Tupac’s Suicidal Thoughts, Love of ‘Les Mis,’ and Clash With Janet Jackson
Ever since his tragic death in 1996, Tupac Shakur has become one of pop culture’s most heavily studied subjects. From the abundance of literature about his work, to academic courses on his lyrics, to a barrage of documentaries (including Hulu’s Dear Mama in 2022), there’s been no shortage of interest in the controversial icon who’s considered one of hip-hop’s greatest rappers. This was demonstrated just last week, when a quote from Shakur’s high school friend Jada Pinkett Smith about his alleged proposal to her sent the internet into a debate over his bustling love life.
For those still interested in excavating the nitty-gritty details of Shakur’s life, Tupac Shakur: The Authorized Biography, out Tuesday, may not provide any bombshells. That extends to details about his fatal shooting in Las Vegas, which has recently been in the news as authorities have charged a suspect after 27 years. However, author Staci Robinson, a childhood friend of Shakur’s, makes an epic and tragically human story out of his sprawling mythology, connecting the dots between the most inspirational and unflattering moments of his career, including his 1994 sexual assault conviction.
The 350-page book paints a flawed portrait of a young Black man deeply committed to his craft and his community, driven by heartfelt (albeit misguided) instincts and set back by a slew of legal troubles. Robinson also underscores the sense of dread and paranoia that haunted him his entire life—which was proven true when he was murdered at the age of 25. Still, he managed to lead a vibrant, eventful life amid all the violence and tragedy. Below, see some of the most shocking and fascinating nuggets from Robinson’s biography.
He wanted his family to help him commit suicide.
Following his hospitalization after a terrifying attack at New York’s Quad Studios in 1994—where he was shot five times and left with severe injuries—Shakur became severely depressed. While staying with friend and actress Jasmine Guy in her Manhattan brownstone, Shakur was discovered by his family members “with a shotgun in one hand and a .45 millimeter in the other” and with the words “Fuck The World” written across his forehead.
Shakur’s mother, Afeni, was able to talk her son out of taking his life that day. But the next day, he laid out his plans to commit suicide for his family and friends, with their assistance, “like he was directing a movie.”
“He wanted them to drive to the woods, where he would share one last blunt with Yaki, Mutah, Katari, and Malcolm,” Robinson writes. “Then they would leave him there with his shotgun. ‘When it happens,’ Tupac said, ‘don’t let them touch my body. I don’t want them touching my body. Y’all take my body.’”
Eventually, Shakur overcame this death wish, primarily because he would have needed someone else to kill him. “I just felt all around suicidal,” Tupac later said. “I couldn’t kill myself. I just wanted somebody to kill me for me.”
Shakur and Janet Jackson ended the filming of Poetic Justice on bad terms.
Shakur and Janet Jackson had undeniable chemistry when they starred as love interests in John Singleton’s 1993 classic Poetic Justice. But off screen, their relationship was rocky. It’s known that Shakur took offense when Jackson requested he take an HIV/AIDS test before they kissed in the film. However, in the new biography, Robinson writes that there was also conflict between the two artists over Jackson’s appearance in one of Shakur’s music videos.
“The wrap party for Poetic Justice was bittersweet, largely because of the conflict that had arisen between Tupac and Janet over the video for ‘If My Homie Calls,’” Robinson writes. “A representative of Janet’s had called [Shakur’s manager] Atron [Gregory] asking for Janet to be removed from a few scenes, feeling she was in it ‘too much.’ Tupac was furious and responded by cutting her from the video entirely. At the party, he and Janet saw each other, but according to friends, they maintained their distance.”
He had a close friendship with actor Mickey Rourke.
Shakur worked with Mickey Rourke on the 1996 crime film Bullet, and quickly struck up a friendship with the ’80s screen icon. “Tupac and I are both from the streets,” Rourke recalls in the book. “We were either gonna get along or it was gonna be on. We just clicked.”
“During the film’s production, the two shared a suite at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan,” Robinson writes. “Together, they took advantage of the New York nightlife, trashing their hotel (to the point where Rourke was sued), and frequenting bars across the city.” Apparently, the two caused so much chaos together that they gained a reputation at certain establishments. “We’d be crossing the street to go to a club, and you’d already hear the bouncers say, ‘They’re here together. What are we supposed to do?’” Rourke says.
Tupac’s most treasured friendships were with women.
You could write a 8 ½-style film about the women who made a profound impact on Shakur’s life. One of the female companions Robinson writes about in the book is actress and dancer Rosie Perez. Despite accompanying her to the Soul Train Music Awards in 1993, Shakur never made a move on her, calling her the “type of woman you marry.” (Perez would ultimately introduce him to another illustrious woman he did take on as a lover, Madonna.) There are also several mentions of A Different World star Jasmine Guy, who supported him throughout his 1994 sexual assault trial and visited him on his deathbed.
Of course, there are also plenty of references to Pinkett Smith, who attended Baltimore School for the Arts with Shakur. Among the rapper’s journal entries included in the book is a poem he wrote to the Set It Off star where he describes her as the “omega of [his] heart” and “the foundation 4 [his] conception of love.” However, just as Pinkett Smith has maintained over the years—including in her recently released memoir, Worthy—the two never had a full-on romance.
Shakur really loved the musical Les Misérables.
As a kid growing up in Harlem, Tupac became involved in community theater at a young age, and he continued to study stage-acting during his time at the prestigious Baltimore School for the Arts. In particular, there was one piece of work that captivated the rapper into his adulthood: Les Misérables, based on the novel by Victor Hugo. And his obsession with the musical definitely stuck out in his companions’ minds.
In the biography, his ex-wife Keisha Morris recalls her confusion when the Juice star took her on a date to see Les Mis in New York. (He rebutted to her that it was “a powerful love story.”) Additionally, on his commutes between Los Angeles and the Bay Area for work, Shakur would force his friends to listen to the soundtrack in the car. “Half of the drive, we’d be listening to Les Misérables or Sting,” his stepbrother and fellow Thug Life member Mopreme recalls.
Robinson adds that “everyone in the car would wait until Tupac went to sleep so they could change the music. Unfortunately for them, Tupac rarely slept and the Les Misérables cassette tape got repeated spins. Tupac ignored their complaints. ‘This is my shit right here, man.’”
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