Kevin Powell is promoting the release of his book,*The Education of Kevin Powell: A Boy’s Journey into Manhood,*which was released Tuesday (October 27).
He sat down with Complex to discuss his relationship with Tupac. As senior writer for VIBE magazine in the 1990s, Powell built a relationship with Tupac and wrote three cover stories on him.
“I felt like ‘Pac represented really where Hip Hop was, this young Black male who represented the street side of things, but he also was intellectual,” Powell says about why he was drawn to the West Coast rapper. “This dude had gone to the Baltimore School for the Performing Arts. He was quoting Shakespeare. He could go back and forth. So in an interesting way, ‘Pac was kind of a combination of like Public Enemy and N.W.A, elements of both were happening in him. There wasn’t a lot of folks like that.”
Powell releases three minutes of his interview with Tupac while the rapper was incarcerated at Rikers Island on sexual assault charges. He asked Tupac to detail the night he was shot at Manhattan’s Quad Studios. Tupac was getting paged to come lay a verse for a song. The rapper explains how the manager was impatient while waiting for him to show up, which made Tupac uncomfortable.
“I*wasn’t thinking. ‘Why they want me here so bad?’” Tupac says. “We got lost looking for the studio in Manhattan. We lost like, ‘Where the hell the studio at?’ He’s like, ‘Where you at?’…I knew he was from the streets. I knew he was trying to get legitimate, so I thought I was doing him a favor. He was like, ‘I don’t have the money, though.’ I said, ‘You don’t have the money, I ain’t coming.’ He kinda let the phone, called me back, he said, ‘I’ma give you the money outta my pocket.’…We got there, parked the car in the garage. We walkin’ up to the building. Somebody screamed from up the top in the studio, it’s Lil Cease. He’s like Biggie’s sideman. That’s my homeboy. I’ve been knowing them since before they came out. So I was like, ‘What’s up, yo?’ He’s like, ‘I’m coming downstairs. I’m coming downstairs. ‘Pac, what’s up we going to kick it.’ He had been calling me at the hotel, wanted to kick it and everything, so this was like the champ. So as soon as I saw him, all my inhibitions about, this could be a set-up, was relaxed.”
Multiple names are bleeped out from the interview 20 years after the events happened.
“People are still alive,” Powell explains of the decision to keep the interview censored. “People have to understand, it got so crazy during that time, not only did Tupac and Biggie get killed, if people actually did their research, a lot of folks got killed over a course of a couple of years. People got death threats. I got death threats as a journalist because people knew I had a lot of information. He said everyone’s names in the interview. So even if you go back and look at the cover story, we actually changed the names of everyone and ‘Pac was mad about it.”
Powell says that he decided to release the interview because there is a chapter in his book about his time covering Tupac. He says that his next book will be a biography of the late rapper, which has the approval of Tupac’s mother, Afeni Shakur and his estate.