Brooklyn native and Hip Hop fashion designer legend Karl Kani appeared on Mouv, the French youth-oriented radio station. During the interview Kani spoke about the first time he met Tupac Shakur and how much Tupac charged him for an ad.
Born in Costa Rica and raised in Brooklyn in the eighties, Karl Kani saw first hand the raise of Hip Hop. “Its awesome, because we was there at the beginning of Hip Hop culture. Me and my friends, we use to have a DJ crew back then. Everybody wanted to rap. Everybody wanted to be apart of the culture.”
Kani was no different. He loved and appreciated the culture, and would find a way to contribute. Early on Karl Kani flirted with the idea of rapping, something that he admits wasn’t easy. “I tried rapping, and I couldn’t get the words together. Rapping is very difficult, so then I started DJing. So I was a DJ. I was pretty good at that. So then all my friends kept saying when I danced I was off beat.”
Not to be discouraged and still hoping to contribute to the culture, Karl Kani looked towards a different avenue. “So, I said if I can’t be in the music business, at least I want to start dressing the rappers then. So, that kinda lead me into a different part of the culture in a different matter,” explains Karl Kani.
Directing his passion for the culture in a different direction, would allow Kani to impact the game with fashion. Working with the likes of Puff Daddy, Biggie Smalls, and Tupac Shakur.
Despite working with many artists, Kani ranks Tupac as “the most realest” of them all. That high praise comes with good reason. “The best conversations I’ve had is with Aaliyah and Tupac. Tupac was the most realest one,” says Karl Kani. “I met him at the hotel in Beverley Hills back in 1994. And, I really wanted to meet him so I go to his room and he is sitting in his room typing a script on his laptop, or whatever he had. Typing a script to a movie.”
“We’re having a very intelligent conversation. This is one thing – he never looked at me. He’s talking to me, never looked at me in the eye. So, I’m talking to him but this dude will not look at me. He’s smoking blunt after blunt after blunt, and he didn’t pass the blunt around by the way. He’s smoking and he’s high,” recalls Karl Kani.
With Tupac still not making eye contact, Kani was looking for an opportunity to ask Tupac if he was interested in doing an ad for his clothing brand. “So, I remember room service came and knocked on the door. They came in, and I remember they had towels on their face because so much smoke in the room. And, I said Ima ask him now, ‘Ayo Pac, like how much do you charge to do an ad?’. He just got really quiet. He didn’t say anything, and I’m thinking to myself I shouldn’t have asked him.”
Tupac would finally break his silence and surprise Kani with his reply. “So, he goes, ‘Yo you black. I don’t charge my people nothing’. And the man kept his word. Two weeks later he’s in New York, he did the photo shoot. Then he says ‘Hold on, I want one thing’. Then he goes I want you to put Thug Life in some of the ads with me, his crew,” says Karl Kani.