Am I Black Enough for You? Popular Culture from the 'Hood and Beyond

By Todd Boyd | Go to book overview

Dead Man Walkin': Tupac's journey
into the Heart of Darkness

Friday the 13th of September 1996 proved truly unlucky for Tupac Shakur.When the rap artist/actor/Black man died that day in a Las Vegas hospital of complications from several gunshot wounds, Black popular culture and Black life in America registered another fatality.

I was never a fan of Tupac's. I always thought he was "perpetrating." A former roadie for the group Digital Underground, Tupac was always trying to represent himself as something he was not: hard. But sometimes those can be the worst ones. A cat with something to prove is indeed a dangerous thing.

I have heard all of the stories about Tupac's antics, having witnessed what seemed like his nine lives, but a bit of personal reflection best summarizes his life for me. Last October, in the midst of all the things I mention in the preface of this book, I moderated a panel hosted by the Black Filmmakers' Foundation, entitled " Black Film: Then and Now." "Then" referred to the Blaxploitation era. The guests included Ron O'Neal (Priest in Superfly) and Max Julien (Goldie in The Mack). They personified Black masculinity in their time. The audience on this day and the ongoing public fascination with this era would attest to that.

At the conclusion of this event, we decided to extend our particularly postmodern Black experience and journeyed to that landmark of Southern California Blackness, Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles. And guess who walked in? Only a day after being paroled, in came Tupac with his entourage, casting a collective silence over the place. His bodyguards were quick to showcase their automatic weapons, and his boys didn't hesitate to engage in the requisite ghetto behavior. Yes indeed, all eyes were truly on him!

Caught between the historical representation of Black masculinity and the contemporary version, I couldn't quite decide which was more authentic. Now I know. Tupac, like Easy E before him, made sure that we

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