Sept. 20, 1996 -- Las Vegas police say they still have no leads on suspects or motive in the murder of rapper and actor Tupac Shakur, who died last Friday, the 13th, after being gunned down in a drive-by following the Mike Tyson-Bruce Seldon boxing match September 7th. Meanwhile, on Thursday night in Los Angeles, we spoke with Marion "Suge" Knight, head of Tupac's label, Death Row Records, and the man who was driving the car, sitting right next to Tupac when he was shot. Knight, who himself was grazed in the head by a bullet, was prevented by lawyers from addressing the shooting itself... But here, for the first time on television, he speaks publicly about its aftermath.
MTV: How are you feeling, and how are you doing physically?
MARION "SUGE" KNIGHT, CEO, Death Row Records: I feel like this: I feel that the last word is always God, but Pac saved my life. He's my... Pac saved my life. I got shot in the head -- got grazed some other places -- but I still got the bullet in my
head. It's still here.... Before, I was tryin' to get him to the hospital -- didn't make me realize that I was shot. Because usually, when you get shot in the head, the first thing the person do is panic. You know, BAM! I'm shot in the head! I'm about to die! And once you do that, you can't drive nowhere. My whole thing was Pac -- he was shot. I'm like, "You're shot! Let me get you to the hospital." I'm driving, telling him I'm gonna get him to the hospital, kicked back, Pac looked at me and said, "You know what? You need a doctor more than me. You the one shot in your head." And we laughed the whole time finding our way to the hospital. That's the conversation we had. It wasn't... Pac was a man the whole time. It wasn't that he was like, "OOOhhh, I'm shot!" He crackin' jokes. He's like, "Yeah, they shot me." But he said, "But you shot in your head. Look at your head. You see how much it's bleedin'? Look how much it's bleedin'." That was Pac. And I'm like, "Man, shut up, we'll get you to
MTV: So he was conscious on the way to the hospital?
KNIGHT: He was conscious on the way to the hospital, he was conscious in the... labs, he was conscious after they did surgery.
MTV: What was the last thing that he said to you?
KNIGHT: That he loved me. You know, he was going... he was gettin' there. I'm like, "Pac, you're gonna be the last one left." But we talked this out. We talked it. He said, "No, I'm straight. I love you, homey. I'm gonna be straight." "I love you too." That's where he was.
MTV: There was a report earlier this week in "The New York Post" that Tupac was looking to leave Death Row Records. Is that true?
KNIGHT: You should answer that. You don't take a person like Tupac, who, if you listen to every song on "All Eyez On Me," every song on "Machiavelli," every time he do an interview, what's the first thing he say? Death Row. Tupac loved Death Row. Tupac loved me. I loved him. I mean, Tupac took Death Row to
the next level. I mean, we worked hard, we laid the foundation down, Snoop took the baton and he ran with it. And he did a great job with it. But Tupac got the baton, not only did he win the race, he finished so fast he able to sit back and drink some thug passion in, and come up with another play. If you'd asked Tupac that question that was he planning on leaving Death Row, he definitely would have cussed you out.
MTV: A lot of people in the hip hop community have said that this incident will change hip hop. This is a really landmark event -- tragic event, at that. And that the music will probably never be the same. Do you see the direction of Death Row changing? Is there going to be a different type of music put out?
KNIGHT: Not at all. We gonna do thing we've been doing, and set our records like I said before. My main goal is fulfill Tupac's dreams. And Tupac would definitely never want the music to change.... So we'll keep it the way he would like it. I feel like that
it's my job to make sure all Pac's dreams is fulfilled, and he stay alive, and keep Death Row alive. I'm not gonna go and say, "Well, just 'cause it's a little crazy in this world, so, I'm gonna sit down somewhere." I'm not gonna sit down nowhere. I'm gonna walk the pattern, talk the same talk, fulfill all his dreams, and lay real low.
Also Thursday night, Tupac's label-mate Snoop Doggy Dogg told us that this is a very emotional time right now for him, as well. Snoop's new album, "Tha Doggfather," is due out November 5th, the same day as Tupac's EP "Machiavelli." Meanwhile, as expected, in the wake of Tupac's death, sales of his latest album "All Eyez On Me" soared -- 40,000 copies moved in the past week; and on Monday's "Billboard" pop albums chart the album leaps from number 69 to number 18. Tupac's previous album, "Me Against The World," also got a sales bump, and re-enters the chart at number 99. As for Tupac's posthumous "Machiavelli" EP, its cover will bear a painting, commissioned
by Tupac before his death, that will seem prophetic: it shows Shakur on a cross, with bullet holes in his body, and light pouring through the holes along with his blood. Also stuck to the cross are notes naming the many cities in which Tupac had run-ins with the law.
Speaking of prophetic, Wednesday night MTV premiered the latest video from "All Eyez On Me," for the track "I Ain't Mad Atcha," directed a month ago by Tupac himself, with the help of J. Kevin Swain. The video opens with Tupac being shot to death by an unknown assailant, then follows him to heaven, where he's greeted by a Redd Foxx look-alike, and raps against a background populated by likenesses of Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, Sammy Davis Junior, and other deceased black music stars.
Two memorials to Tupac were announced this week: one, for Thursday morning in Los Angeles. It was promptly canceled by its organizer, Death Row Records, which said it could not find a venue big enough to satisfy fan demand. The Nation
of Islam set Sunday as a "Hip Hop Day of Atonement" at a mosque, once used by Malcolm X, in New York City's Harlem district. The Nation's youth coordinator Conrad Mohammed said the event would "call for an end to the maddening destruction of the black community" -- sentiments echoed in a letter to Tupac, acquired by MTV News, that his step-father Mutulu Shakur wrote upon learning of Tupac's death. Mutulu, a Black Panther in jail for helping another Panther trying escape prison, wrote, "Will your levitation be the awakening of us all? The division unsettling to our dreams and goals... Your passing demanding repentance and resistance." We got more reaction to Tupac's murder last weekend in Las Vegas, where fans held a vigil at the intersection where Tupac was killed, and from rappers in Los Angeles who were taping MTV next "Rock and Jock" game.
DAPHNE, 36: We know what his music was about. Lot of people, some people don't. But we know his music was down for our people. We listen
to it. We have it. We know the messages, y'know, the words that he's saying and everything. And, you know, we miss him. Its just like I'm losing a son.
EMMITT, 22 (gesturing to a large tattoo on his stomach): That's for like, all the pain that we done went through. I suffered the same life he just suffered, living that street life, that thug life. All of it's real. Just 'cause you get famous don't mean nothing. Enemies still catch up with you.
MAN 1: I looked up the night Tupac died, they pronounced him dead, and I seen one star in the sky and it was kind of hazy 'cause it was cloudy. but you know what I figured is that was Tupac... you know what I'm sayin'? That's how I looked at it.
WOMAN 1: Only God should judge Tupac. We should not, nobody should say whether he was a thug, he didn't represent this, he didn't represent that. God should judge that man, you know? And I just say, I hope he rests in peace. I'll see him at the crossroads.
N' Pepa: I hope his life is an example to a lot of kids out there. He spoke of a lot of things in his music, and that's because he went through a lot, y'know? So, the things that he said, hopefully, it'll teach these kids out there that are tryin' to run around, doin' this, doin' bad things and everything, that there is life ahead. Life goes on.
METHOD MAN: This is an eye-opener right here. Hopefully, for all the youth, kids, I mean, even the grown-ups, everybody, I hope this is an eye-opener, man. Word up. 'Cause they should see, right now, the violence is not the key, and that it's real. Bullets is real, guns is real, you know, all that stuff is real, man. It's up to us as artists to take responsibility for what we're saying in our records and on our albums and things of that nature, you know. But it's like, you can't water down the hip hop, you can't water down the ghetto. It's like, when those shots go off, the kid, the average kid in the ghetto can't close his eyes to it. This
is not a television show, this is reality, real-life drama.