When I was young, me and my mama had beef / 17 years old, kicked out on the streets / Though back at the time I never thought I'd see her face / Ain't a woman alive that could take my mama's place
Afeni Shakur, the mother of the late great Tupac and the inspiration for his famous record "Dear Mama," has died at the age of 69.
According to the Marin County Sheriff's office, deputies responded to a report of a possible cardiac arrest at her home in Sausalito, California at 9:34 PM on Monday evening. She was later transported to the hospital where she was pronounced dead at 10:28 PM.
An author, businesswoman, philanthropist, political activist and the purveyor of her song's estate and recordings, Shakur's legacy inside and out of the music business runs deep. Rather than minimize her life's work and the impact it had on the world to just one sentence, I'd like to share a personal story.
Back in 2005, while earning a bachelors degree at Illinois State University, I worked for WZND, the award-winning college radio station on campus. During the spring semester of my junior year, while serving as the station's Music Director, I decided to take up a collection to support the "One Brick at a Time" campaign for the now-closed Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Art in Stone Mountain, Georgia.
To help promote the fundraiser the station, and by station, I mean myself and my radio partner Suava, reached out to Afeni's publicist, asking if she would be available for a special Black History Month interview. To our surprise, our request was granted.
We prepped day and night for the interview for two straight weeks, researching every aspect of her life and the life of her late son. We spent over 20 hours in total trying to perfect a slate of interview questions. We had interviewed a pre-fame Gucci Mane, a currently famous (at the time) Nappy Roots, and countless underground rap acts, but this was Afeni Shakur. We had to bring our A+ game!
Unfortunately, due to an extensive travel schedule promoting both a new book and the film Tupac Resurrection, Shakur became ill and was forced to cancel the interview. We tried to reschedule, for three weeks we went back and forth with her representatives, but alas the interview just wasn't in the cards.
Shortly after Phife Dawg passed away in March, Nathan expressed regret over not interviewing the ATCQ member while he was still walking among us. Almost immediately after Shakur canceled our interview, though she was alive and in overall good health, I felt the same way. Though I had no idea that 11 years later I'd still be working in music, I always thought that I would get another chance to speak with her. Now that isn't possible.
Shakur leaves behind an incredible legacy, one that includes birthing one of the most important figures in rap history and that will never be forgotten. Thank you, Afeni.
By DJ Z, aka DJBooth.
Photo Credit: Instagram