Last month a rare video emerged of a 1993 Tupac Shakur performance at Prince’s Glam Slam West nightclub.
In the incredibly rare video, taken on April 11h 1992, viewers can see Tupac giving an energetic performance. He performs hits from his debut album, 2Pacalypse Now, including Trapped and Brenda’s Got A Baby.
As time has gone by, the emergence of rare video footage and photographs of Tupac is comparable to gold dust to many music fans. Lawrence Dotson, also known as Loupy D, is the photographer who is responsible for capturing one of Tupac’s earliest performace on camera.
Loupy D, is a Los Angeles area writer, photographer and film producer. He’s had a 12-year career as a hip-hop journalist in the Golden Era of Hip-Hop. On top of that, Lawrence was the author of an academic article. This was titled, ‘Persona in Progression: A Look At Creative Nonfiction Literature In Civil Rights and Rap’.
In this O4L Online Network exclusive interview, Loupy D talks about his career in hip-hop journalism and meeting Tupac Shakur. We also get an insight into the mind-set the young Tupac was in, as Loupy D tells of his personal interaction with the future hip hop icon.
O4L Online: Loupy D, you have been around the hip-hop scene as a journalist and photographer since the early nineties. How did you get into photography and what drew you into hip-hop?
My dad was a hobby photographer, so I picked up the shutterbug from him. Since middle school, I was the one who always had the camera at get togethers with family and friends. In the late eighties/early nineties, I started doing landscape and street photography, taking pictures of the west and south sides of LA and the beaches. Hip-hop had been around for me at the advent. We were banging beats on our lunch boxes in grade school to Rapper’s Delight! I’ve always been a fan of the genre. But it wasn’t until I started writing in ’91 when I felt like a part of the culture. So naturally, I brought my love of photography into the mix to record it.
O4L Online: Early on in your career, you wrote for an underground magazine called No Sellout. It covered topics such as police brutality, politics and hip-hop. Looking back, some describe the nineties as the golden age of the music genre. Describe how hip-hop community was back then and how the music related to what you saw on the streets?
Its dangerous being on the streets of LA back then. Reality rap held no punches when telling the stories of what was going on. From a journalist’s perspective, the music was not only entertainment for the people. It more importantly shed light on the problems in the black community, creating an atmosphere of crime and corruption.
It was a wake-up call for us to become self-sufficient and aware to stairway from the pitfalls of dangerous living. Rap turned political because the lyrics and content made people react, all the way to Capitol Hill. Women in hip-hop were speaking out against misogynistic lyrics. Activists were calling for peace and an end to violence in hip-hop. Then there were artists who served to the partying crowd.
A lot of voices emerged and were born under this young form of expression, and the mega-budget videos put it out there for everyone to see. People call it the golden age because it was the time when hip-hop emerged from the underground. It blossomed into the number one cultural music in the world today.
While you were selling the No Sellout magazine you came into contact with a young, emerging artist. This artist was Tupac Shakur. What was your first meeting with Tupac like?
Tupac was a regular in the LA underground scene. You could catch him at any local hip-hop night, waiting for his turn to get on the mic like everyone else. Well, one day I was walking down Hollywood Blvd. I saw him sitting at the bar in a pub called the Pig ‘n’ Whistle. I stepped up to him and showed him a copy of No Sellout. He gave me a couple of dollars and I sat down and showed him my articles. We chatted for a little bit. When I got up to leave, he told me that he was performing at the club that night. He wanted me to come through. We gave each other a pound and I was out.
O4L Online: Speaking of the evening of April 11th 1992, at Prince’s Glam Slam West nightclub, you witnessed Tupac perform. Can you remember what the atmosphere was like?
The vibes were nice. Being an industry party so it was guest list only. The first pic I got of 2Pac was of him entering the stage door into the club. Once inside, I moved throughout the crowd during the performance, taking as many pictures from as many different angles as I could. All the other pictures on that roll of film are shots of me and my friends, enjoying the party.
O4L Online: Tupac was known for the great interaction with his audience. In the rare video which surfaced recently, he performs Brenda’s Got A Baby. Connecting with his fans, he handed out roses to all the females. What was their reaction to this thoughtful act?
All the ladies loved it! I invited my girlfriend and her friend, and they both got roses! Tupac got props from all the ladies for doing that.
O4L Online: You captured some of the earliest and rarest photographs of Tupac performing live that evening. So for you, not only did you see him perform live but your work is part of his legacy. Did you ever think at that time that the artist you were capturing would become a cultural icon?
When I left Tupac at the pub, the first thing I did when I got back to my neighborhood was stop at the local drug store and bought a disposable B&W camera. Like I said, I was always the guy at the gatherings with a camera. This was no different. He showed me love for buying a magazine. The least I could do was take pictures of his performance and share them with him later. I never got that chance, even though I met up with him two other times after that night.
O4L Online: Tupac’s message is still relevant today, with police brutality, poverty and homelessness still as big of a worldwide problem. After talking to him and capturing his passion, what do you think Tupac would be doing in today’s world?
He would have the same influence over the hearts and minds of his fans and followers today. The Tupac I knew today would be a worldwide ambassador and advocate for the poor and oppressed. He was raised with a conscious ideology. So his message had everyone questioning the status quo: why were things so bad for people of color? If the ambition for his quest for a better way of life hadn’t consumed him at such an early age and stage in his career, his voice would be at the forefront of the cause.
O4L Online: You were recently included on a panel discussing the history of hip-hop and hip-hop photography. Did this bring back memories of the golden age of hip-hop?
The panel was held in conjunction with a hip-hop photo gallery exhibition here in Los Angeles. Discussion focused on the history of hip-hop in LA. Before hip-hop, there was a very lively party scene in the ’70s. The roots of hip-hop in LA started with the help of club promoter Alonzo Williams. Also DJ Greg Mack, who created the first all-rap format AM radio station in America,1580 KDAY. They played and promoted hip-hop music and allowed MCs to perform in front of live audiences. In the ’80s, dance crews dominated the club scene. You had crews from different high schools battling each other at mega parties like Uncle Jam’s Army and Ultrawave.
By the time the golden age was dawning in LA, street crime was rising. This made it hard for the youth to hangout and flourish, with violence breaking out at social functions frequently. The 90’s saw a rise in hip-hop journalism. You had a lot of magazines coming out of different parts of the country, covering local and national artists. Musically, hip-hop was in its golden age. However, the social justice conditions from which hip-hop arose weren’t shining in that golden glow.
O4L Online: Being involved in hip-hop for almost thirty years, what do you think of the state of the culture today?
When I retired from freelance journalism in 2003, I turned my back on hip-hop for a while. I went back to acoustic music – jazz, vintage R&B, world music and rock. Looking at how much had changed in hip-hop over my twelve-year stretch, neck-deep in the game. I saw how commercialized it had gotten. People tried to stop rap from happening as a movement.
A lot of the spirit of old school hip-hop kind of got lost in the economics of rap. The past decade saw a lapse in talented MCs coming with anything that stands for the culture. Kendrick Lamar comes closest to embodying that spirit. You can see how the influence of his lyrics has touched the world. Nipsey Hussle was the living embodiment of self-sufficiency, laying down the blueprint for the streets. Kendrick’s Pulitzer Prize moment and Nipsey’s tragic testimonial of real-life give me hope that the culture is not dead, nor is it sleeping. Hip-hop culture is woke and well.
The prized photos of Tupac and a collection of photos taken during the 1992 L.A. Riots taken by Loupy D are the subjects of an upcoming art exhibit in Lille, France called 2Pacalypse92: 17 Shots.
Head over to the official Instagram account of Loupy D.