Sekyiwa Shakur: Revolutionary Kinship
After Tupac Shakur’s untimely death ten years ago today, his family fought for the control of his unreleased work and presented it to the world – in the process, selling millions of records, creating a successful clothing line, and producing an Oscar-nominated film. While Afeni Shakur was the engine that powered the franchise and is still going strong to this day, another Shakur, Tupacs sister is another cog in the machine.
Known as just “Set” to family and friends, Pac’s younger sister Sekyiwa – born two years after Pac to Afeni and Dr. Mutulu Shakur – knew Tupac and his idiosyncrasies long before his ascend to the top, and as his sibling, can offer a sobering perspective. Attending high school in New York, she watched from afar as Pac took used Hip-Hop as a platform to address social ills and give an unapologetic, eye-opening look into the lives of young Black men in America.
Herself still battling issues that arise from being a descendant of a revolutionary Black woman in America, Set Shakur is coming into her own with a motivational book and a clothing line in the works. For the tenth anniversary of her beloved brother’s death, however, she took AllHipHop on a journey through her childhood growing up with Pac to the present, offering up some interesting words along the way.
AllHipHop.com: For starters, please tell us about your clothing line.
Sekyiwa Shakur: Right now its called Madamevelli; its a high fashion line coming out next fall.
AllHipHop.com: Is this an outgrowth of Makaveli Branded?
Sekyiwa Shakur: Not at all. Im considering changing the name, because people always compare it. I went to a Magic Show to support Makaveli Branded and to be with my family. I cut up five different outfits and made outfits out of them, and I was in the booth, and while I was in there, a buyer came in and saw what I had on and said, Thats what I want on my racks. And thats what gave me inspiration to do the clothing line. It started with Makaveli Branded, but then I wanted creative control. I am considering changing it.
AllHipHop.com: Why not something like Set Shakur?
Sekyiwa Shakur: I kind of like my privacy. Because [as seen with] my brother, his real name was his stage name, he couldnt escape into a private world. I didnt want my identity out there.
AllHipHop.com: Is this something youve always wanted to do?
Sekyiwa Shakur: For about three years, Ive been working on it.
AllHipHop.com: I read your column over at AOL Black Voices Web site, where you describe how beauty and fashion helps you deal with bipolar disorder and depression. Can you explain?
Sekyiwa Shakur: Okay, Im so proud of that story. Since its AllHipHop, Im going to give it my all.
Growing up, dark-skinned, Black, with short hair, in a revolutionary family with a name like Shakur you deal with American issues with beauty, the girls with the pigtails. Were always the outcasts of the neighborhood, always the ugly girl with the short hair – the African. Then I started feeling a little better about myself, and The Color Purple comes out and now I look like Celie [the character played by Whoopi Goldberg]. My beauty was always who I am, and I took it from my mother, did my hair [naturally]. When I was like 16 or 17, I won a beauty pageant in high school, something like the Black Nubian Queen. Six months after that, I got pregnant and I was a fat baby mama, living the life of a fat baby mama. When you have a beautiful person like Tupac as your brother, its a cruel mirror to look at, you know what I mean? He didnt have the problems. I had the two of them [Khadafi and Tupac] once they died I wanted to put myself back to where they saw me. I had just let myself go.
AllHipHop.com: For those of us that dont know, can you explain your relationship with Tupac?
Sekyiwa Shakur: We were our mothers only children, and we grew up in poverty. Needless to say, it was a family connection, it was us two and mommy; we needed to survive out here. Besides that, in high school, in teenage years, we had the typical brother-sister relationship. Then my mother went into drug recovery, and Pac started his career. He went to California to tour with the Digital Underground, and I went to New York to go to high school. We were separated for three years, and after that separation, our lives were changed. We werent in each others daily lives, my mother was sober, Poetic Justice came out, our relationship had changed – but I was still the baby sister. He was always the man of the house. Hed never take advice, if he was doing an album or something, hed tell me to get out of the room.
AllHipHop.com: Did you ever sit back and go, I cant believe Pacs career is blowing up like this?
Sekyiwa Shakur: He always was the guy, the person in the family that was the lead; he was always the bossy kid. He was always the idol.
AllHipHop.com: In family circles?
Sekyiwa Shakur: Yeah. So while I was in high school, I was in New York, he was on Yo! MTV Raps. We used to order his videos. And when Me Against the World came out, every car had the CD, and that was like Whoa.
AllHipHop.com: On VH1s Hip-Hop Honors, when Nas came out with the bandana and Tupacs face on his shirt, the cameras captured you in a very emotional state. What were you experiencing at that moment?
Sekyiwa Shakur: I probably shouldnt say this, but I was so upset because Nas didnt know the words, thats what I was thinking about. Nas went and said that he and Pac were cool before Pac died, but when he actually had to do [a tribute song], he had to read the words from the teleprompter and he was messing up.
AllHipHop.com: Whats the current status of Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for Arts?
Sekyiwa Shakur: My mother put her all in opening the TASCA. Kids have to pay nothing to be a part of it, the only thing you need is to want to be there. Hopefully – not hopefully, it will be – to our generation what the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Monument was to his generation. Its that beautiful. My mom has invested like two million dollars in this. Were looking to have a museum, an art gallery, classes. We have a peace garden, a pond, we want to have an artist residency. One thing I didnt include is that weve been doing it for eight years, every year we have an accredited director or choreographer, somebody that will add to their resume and bio that theyve been here.
AllHipHop.com: Interesting. I like how you compared it to Dr. Kings memorial
Sekyiwa Shakur: I respect Coretta Scott King for everything shes done, but my mother bought the property. We dont want to accept federal funding, so we really wanted to do this independently.
AllHipHop.com: If we were to compare what your family is doing and what the Wallace family is doing as far as legal recourse, how would you explain the different tactics?
Sekyiwa Shakur: Well, spiritually, my mother is one of the people that say [lawsuits] wont bring Pac back. Secondly, my mother has honestly sold more albums than Tupac did while he was alive. She hasnt had time to mourn, she hasnt taken a day off, shes never taken a trip, she hasnt spent time crying. Also, not speaking for my family, but for me — why do we have to? How can one of the biggest influences on our generation die, and no one is looking for who killed him?
The person who we assume killed Tupac – Orlando Anderson, within a year after Tupac died. So thats one thing. The next thing is, when there was an investigation, the investigative reporter [Chuck Philips] from the [L.A. Times] did a full-length investigation; he was investigating for about four or five years. When that came out, we supported him. While he was investigating, he kept us aware of what was going on when he found something out, he would call us and let us know. And when [the two-part article] came out, nobody cared, they brushed it under the mat.
AllHipHop.com: What did you think of that investigation, particularly the implication of the Crips and Biggie?
Sekyiwa Shakur: I believe there was one of three things that couldve happened. Just as his sister, all three things make sense, and pisses me off, and I wouldve want revenge if I was a guy. That is the lead that is the path that was found to be true or found to seem true. The L.A. Times is not The Amsterdam News, its The L.A. Times, its an accredited newspaper, its not VIBE or The Source, it doesnt go along to it doesnt stem from gossip.
AllHipHop.com: How do you incorporate Pacs legacy and what he stood for into your motivational speaking?
Sekyiwa Shakur: A woman coming up revolutionary, in poverty, without active parents – we go through problems. We have to do what we have to do. We have to take it in our own hands.
AllHipHop.com: You are also at work on a book, right?
Sekyiwa Shakur: Ive been in therapy. Me and my psychiatrist got close, and we decided to write a book about labels attached to women. For example, my mom is labeled a strong Black woman, but shes not necessary a strong woman — thats who she had to be. Shes actually a baby girl, humble, she is the house. At the core, shes a little girl.
AllHipHop.com: Tupac alluded to that on a song.
Sekyiwa Shakur: Even the label we put on ourselves we dont have to live in. We need to able to realize thats what we have had to be. Theres a lot of pressure in being a strong black woman — I dont want to be a strong Black woman, Id rather be a dumb blonde, because at least people will help you with s**t.
AllHipHop.com: Thats funny and true at the same time. So what kind of support have you had from your husband Greg. Theres a lot of luster to your family, hows he handling that?
Sekyiwa Shakur: Hes a hard worker. Hes stable, definitely brings stability.
AllHipHop.com: What possessions of Tupacs do you still have?
Sekyiwa Shakur: When he died, everybody was reaching for stuff. One of his friends called, and said, Can I have his car? Suge wanted his Makaveli medallion. Everybody was reaching for things, and they were doing it in such a disrespectful way. Soon as I got to California and saw one of his jackets, I wrapped my arms around it. I still have that coat. I have one of his Rolex bracelets, and I had it promised to give to one of my children. In reality, its all mine anyway. All I want is a piece of my brother – his belongings wont bring him back to me.
AllHipHop.com: Who in Pacs circle has been there for you?
Sekyiwa Shakur: We are a family, the entire circle. All of the Outlawz: Kadafi a godbrother, Kastro our first cousin, and EDI of the Outlawz and I have two children together, and weve raised them together. Napoleon is not a part of the Outlawz, but we keep in touch. Besides him, we all live within a mile of each other [near Atlanta]. Shock G and my mom are still close.
AllHipHop.com: What about other folks that Pac knew?
Sekyiwa Shakur: Yo-Yo is like a big sister of mine. Jasmine Guy, shes a part of the foundation. Regina King is a close friend, and so is Keyshia Cole.
AllHipHop.com: If Pac lived today, he wouldve been 35. What would he be involved in?
Sekyiwa Shakur: Katrina. I think Pac wouldve got himself blackballed again because hed be outraged at how Black people are being treated. Since he died, a lot of death that happened: Columbine happened, 9/11 happened, the tsunami happened, so much death has happened in this world, and so many big things have happened in this world that you just dont…I really hope and wish that people had other things to do maybe this is for the fanatics that still cry when they see us, and still send crazy letters, and stuff like that. Like, theres still other things in this world to be concerned about, and to pull your heart into. He might be appreciated, and he was a fantastic man, and he deserves all the respect he can get, but theres other things to worry about and put your time into right now.
AllHipHop.com: Would he still be making records today or doing something else?
Sekyiwa Shakur: Hed be doing a bunch of things because he was so vain. I think in his spare time, he would be working on an album, or it might have been just singles.