Tupac Shakur's third posthumous album of original material, And Still I Rise, will include songs offering vital insights into the troubled hip-hop star's short, violent life, according to his former manager.
"You listen to a song called 'The Good Die Young,' and you won't understand
how he could have written that song and then died," ex-manager Leila
Steinberg said of a track tentatively slated for the album, due in early
December. She said it was ironic and haunting that he recorded it so
close to his death.
"He kept saying he wouldn't be around long, but it's scary."
A book of Shakur's poems also is scheduled to be published Tuesday, and the rapper's friends and family, including Steinberg, will gather in Oakland, Calif., on Dec. 3 for a conference celebrating the life of Shakur and his legacy.
And Still I Rise is expected to feature material recorded by Shakur after his release from prison in 1996 following a sexual-assault conviction. The 25-year-old rapper was killed in a drive-by shooting in September of that year.
Steinberg a teacher and hip-hop manager who met Shakur when he was a 17-year-old transplant to the suburbs of Oakland said the title track to the 14-song album and several others on the collection are similar in tone to the poetry she and Shakur's mother helped compile.
"The Rose That Grew From Concrete," to be published by MTV Books, features 72 poems written by Shakur before he released his first solo album, 1992's 2Pacalypse Now, which sold 500,000 copies. (SonicNet's parent company, Viacom, also owns MTV Books.)
"[The book's title] would have been the perfect title for the album, too," Steinberg said. "He said once that he didn't understand why people couldn't see that, when somebody comes from what he came from, the sh-- and the mud, how something really beautiful came out of something that nothing is supposed to grow from."
Each poem appears twice in the book, once in Shakur's handwriting with his drawings and iconography and once in type. Steinberg said the emotionally complex, meditative verses reflect the artist's state of mind before he became embroiled in the world of rap.
Shakur joined Steinberg's Marin County (Calif.) poetry circle in 1989 and immediately asserted himself, she said. "We had this poetry circle where I would choose subjects, and the six or seven of us would write about those topics," Steinberg said. "The first time he came, 'Pac immediately said, 'Why do you get to pick what we write about?' He forever changed the way we did it."
Steinberg said Shakur's first suggestion for a topic was pain.
"We had really good writers in the group ... but 'Pac was on a completely different level. He didn't ever go anywhere [or] make any moves without a pen and paper in hand. 'Pac was always writing, and it's not like he needed to be in a quiet room to write or a busy place. It didn't matter what was going on around him."
Steinberg said that Shakur had hoped to publish the poems in his lifetime but never had the chance. The educator, who managed Shakur's career through 1993, said the poems show a "totally unadulterated, naked" view of the rapper before his image was made over by marketing departments and publicists. The book features a foreword by acclaimed poet Nikki Giovanni and a preface from Shakur's mother, former Black Panther Afeni Shakur; Steinberg wrote the introduction.
Among the poems in the book is "In the Depths of Solitude," which includes the lines, "A young heart with an old soul/ How can there be peace/ How can I be in the depths of solitude/ When there are two inside of me/ This duo within me causes/ The perfect opportunity."
In 1997, a student at the University of California at Berkeley organized a pass/fail course "History 98, the Poetry and History of Tupac Shakur."
"Tupac was literally blessed," said the then-20-year-old organizer of the course, molecular and cell biology major Arvand Elihu. "Not only did his poems flow nicely, he painted perfect pictures for readers and listeners." Steinberg helped organize the course materials.
The "2Pac Youth Conference" will feature speeches from the rapper's mother and Black Panther Geronimo Pratt, as well as performances by San Francisco Bay Area hip-hop acts Mac Mall who is managed by Steinberg and Digital Underground.
Steinberg said attendees will be required to participate in the educational seminars before they can enjoy the evening's entertainment. A site for the conference has not been announced.
Shakur started his career as a dancer for Digital Underground in the early '90s, but upon the release of 2Pacalypse Now, he broke out on his own to forge an acclaimed solo career. The rapper flexed his dramatic muscles as well in his big screen debut, the urban drama "Juice," and films including "Poetic Justice" and "Gridlock'd."
Exploring the divide between his more misogynist, violent lyrics and such tender songs as "Dear Mama" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Fuck the World" (RealAudio excerpt), his 1995 LP Me Against the World entered the charts at #1.
The rapper was shot in a drive-by shooting in September 1996 while in Las Vegas for a Mike TysonBruce Seldon fight; he died six days later at 25. The albums that followed were Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory (1996), released under his literate gangsta alias, Makaveli; R U Still Down? (Remember Me?) (1997); and Greatest Hits (1998).