Marlon Wayans Remembers His Friendship with Tupac Shakur
My boy Omar [Epps] put me up on ’Pac. I was always into the party songs, so I was like, “Oh, he’s fucking with humpty-hump. That’s it I’m there.” I met ’Pac when he was doing Juice with Omar Epps, who’s my best friend. I was at Howard University at the time. I was like, I’m not ready to act. I’m gonna go do college, and then I’m gonna act. I would come up to the set of Juice, and I met ’Pac there. We all got along ’cause ’Pac, like myself and Omar, is a performance art high school kid. We just kinda got along because we all came from the hood, but you know once you go through that school it kinda washes you out a little bit. It got the rough edges off. His stayed a little more rough than ours, but that was hip-hop.
When [we] did Above the Rim I didn’t hang with him as much as I wanted to because he had a lot shit going on during that time. He had a lot of dudes around him and my mom was like – and this is when I listened to my mother ’cause I fresh out the house – “Watch out for the element that he has around him. Sometimes it’s not the person, it’s about who’s around him.” I took heed to that, and it kept me out of trouble. That’s when he went through the whole rape charge thing. I was in the same hotel as him. That’s [also] when he got the shot [and] had the shootout in Atlanta. So much happened during Above the Rim. “Is he gonna make to the set today or not?” Working with him taught me so much about work ethic and being a beast.
A lot of different stuff that was going on in terms of his life. To me, it was one of the lowest… a low high period for him. It was before his jail time, and so much had happened during that little three months of working on that movie. When he came out [of jail] man, he was just a Phoenix rising from the ashes. He was on some next level because it wasn’t the guy rhyming about it – he actually became it. It was tough for him because sometimes he was a leader that followed. He was a giving dude and sometimes he let his heart and other things lead him astray. Me, I have the guidance of five—of my mom, my dad, my brothers, my sisters – you know I get a Wayans beat down if I have the wrong people around me.
If ’Pac was alive for this generation, I think he would’ve been a great part of listening—a generation that so needs it. You know the ’90s was the ’90s. I don’t know what the year 2000-2010 is. I can’t tell you. There’s no definition really, and nobody’s really stepped up in that way. ’Pac was more than a rapper; he was more than an actor. I think Pac was a voice and a movement, and [he] had so much potential. It’s just so sad to see his years cut short because I really feel like he would’ve been so impactful. He was politically aware and socially aware, and I think he would’ve been able to dig his hands into the ground in a deeper way. Here’s a guy that can do a song about shooting your face off and the next song about his mama. And he making thugs cry across the world. You gotta respect a guy that can go from 0 to 120 and everywhere in between. To me, that’s the saddest thing about him not being here.
[When he passed], I coped with it the same way I cope with everything, jokes. I remember the good times, and that’s what gets me through and keeps me laughing. ’Pac was a conflicted dude. He was half gangsta and half performing arts high school kid – half activist. he was a lot of things and so but the performing arts high school kid and he was funny. Pac was really funny. That’s what people don’t know about [him]. I used to always teasse him. I used to call him the Palmolive Thug ’cause if you ever touch his hand…the boy had the softest hands in the world. Like softest hands with really nice manicured nails [and] a little bit of weed stuck in them. We used to laugh and I used to tell him he had eyes Snuffleupagus. Like how you gon’ be a gangsta with Snuffleupagus eyes. What kind of gangsta is that? You a thug in Sesame Street? You know what I’m sayin? You know, real long eyelashes. But it was just me and him being silly. We was kids when we was around each other. I think it was good for him to have that.
I really miss what he would’ve been for this generation but you know his music lives on like no others. The man was more productive in his afterlife than he was on Earth. How amazing is that? That’s what artists don’t understand. People are always like, Oh, I’m waiting on my deal. No, you just work. This is expression just do it. ’Pac was an artist, man. Look at what he did in his short little life.
We had a great chemistry on set like a great trust. Pac had layers, man. You know he could make you dance, he could make you think, he could make you cry, he could make you want to shoot somebody’s face off. He was just a—you know it takes a hell of an artist to do that. I remember when he did—I actually saw him and Biggie perform together. ’Pac invited me down to Grand Slam. I went down there to go say what’s up to him, and him and Biggie was performing. This was when Biggie was new. He was performing “Party and Bullshit.” There’s a famous picture of Biggie and s’Pac from that night at Grand Slam and it’s like their Malcolm and Martin shot and I’m in the background. I’m in the background looking at them both. I saw both of them 20 minutes before they both died.