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MTV: What if they earned it?

Shakur: If they earned it — I think that's good and I think that they deserve it. But even if you earned it, you still owe. Look at me. I'm not — I don't have that mega-money. But I feel guilty walking by somebody. I gotta give him some mail. And if I know I got $3,000 in my pocket, I feel it's wrong to give that person a quarter or a dollar. It's wrong. Only you know what you've got in your pocket, and that's wrong, no matter what they do. If they take it and drink it, they take it and drink it. ... We all know how hard it is, and it's not about you being good or bad. Because he don't got don't mean he was bad or don't mean he's a criminal or don't mean he's crazy or a drug addict or none of that. It just means he don't got. And ain't it bad that you got. Can you imagine somebody having $32 million ... and this person has nothing? And you can sleep? These are the type of people who get humanitarian awards — millionaires. How can they be humanitarians? The fact that they're millionaires and there's so many poor people shows how inhumane they are, you know what I'm saying? And that bugs me. I'm not saying that I'm never gonna be rich, but I'm saying there's a struggle, and I think everybody deserves, and I think there's a way to pay these people.

It just takes to be revolutionary, and it takes that to do something out of the ordinary. I think that if we just said, "OK, I got an idea. No more porno buildings — let's build houses." Or "No more polo games. Let's build houses for poor people." OK, I know you rich. I know you got $40 billion, but can you just keep it to one house? You only need one house. And if you only got two kids, can you just keep it to two rooms? I mean, why have 52 rooms when you know there's somebody with no room? It just don't make sense to me. And then these people celebrate Christmas — they got big trees, huge trees, all the little trimmings. Everybody got gifts, and there's somebody starving. And they're having a white Christmas. They're having a great Christmas, eggnog and the whole nine. That's not fair to me.

MTV: What about people who don't have a lot of money, who are just the average guy? In your terms, what do you think about these people helping their fellow man?

 "Poor is not just for black folks. I think that rich black people need to give to poor white folks."

Shakur: I think that people, not only the rich people, have responsibility to give. ... Poor, to me, is without, nothing. ... Poor is not just for black folks. I think that rich black people need to give to poor white folks ... and poor Korean people, whatever. For real, it's not like a color thing 'cause that's real bad. ... To me, what's real bad is kids that don't get presents on Christmas. I think adults shouldn't get presents so the kids get all the presents, 'cause ain't that what it's supposed to be about? Even when you do turn 13 and you know there's no Santa Claus. It's still for those years when you thought it wasn't made up, that life was that much more better. These days, like the rhyming says, "We growing up." We grew up B.C. — before crack, you and me. We grew up way before all this crazy stuff happened with the AKs and AIDS and all that. Imagine all of that and no Christmas? All of this that we gotta go through for 365 days a year and there's no Christmas? We know Christmas is relief day. So all of this with no relief day? That's hard. That's a lot of pressure. That's a lot of stress. That makes you go crazy. So I don't ... I forgot the question.

MTV: You were talking about the unevenness, saying that wealthy people should be helping the others.

Shakur: OK, yeah. So to make it even — if you got 50 bucks, you can give somebody five bucks. It's been times I gave to these little kids — they was at the gas station. It impressed me that them little kids was like 14 and they're pumping people's gas instead of taking the money like I would think — that's the easy way — they're pumping people's gas. And you know people was cruel. They'll give you a quarter after watching you inhale vapors and everything. They'll give you a quarter for pumping gas. And I gave them little kids like fifty bucks. They was like, "Thank you!" But that teaches them that when you work hard and be responsible, there's a reward for that. And I think that just like I did that, corporations can do that, and on a bigger level. Imagine if a corporation just sent a representative and said, "Just go hang out in that playground, and ... whatever kid is the coolest and shares the ball or lets the most people play basketball, we're gonna give them a scholarship." That would bring hope. There's no hope, and there's not going to be too many more Christmases without hope. ... There's not going to be too many more days without hope. Because if there's hopelessness, there's revolution and there's change. If there's change, somebody is going to end up on the bottom. And that doesn't have to happen. It doesn't have to be about we on bottom, you on top all the time. It can be just spread.

MTV: What can the average person do to spread the same idea of helping people? What can somebody who doesn't have 50 bucks or own a corporation do? Bring it down to the average person.

Shakur: I would love to just drop it down for them, but that's not my job to tell people how to. It's up to you. Just like my mind went, "OK, this is how I can help by doing this all," their mind has to go, "Well, this is how I can help." You have to decide. Each person has to decide. What is it that you can do to help? Because [there] is something you can do. Everybody, there is something you can do. Whether you're behind a switchboard, or behind a camera or behind a cash register, there's something you can do and you do it. I can't even see the possibilities. It's limitless ... what we can do. [Naming one thing ] would just limit. And I know what you want me to say, but I can't.

MTV: How do your lyrics reflect what you're trying to say?

 "We got to survive here in this country ..."

Shakur: Just by using Jess, the guy I did the duet with — he was a youngster. Christmas to me is about giving to the youngsters, because the older people, like my age — you know, 20s, teenagers — they think they know it all, I think I know it all, and we don't see Christmas the same. Christmas is just party time. ... My last 21 Christmases, they were all like either something harsh or something trippy. And so I felt like this Christmas song, I wanted it to be something Jess could look back [on] in 10 years and go, "That's when it started. That's when I did it. I did that with Tupac. I didn't even wanna go, and that's when it started." And I could do that. Whatever mistakes I make in the future, I can say I did that. I put Jess' voice on that song. He did it, you know? He did it. He said it. He told his part of it. And people can hear him. I know this song is going to go places that my music never could go. And it's gonna give me a chance to just say how I feel, just like I fell onto Sting, somebody's going to fall onto me and hear my music just like I heard his, and they're gonna feel what I felt. It's gonna knock down a lot of barriers, and that's cool. That's what it's all about. That's Christmas.

Plus I know for actual fact that this song came from my heart, and I know that it can bring joy to another person. And that's good. I feel like I did my part. And this Christmas I'll be happier, 'cause I know I got something out there. I did something. I contributed. 'Cause really, all BS aside, it all comes down to [the fact that] we got to survive. I mean, even warriors put their spears down on Sundays. We got to survive here in this country 'cause I'm not going back to Africa. We've got to survive here, and for us to survive here — white folks, black folks, Korean folks, Mexican folks, Puerto Ricans — we gotta understand each other. We got to take a bigger chance. And when I say Americans, people think I'm talking about Uncle Sam, actually Uncle Sam with the gray hair and the flag. I mean you! You — the guy, the mechanic, whoever — you. You need to do something. You need to check yourself and see how racist you are.

It's real. I even do it myself sometimes. I was on the plane the other day and this little tiny cute white girl came up to me and said she loved my music. And when she passed me, I didn't think this could be one of my fans. It didn't even enter my head. When the little girl passed me ... and she said it, it just checked me. It made me go, "OK, you're taking yourself too seriously." Because what would you say to that little girl? Would you tell her there's no room for her in the new world? And there is, there's got to be. You gotta make room, 'cause this little girl was so cute. She's like, "I like your music." The whole reason I got signed to Interscope was because Ted Field's little daughter liked my music. ... That baffles me. That's the power of children. That's innocence at its personification, goodness at its personification. That's what I want to be about. It clicks for me. That's "Ghetto Gospel." That's what we need to harvest and nurture so that it can grow and blossom. That's the only chance we have is through the creativity and imagination of our youth.

MTV: What else can you tell us about "Ghetto Gospel."

 "... experience is a mother ..."

Shakur: Musically, this is different than anything I ever did. This is the first time I ever said I wanted to build a song on feelings. I took a song called "Crossroads" from Tracy Chapman — we sampled the main riff, the melody, from that. Tracy Chapman used to move me; she is an idol. I know that's going to cause mass hysteria in the 'hood, but she is. I think she's beautiful, I think she's deep, I think she has a lot to say, and I think she has a lot of soul in her music. I wanted to bring that soul to "Ghetto Gospel," that song is gospel to me. A lot of her music is, so that was the basis of the song. ... Then I got Jesse to rap on it because, to me, he represents the young black male of tomorrow. He's more advanced than I was at that age. He's my peer now, but he's six years younger than me. That shows how far we've come, and how bad the world is.

It's not only the ozone layer that's getting thin, it's the puberty layer that's getting thin. People are growing up so fast because there's cable everywhere. The movies are showing everything, so we're growing up fast. Before, we didn't start getting information until 10; now you're 1 year old and you're seeing dudes getting blown away — in TV, real life, whatever. You're smelling crack smoke firsthand, so you know what that is. And before, it would never come up. So I feel like if you live in the outer city, experience is a mother, and you don't have that buffer. We don't have that. Because parents in the inner city know what it's like to be real, because you have no choice. How can you not say "poor" when you don't have anything?

NEXT: 'If I let somebody put the role-model label on me, that limits me. I'm real.' ...
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Photo: MTV News

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