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A Prophetic Vision of Shakur

Pop music: Death Row releases music video made three months ago depicting the rapper being slain.

September 20, 1996|JERRY CROWE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the opening seconds of a painfully prophetic video that debuted Wednesday night on MTV, slain rap star Tupac Shakur walks into an ambush--much like the real-life incident that killed him.

As he and a friend step from a building, shots ring out from a shadowy assailant and Shakur falls to the ground amid shouting and chaos. The scene then shifts to the inside of an ambulance, where the camera shows the Shakur character's view of paramedics working frantically to keep him alive.

"He's going down," cries an attendant.

"No pulse. . . . "

"He's gone."

The startling scenes are from "I Ain't Mad at Cha," a video that was filmed three months before Shakur's death last Friday in Las Vegas, where six days earlier he had been shot four times by unknown gunmen while riding in a car near the lavish Strip.

In the video's next scene, Shakur is dressed all in white as he is welcomed to heaven by an actor depicting comedian Redd Foxx. Gathered around a piano are actors portraying other famous entertainers, including Bob Marley, Cab Calloway, Dorothy Dandridge, Nat King Cole, Billie Holiday, Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, Josephine Baker, Louis Armstrong, Donny Hathaway, Sammy Davis Jr. and Marvin Gaye.

Shakur, who recorded under the name 2Pac, then returns to Earth as an angel to comfort an old friend, hoping to earn his wings and return permanently to heaven.

"It was his idea, top to bottom," the video's director, J. Kevin Swain, said Thursday. "It was all out of his brain."

Swain noted that Shakur was adamant about who would be in heaven.

"We didn't want to be judgmental," said the director, who filmed the video over two nights in June at locations in Hancock Park and downtown Los Angeles. "He was real strong about Redd Foxx and Miles Davis being in heaven."

Darryl James, editor in chief and co-owner of the L.A.-based hip-hop magazine Rap Sheet, believes the video will touch an emotional cord among Shakur fans.

"It blows my mind," he said. "It's art imitating life, or art imitating reality. It's very eerie. It really put me in a deep sadness."

But is it appropriate for Death Row Records, Shakur's Beverly Hills-based label, to release the video of the gently soothing song from the rapper's hit "All Eyez on Me" album so soon after his death?

"Obviously, a lot of people are going to say, 'Wow, that's pretty morbid,' " James said. "But at the same time, the idea could be, 'Let's put the video out because it will give people some solace to see that maybe he's going to heaven.'

"That video showed me that, even though he did some things in his life, there's still a possibility for him to go to heaven. I know a lot of people--especially people who didn't like him--are saying, 'Oh, no. He's burning in hell.' But they don't know that."

Marion "Suge" Knight, head of Death Row, said in an interview with The Times before the MTV airing on Wednesday that he is only carrying out Shakur's wishes by continuing to promote the rapper's music.

"Death Row was his family, Death Row was his world," Knight said. "One thing he wanted to do was to see Death Row continually grow. When you lose somebody as close as Pac was to me, you want to grant every wish."

Rather than add the video to its regular rotation, MTV is airing it only during news breaks.

"While it's very unfortunate timing and unusual timing to have a video like this so soon after he died, we thought our audience would want to see it," said Patti Galluzzi, senior vice president of music programming at MTV. "But we wanted to show it in a responsible way. Not do it so much as, 'This is entertainment,' but more like, 'This is something you'll want to see,' from a news angle."

Times staff writer Shawn Hubler contributed to this report

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