One day in 1995, Angela Ardis came home to the kind of message you never delete from your answering machine. "Hi, Angela. This is Tupac. I got your letter today and I thought I'd call ..."
A few days earlier, the actress, model and screenwriter had written to the imprisoned rapper on a dare from friends. She never imagined he would call, let alone exchange letters, poems and conversations with her almost daily for the next several months.
That never-before-published correspondence, including Ardis' responses, has been compiled for a book titled "Inside a Thug's Heart," due May 4.
According to Ardis' publicist, Tupac's letters (written during his 1995 incarceration) range from serious to humorous to erotic. They include reflections on the 1994 shooting that almost killed him, and avid denials of the sexual-assault charges that landed him behind bars.
In a letter dated March 17, 1995, the rapper wrote a brief autobiography, describing his mother's struggle and his rise to stardom.
Elsewhere in the book are love poems such as "4 Those Nights When U R Alone," and more introspective work like "If Heaven Has a Ghetto," which was later echoed in the song "I Wonder If Heaven Got a Ghetto" from the posthumously released R U Still Down? (Remember Me).
"After watching the media footage following Tupac's death, there was nothing favorable about him in the press, and I had something that could portray another side to him that was favorable," Ardis said Wednesday (March 17). "People will be surprised about how compassionate he really was. Readers will see a more sensitive side to him through those letters. It will give people an opportunity to see Tupac as a man instead of Tupac as a rapper."
Ardis, who eventually visited Tupac in prison, also wrote about the relationship's effect on her in the book, which was approved by the Shakur estate. The author will promote "Inside a Thug's Heart" with a national tour in the spring.
The book comes on the heels of last fall's "Tupac: Resurrection" movie and accompanying soundtrack (see "Tupac Resurrected In Hearts, Minds Of Celebs, Family At Hollywood Premiere").
For more on Tupac's music, check out the feature All Ears On Me: Essential Tupac.