Editor's Note: This week marked the 15th anniversary of Tupac Shakur's death. To commemorate, West Coast Sound is featuring Tupac stories all week. See also:
It's nothing a million stoned motherfuckers haven't said before, but there was just something different about Tupac. He's not the only rapper synonymous with the early '90's, the subjects he sang about were the stock stories of his genre, and there's plenty of artists from the Beach Boys to Phantom Planet that are practically inseparable from the idea of California. But he was just that guy you felt like you knew, you know? He was specific, even as he was multi-sided: he was silly, he was vulnerable, he could be brash, wily, smooth and even threatening. He had an inner life, in other words, which meant his songs lingered longer in those moments when we were really living, and feeling like the selves we were becoming or wanted to become.
Not everyone loved 'Pac, but everyone had nailed down an idea of what he was about, where he came from and what they wanted him to represent in their own lives. So we hit the mean streets and found a few regular Angelenos, just doing their thing, and asked them: 'What's your favorite Tupac memory?' Hint: Lots of people talked about "California Love."
Name: Analisa R.F.
Location Where We Accosted Them: York Boulevard & Avenue 54
Job: Stylist & Writer
Headed From: Walking her dog around the neighborhood
Headed To: Home
Grew Up: San Gabriel
Lives Now: Highland Park
Favorite Track: "To Live & Die in LA," but my story is about "California Love"
It was Christmas day and I was in the ninth grade. My cousin had a new girlfriend that we were pretty sure he was gonna marry. They both had kids, who were hanging out for the first time. They had me spend the day with them. We were in the car and the girlfriend's daughter asks my cousin, 'Hey, how do you turn a car without hitting stuff?,' and my cousin very patiently and scientifically explained how to do this really simple thing, so I was worried the relationship wasn't going to work out because it was such a dumb question. I was a jerk teenager but it was like, 'How could my cousin's kids like [the girlfriend's] kids?' Just as he got done explaining it, "California Love" came on the radio and we all started singing it. And I thought, maybe everything's going to be okay. And then we went home and watched "Silence of the Lambs" even though it was Christmas. They got married a year later and divorced a year after that. The moral being: don't confuse your love of Tupac with the potential success of a union.
Name: Carlos P.
Location Where We Accosted Them: Fair Oaks Avenue, Pasadena
Job: Insurance Agent
Headed From: Work, on lunch break
Headed To: Subway
Grew Up: Gardena (home), Torrance (school)
Lives Now: Santa Monica
Favorite Track: "Changes" and "I Get Around"
Do I have memories with Tupac as the soundtrack? I'm a big Tupac fan, so the answer is yeah. But a specific one? There's this joke I have with some of my friends--this is after Tupac passed away, like five years ago--about that song "Changes." The first line of that song is, "I wake up in the morning and I ask myself, is life worth living or should I blast myself?" It's supposed to be super serious, I guess, but we just think it's funny. For some reason we think it's the funniest line, like, that's a pretty weird way to wake up. Now I can be in my car and hear that song and think of my friends, or one of my buddies will call if they hear it, or just me text that line and I'll start laughing. It's a cool song, it's just a funny first lyric. Also I have to say, "I Get Around," that was a good party jam in college.
Name: Unknown--Older Black Gentleman, Crisp Black Track Pants, Black T-Shirt, Sling on Left Arm
Age: Around 45
Location Where We Accosted Them: 55 Bus Stop, Hill & Adams
Headed From: Unknown
Headed To: Unknown
Grew Up: Not in LA
Lives Now: LA
Favorite Track: None of them
Now see, I wouldn't have any interest in that. People spend too much time, they're not concentrating on what's real. The dead are dead. All these black people out here in L.A., they're one or two generations off farms in Arkansas and Tennessee, they come out here and have no culture, no ties, they just take up whatever media is given to them. This black gangster culture, people think that is real. Celebrities used to be celebrities, not idols. What goes into your ears and heart is what you become--junk in, junk out. Junk in, junk out. [Gets on the bus.]
Name: Sarah B.
Location Where We Accosted Them: Main Quad, USC
Job: Freelance Journalist
Headed From: Computer lab
Headed To: Lunch
Grew Up: The Valley
Lives Now: LBC
Favorite Track: "California Love"
"California Love" is just the sound of growing up in California in the '90s. I remember watching it on TV as a kid and not really understanding the context of it at the time--they're out in the desert, and they're in war gear, and I didn't know the whole gangster rap connotations at all at the time, but it just made me feel like, this is, like, LA in the summer. And maybe just because I listened to too much Power 106 growing up...I was one of those latch-key kids and did a lot of after-school care and the camp counselors would always bump that, so I got really into TLC early on and this was just an extension of that. I would have been like 9 years old. But it definitely just felt like LA, like it would have felt wrong to listen to it in another city. And I remember Snoop Dogg and stuff coming out too, but that was the first song that made me bob my head, [laughs] I don't think I was, uh, bobbin' before that.