If Tupac Were Here Today (Would He Be Here Today?)

Tupac Shakur is phenomenal. I use present tense because his influence is still with us today. Just like in our minds how fictional characters never die, same with ‘Pac.

I’m sure you all are aware of the rumors about how he’s hiding out in Cuba. Again I ask, if Tupac were here today, would he be here today? I don’t believe that he would be hiding out, when the world is in flux. Not after he catalyzed the modern resistance which the world is facing right now, by addressing police brutality that plagues inner cities, by addressing how the black community has been underserved and left vulnerable to poverty and sickness.

He is, in many minds, a symbol of the resistance against inequality. His words resonate with not only the fans who were there to witness his ascension in the music industry, but with kids and activists today, who are younger than I was at the time he was shifting the paradigm of gangsta rap away from the murderous depictions of Black on Black crime, to the social injustices that keep a knee on the neck of the Black and Brown community.

Tupac is here today. He’s in everyone who is involved in the struggle. I think he’d be proud at the fact that the foundation he laid out for the people has been bucked but not broken. In a sense, all eyez are on him, on me, on we. Happy bornday, Tupac. The shit ain’t over…

Loup D in a limited edition 2Pac Collection hoodie by Oakbay Fits

Burning Down The House

“We have fought hard and long for integration, as I believe we should have, and I know that we will win. But I’ve come to believe we’re integrating into a burning house.

I’m afraid that America may be losing what moral vision she may have had …. And I’m afraid that even as we integrate, we are walking into a place that does not understand that this nation needs to be deeply concerned with the plight of the poor and disenfranchised. Until we commit ourselves to ensuring that the underclass is given justice and opportunity, we will continue to perpetuate the anger and violence that tears at the soul of this nation.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

It’s 2020 and integration is a reality. Even though Black people are seeing the fruits of Dr. King’s dream, we are still experiencing the nightmare of oppression in America. Nearly thirty years ago, Rodney King became the first victim caught on tape in a case of police brutality, and Los Angeles and the country let their voices be heard at the absurdity of the trial and the system that allowed the four officers to walk away without lawful rebuke for their savagery.

Obviously, George Floyd’s televised lynching is a tipping point. We cannot have another outcome like the Rodney King trial. The whole world is watching. It’s rivals are calling the killing of George Floyd a symbol of America’s hypocrisy. The great defender of democracy and free speech uses military tactics against protesters marching against oppression against Black people. How dare America judge other countries about human rights atrocities?

People revel in the unifying language of the “I Have A Dream” speech, but who knew that even the great Reverend himself could see WTF was up with the mess Black people were about to get into, seeking equality in White American culture. Why do we have to seek equality? I thought that was a Constitutional given. The Black Lives Matter movement is asking this integrated society for the same things Dr. King and his followers asked their segregated society. What does that say about how far we’ve come and how far we have to go? It’s a deep seated anger that needs to be quelled. We’re tired of being afraid, waiting, not breathing…

Daddy Loup

I still remember the fear I was struck with whenever I knew I was going to get an ass whipping; I remember the smell of bitter tears welling in my nostrils as I held them back from my eyes. The anticipation of feeling the sting from a hardened leather belt, at least 42 inches in length, doubled over so that it wouldn’t flail and lose its power as it came hurtling towards my young, tender brown skin, over and over again seemed an eternity. The unleashing of the punishment seemed to last longer.

“STOP! STOP! I WON’T DO IT AGAIN DADDY! I PROMISE! I PROMISE! PLEASE STOP!!” My cries overlapped with the rhythm of the strap, as daddy punctuated each blow with a staccato warning to never ever do it again, and didn’t I tell you not to do that I’m tired of you doing this shit are you going to do it again, huh, huh, huh?

That shit seems funny in retrospect to a lot of people in my age bracket. Many a Black comedian brings back memories of these vicious attacks in their routines because it’s something a lot of us can relate to; it’s a memory that just doesn’t go away for most of us. For some of us, the memories got buried in a time capsule, someplace deep inside wherever lost memories dwell. The feelings of anger and helplessness unconsciously spill into our lives, our relationships. For others, it served as the conditioning for the model of how to deal with their children’s misbehaviors, as well as an outlet for the pain that was inflicted upon them.

It’s hard to believe a lot of the facts floating around during these days of sequestration, but believe this: there are a lot of ass whippings happening in the world today. Some would argue that it’s the thing to do to keep the kids in line, as both parent and child struggle with how to deal with their upended lives. It’s stressful for everybody, and all those ass whippings are creating a generation of abuse victims who will be living in a post-pandemic world that has socially distanced itself to complacency. And be aware that there are other types of abuse going on that I won’t even mention, but the psychologically scarred index is definitely on the uptick for the AlphaGens.

In a worse-case scenario, I see a future painted by conspiracy theories with Orwellian accuracy, as a low self-esteemed, mollified society moves about under the watchful eye of an angry god, ready to inflict pain upon a mostly damaged and diminished population, the masters themselves victims of what they perpetrate. The rosy alternative is that awareness about the oncoming purge of pain will lead to a surge in resources to help such a civilization to deal with the after effects of quarantine.

Consider these things while you watch death tolls rise and gas prices fall. There will be a lot of ups and downs on this journey. Consider how you respond to your upbringing. Is it a reflection of joy or pain? If it’s joy, you are one of the lucky ones. If it is pain, consider the alternative if you can. If you have kids or you are a kid, don’t take take your pain out on the other person. Seek help. Now’s a good time to call a friend because you know they’re at home, plus there are all kinds of online resources for mental health counseling. One of the good things about being stuck at home is that everyone is trying to reach out on the giving and receiving ends.

This is just daddy Loup talking. I have two sons and I don’t whip their asses, because I remember how it felt. There are other ways to drill respect into your kids’ persona without tearing down their will. Kids are going to do unthinkable things, sometimes to figure out how something in life works, sometimes for the thrill. Let the punishment fit the alleged transgression. I think each generation gets bolder because restraints never made much of a difference to young people in any generation so they will always test the limits. I just don’t allow the reactions that hurt me in the past hurt my children now; and I hope one day, the ass whipping curve will flatten too.

R.I.P, K & G

There are few celebrity deaths that hit home with me. They hit me deep because I shared a special, personal bond with these great people of talent. The first that comes to mind is Biggie. He was an east coast brotha who died on the streets of LA, in front of the building where I went shopping for school clothes with my mom when I was a kid. Then Tupac, only four short years after we bumped fists in Hollywood when I was a fledging journalist on the hustle. And speaking of hustle, Nipsey bit to the core too, when he got gone. I never met the brotha, but I knew his tags in the hood. They were EVERYWHERE. I would see them and be like, that nigga Nipsey is putting in work!

Today, is a heartbreaker. For all Angelenos who bleed purple and gold, the man named Kobe Bryant was more than a Laker star. He was our favorite son who never left the house. He stayed and played to the pinnacles of his athletic performance so that he and we could enjoy the fruits of his labor: 5 NBA Championships!

I remember when he joined the team in 1996. Me and my roommate Ernest would each buy a BK Double Meal with a Sprite from Burger King, and a pint of Vanilla Fudge Häagen-Dazs on game nights and go home to watch our team go to work. We’d be so pissed if we were down in the third quarter against a team, we knew we should’ve been whooping the whole night. When the fourth quarter would come around, we watched Kobe do his thing: his graceful stride, his arrogant dribble, his powerfully artful finish from any spot on the court, but especially above the rim. No one could match him consistently.

I met Kobe on Wednesday, August 19, 2015. I was on a documentary crew filming Kobe at his office in Newport Beach, CA. After setting up, I went over to Starbucks across the street on a coffee run. I got in line, and who was standing in front of me but Kobe and Gianna? They stepped to the counter and placed their order. None of the employees were fazed by his presence, which told me he frequented that Starbucks often. I placed my order, and as he was about to leave, I got his attention and introduced myself. “I’m Lawrence with the crew that’s shooting you today at your office. Dang dog, I didn’t know you had so much going on!” Kobe had an office with MANY rooms, and in each room, there was a different project going on in some phase of development. “Well you’re going to learn a lot today, but you can’t tell anybody!” He reared his head back slowly and gave me that knowing look coupled with that famous grin. “Let’s go, G,” and he and his daughter walked out the door. Later on after the interview, I wanted to get a picture with him, but since I am always the professional at work, I didn’t press him when he said he had to leave. Now that I think about it, I should’ve hit him up at Starbucks in fan mode, so all I ended up getting were two shots from the balcony of his offices to show for my visit… and a call sheet.

The weather was ugly in LA today for a reason. It was ugly before I got the news about Kobe from a Facebook friend on Messenger. I then told my son and AirDropped the TMZ report from my phone to him. A slow unease gripped me for the rest of day. My sister was hysterical. I didn’t even talk to my mom today. Instead, I carried through with my plan to give my older son his first driving lesson and celebrate with pizza afterwards. I was supposed to watch the Grammys tonight with my girl, but the pizza got the best of me (To get an idea of my relationship with food the past few years, check out the blog posts Hospitalized, Hospitalized – Do, and Hospitalized – Redo) so I stayed home.

And this is what I wrote. Rest in power, KB.

View from Kobe Bryant’s office in Newport Beach, CA

I’m Coming Back

I’ve been living life, and life is good.

I want to share a journal entry from a year ago this very day. I’m in a better space now.

I’m working on an epic piece to share with you all soon that’ll let you know what’s been the focus of my life for the last 12 months. For now, enjoy this past participle…

I feel like I don’t want to talk to anyone anymore.

I mean, what’s the point, unless you’re tryna to communicate something that’s going to make a difference somehow.
I guess I’m tired of everyone’s opinion being right. I’m looking for the truth, not opinions. Is it wrong for people to believe what they want to believe in, even though it goes against what we believe? Who’s right? Who’s telling the truth?
Alternative facts are real. The 7 Chinese Brothers proved that…or was it the 3 Blind Chinamen? The story about some dudes feeling on an elephant, and each one of them describes the body part they’re feeling as if it were something else, like a tail for a rope or a leg as a tree trunk. It’s an elephant, but each one sees what they want to see. How am I different? I can see what they all see, and see why they can see it. There’s not a lot of people I know who can do that. I guess that’s why we stay on the fringe. We be looking at the mayhem. Though we see the whole, we play our part, which means we’re just as much a part of the mess!
My Lord, spare me the retribution of the last days. I can smell the end coming. I’ll do what I can, but forgive me for the rest, okay? And can I have some nice things in my life again? And please don’t let me die lonely and crazy.

How I Shot Tupac

 

April 11, 1992. I was a writer for a magazine called No Sellout: The Tip-Top-Hip-Hop-Raggamuffin-Black-Rock-Mag-Rag. It was the first time I used the Loupy D moniker in print. One day I was walking around Hollywood soliciting “donations” for the publications to make soem extra dollars. As I walked by the Pig and Whistle on Hollywoood Blvd. I look in, and there was Tupac sitting at the bar alone, drinking beer from a mug. I walked in and sat next him. “Check out this magazine ‘Pac. I got the cover story,” I bragged. He reached in his pocket and gave me a couple of dollars. We talked about one article on misogyny in hip hop adn agreed that the community had to come together to stop all the self hatred we were inflicting on one another in the music. After our chat, he invited me to come to the release party for his debut album 2Pacalypse Now. I told him that I was already on the guest list because of the magazine, so we peaced out and I went on my way.

I bought a disposable, black and white 35mm camera from the Thriftys on the corner of La Brea and Rodeo. Later that night I got to Glam Slam, Prince’s old club on Boylston Street downtown. I couldn’t wait to see this brotha perform. I loved the energy he put out on stage as a backup dancer for Digital Underground; the same with his performance in the video when he dropped the verse on Same Song. I knew that he was going to give it up that night for his debut release party. Surprisingly, there weren’t many people at the show: mostly industry execs and a few heads from the underground community.

In 1992, Tupac was another brotha in the game coming up and shining his light. Who knew what he would become in the span of his short career and beyond? For millions, he represented the reawakening of a black activist movement that took a nap during the narcissistic decades of the 70’s and 80’s. He, along with other rappers, writers and influencers of Generation X, was a beacon for a future that has not forgotten the original resolve of the hip hop spirit, which is each one teach one, earn our fair share, and share it with the culture.

You can buy merchandise featuring photos from the night by clicking here.

Still, life.

My writing habit has taken a backseat to my living habit. Three months ago I explained how I have to wait for inspiration. The fact is that I only have to wait for a time when there are no distractions. I have a friend who is going through the same struggles. With two young girls to raise on her own, her writing time has been choked off. Like me, she shares her real life adventures in pictures rather than words via Instagram.

Photography has always been my other love, even before writing came into the picture. Honestly, I should make Instagram my blog. A picture is worth a thousand words, right? If that’s the case, I have more than fulfilled my writing quota for the year, and here we are already in autumn.

Follow me on my Instagram account.

Book update: (The Real Struggle)

I’m here, trying to capture the healing energy of writing. I haven’t taken a chance to blog in a long time, but my journal has been working overtime. Blogs take too long to create, because I get caught up editing them trying to get all the tags and keywords right, in hopes of getting thousands of hits to my site. I’m not a big deal to most people so I chalk up my efforts to wishful viral thinking.

Writing a book is a lot harder than I thought too, especially a memoir. You’d think it would be easy to think of all the memories in your life and put them down on paper. It’s not. There were a lot steps to get from a summer journal, to a full on autobiographical sketch, to a first draft, to a thesis project, to a publication in progress; a lot of tears, a lot of decisions on additions and omissions, and a lot of unblocked memories attest to the effort it takes to accept one’s faults, fates and fears. I’m forcing myself to face down the things that led to this time in my life, and this blog gives my readers some insights on the concurrent circumstances of life I tangle with while dealing with my past in a poetic and literary way.

I can tell you that fatherhood has had a huge impact on my writing habits. Writing is a dream in progress, nebulous and free-flowing, coming to fruition when I least expect it, appreciating the moments when it happens. Fatherhood is a reality in progress, steadfast, uncompromising, something I can expect to face everyday and appreciating it always. I now know how parents can get so wrapped up in their kids’ lives and lose touch with themselves. I have witnessed the power of the attention shifting perils of parenthood!

So the book took a backseat for a while…and the blogging. It’s summertime and I’m feeling ripe to type up some more marvelous stuff, though. A corner is turning as one kid starts kindergarten and the other high school. What a spread, right? I’m going to be young forever! Now I have to bend a corner and get my writing flow on go again.

Send me some encouragement. I need feedback. Are you, or do you know someone who is a parent-writer? I’d love to hear the challenges you go through.

NatGeo’s The Race Issue

I came across this article as I was beginning my home workout regimen from my iPad. It was enough to prompt a much needed blog post.

There’s No Scientific Basis For Race-It’s A Made-Up Label

It’s been used to define and separate people for millennia. But the concept of race is not grounded in genetics.

Around 2000, I did some independent research that led me down a linguistic rabbit hole. I was publishing a book based on the words peace, please and thank you. It was a children’s book, and the writer wanted to translate those words into every language in the world.

After exhausting my 7-language dictionary, we turned to a nascent internet as an additional resource to our faithful trips to the local library. Our research uncovered a map that traced the roots of the first languages, and their transmission throughout the world, from the womb of Africa, to the vast stretches of the Pacific islands. Words have propagated and mutated, like a strand of DNA, adapting to and defining the environment in which they survive.

The article reminded me of that adventure. I learned that language is a tool that can be divisive and unifying, just as a concept like race. When you break words down to their roots, break down the strands and look at their genetics, you see they come from the same source. The same with people, and like DNA strands, each is a little tweaked here and there, but still coming from a common place, no matter how we choose to define ourselves.