroke, getting their middle-class boyz from the 'burbs to argue, as the Washington Post tried, that he was yet another victim of the Gingrich Terror...
...As he observes later in the song: I'm watchin'the Million Man March and j I see the same bitch on the Million Man March...
...Lennon...
...Instead, he'd been lured down the hardcore end and been consumed by stardom: the James Dean of hip hop, the Shelley of the shoot-outs, was also, tragically, the Karen Carpenter of Compton...
...Tupac, convinced that the New York rapper The Notorious B.I.G...
...And occasionally the young man's fancy turned to traditional Tin Pan Alley fare...
...Years ago, when she and Sinatra and Shirley MacLaine were filming Can-Can, they were visited on the set by Khrushchev...
...I dimly recalled that during contractual negotiations he'd threatened Eazy-E, since dead by Mark Steyn of AIDS, with a baseball bat...
...First, he was famous for sexual assault...
...Wayne doesn't need that in his backyard...
...The lady in question turns up everywhere...
...They pointed out that he was a graduate of `Baltimore's prestigious High School of the Performing Arts"-in other words, not a real revolutionary, just another in the long line of art-school poseurs inaugurated by Mick Jagger...
...gangsta impresario of Death Row Records who seems to be taking a surprisingly relaxed view of the murder, in the adjoining seat, of his biggest-selling artiste...
...MARK STEYN is theater critic of the New Criterion and movie critic o f the Spectator o f London...

Vol. 29 • November 1996 • No. 11


 
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