Jay-Z, Beanie Sigel, Dame Dash and Memphis Bleek, photographed for the September issue of The Source magazine by Jonathan Mannion in 2002.
The issue featured two different covers, and a five-page spread covering the Roc-A-Fella Records roster and their “dynasty that still stands.” Those featured in the piece included Dame Dash, Kareem “Biggs” Burke, DJ Clue, Kanye West, Freeway, Beanie Sigel, Memphis Bleek, Juelz Santana, Rell and Dipset.
Hov had conducted his interview for the feature in July, while sitting on a boat [with Beyoncé] off the coast of Southern France. While he was taking his first-ever vacation since releasing his debut album in 1996, label co-founder Dame Dash had announced he would be stepping back from the musical side of the Roc’s endeavors—and was instead going to be focusing on the Roc Films division and the upcoming release of Paid in Full. During this transition period Dash appointed Beanie Sigel and Cam’ron as Vice-Presidents of the label. “That’s not taking effect as of yet,” Jay said while cruising on the Mediterranean Sea. “We always want to continue the tradition of Roc-A-Fella and breed entrepreneurs. They’re gonna step in and do their thing one day. But I think the talk is a little premature as of right now, but that’s definitely in the plans of Roc-A-Fella—in the future for them to come in and step in.”
Already swirling around the Roc camp at the time were rumors of an imminent falling-out between the co-founders, and the moves by Dash while Jay was out of the country supposedly added to those tensions. He strongly refuted these rumors in his interview with the magazine: “[Jay and I] are friends. Friends argue with each other every week. We might not agree about everything. We might get into it, but we don’t get into it too heavy. There has never been anything where we’ve gotten into major beef. Nothing’s ever jeopardized our friendship. Friends argue. Businesspeople argue. We ain’t got too much to be mad about. We both got money. We had a dream, we talked about it, we made it happen. You just can’t be upset.”
“I can’’t lie every woman wants a man with a little bit of thug in him so that’s were our relationship started who knew that Tupac would one day be my husband?” -Keisha Morris Shakur
Tupac and I were total opposites. He was the controversial superstar and I was a naive college student who had seen him on TV but knew very little about the world he lived in. I’’d met Tupac briefly at a party in June of 1994. Then about a month later, he saw me at the Tunnel night club in New York. He ran up to me and remembered our prior meeting. Smiling, Tupac said “I’’m not gonna let you get away this time we have to go out” I laughed and told him “I didn’’t want to just be another one of his women” we started dancing and Tupac, who was used to girls coming onto him, got to close. He was in shock that I wasn’’t responding as anticipated. After he gave me all of his phone numbers, I immediately asked him “Do you have a girlfriend?” He said “No” I didn’’t believe him because Tupac was a charmer. So I was a bit confused why he was sop interested in me. But I can’’t lie every woman wants a man with a little bit of thug in him so that’s were our relationship started who knew that Tupac would one day be my husband?
A few days later, he invited me to his house in Atlanta for the weekend when I got off the plane, I couldn’’t find Tupac but he spotted me and shouted “Keesh!” He was wearing a red bandana and a hockey jersey. There were butterflies in my stomach and he made the moment even nicer when he ran over to me and hugged me. And we shared our first kiss he took my bags and we went to his house. It was in the suburbs, near Decatur. It looked like a teenager lived there clothes, CD’s and spoiled food containers littered the house I cleaned up the mess and made dinner. That Sunday night, Tupac was driving me around in his low-rider we ended up at his family’s house for Sunday dinner. When we drove up he introduced me to his two rottweilers Bonnie and Clyde. He said they were his dogs but his uncle took care of them. Then I met most of the family, including his sister Sekiywa and mother, Afeni. They were all cordial but I still felt like the outsider that I was. That next morning I got onto the plane. Although I had a wonderful weekend with Tupac, I was still uneasy about our relationship. What was I getting myself into?
Thankfully Tupac kept in touch. And when he was back in New York, we suddenly began living together. He first left an outfit at my apartment in Harlem. Soon, he had keys and more clothes in my closet than I did. Sometimes when I miss him I wear his New York Rangers Hockey jersey. Everyday, the first thing Tupac would do when he came home was take off his shirt as he liked to say “I wanna show off my buff body and tattoos” (You know he was only about 5,7, 165 pounds) Tupac loved to cook for me. His favorite meal was macaroni and cheese, washed down with Sunkist Orange Soda. Tupac didn’’t like to wash dishes or clean up “I am a superstar, I don’’t have to clean” he would tell me. It didn’’t bother me because I was falling in love with him. Tupac was also enjoying domestic life. This was the closest thing that he could have to a relationship that he could have had then. At that time he said he had only had four real girlfriends and I was the only one that he really loved. And one day I would be his wife.
Tupac asked me to marry him three months after we started dating. He came home one day and held out his hands. He asked me if I noticed anything new, and I said “No, did you get a manicure?” he showed me his new ring that he bought for $30,000 and laughed and since I didn’’t notice his new ring, he was going to give what he had bought for me to our dog, Playa. Then he took out the little velvet box and put it in the dogs mouth and said that ring is for you. Then Tupac said “I want you to marry me” I was puzzled I ran over to playa and grabbed the box and opened it. It was a seven carat platinum ring shaped like a queen’s crown. I didn’’t have a chance to say yes or no, “cause he said we are gonna get married on your birthday in November. He told me never to take the ring off because that would be the end of the relationship. All that I could say was "Ok” he left to go to the studio and I immediately went to my friends house to show off my ring. About an hour later he rang me to say you couldn’’t wait he was right! at that point you couldn’’t tell me anything I was going to be Tupac’s wife. But things were about to get complicated Tupac’s New York sex trial was starting he was finishing his Me Against The World album and working on Bullet with Mickey Rourke. He told me that his court cases were weighing heavy on his mind but our relationship was still thriving that was until he got shot 5 times in Quad Studios.
Hearing the news, I went into a state of shock. Afeni and I hopped into a car and headed over to the hospital. I was there when he arrived at the hospital I nearly passed out when his road manager updated me on the Tupac’s condition. He was gonna live but he had to stay in the hospital for a while. As he was recovering I was sat next to his hospital bed when we heard about the verdict. Since it wasn’’t a total conviction we weren’’t quite sure what the decision meant. His lawyers came to explain everything. Tupac was very quit and he asked me how I felt. It was tough for him as well as me. At that point I had to make a decision to stay with him or to leave him alone. It’s difficult to say what you would do when your feelings are involved and you care about someone my heart told me to stay with him because I felt that Tupac needed me during this time it’s not what I expected or I wanted to go through. We were supposed to be making wedding plans not preparing for him to go to jail. So I didn’’t want to abandon him I loved him so much that I didn’’t want to judge or assume anything. I had to let time solve things. Unfortunately, Tupac began making things very difficult. He was trying to get his business, career and finances in order while facing legal battles. The stress of his album the pressure of bullet 9i remember him preparing for the part at home) and everything else would cause him to have temper tantrums all the time becoming short with everyone, including me. I didn’’t know much about his Gemini side until he started flipping sometimes he would come home and not talk to me at all.
Tupac had two personalities. He would yell at me and then be my best friend after. At first when he did it I would take it personally and be ready to cry Afeni told me to be strong and not worry about it. Right now he needed me more than ever. Tupac always told me I could not be weak. Once Tupac was placed in the Clinton Correctional Facility Tupac asked me to handle all of his business with his lawyers managers and record company because he wanted me to represent him, he felt it would be better and easier if I were married to him. I was kinda hesitant but I agreed. So we decided to wed four months later in a quick ceremony in the prison. We had marriage counseling before we did it when the judge asked me “Keisha, do you take Tupac and all of his worldly possessions” Tupac turned to me and said “Keesh, you can’’t have my pool table or my big screen TV” When we got married Tupac said he wanted to have kids his publicist and our close friend Karen Lee, was shocked to see how much Tupac had changed. She had never heard him talking about marriage or children Tupac picked out names he wanted to move to Arizona and name our Daughter Star and our son Michelangelo. I liked Star but not Michelangelo, we tried to have kids but the weed that Tupac smoked affected us. Tupac also had visions of our future.
Tupac wanted me to get the respect that I deserved for being there for him but at the same time he didn’’t appreciate what I was doing. I remember one day he asked me to make a three way call for him I knew that the woman calling was a famous actress I put the phone down but when I picked it up to see if he was nearly done, I could hear him having an intermit conversation with her. It was very insulting to me he was making plans with another woman. Many people said that Tupac married me for conjugal visits. That’s not true. We never had sex when he was in jail. He did not feel like that was a place to be intimate or exposed like that.
Is This The End?
I had to separate from Tupac after he got released from jail because, though he loved me we knew he couldn’’t be married. My love was sincere from my heart, but at times I did not feel the same from him. I never asked for anything materialistic, because that’s not why I wanted to be with him. When you are out for things that don’’t belong to you it will come back to harm you later. Now, I look back at our relationship and realize it was not a bad thing. We were still friends until the day he passed on. We still saw each other occasionally and spoke all the time. Yes it still hurts sometimes when I can’’t call Tupac and joke around with him. But our relationship has made me the full-rounded woman that I am today. Tupac will always be in my heart and a part of my life.
Jay-Z, photographed for the December issue of The Source magazine by Jonathan Mannion in 1997.
Part of the interview was conducted at the Marcy Houses in Brooklyn. As Jay stood in the hallway outside his old apartment—5C—he said this of using Marcy as inspiration for his music: “You know, everything I come across in my life is material. This project, this ghetto is a part of me. But I’m not going to record a song about people getting killed every two minutes. That’s not real. We have cookouts, family picnics, and our friends. All of us are just trying to maintain our balance in the anarchy that surrounds us.“
Love itself is home, because love is the center of the Universe, so when you feel true love then you are at home in the Universe. This is why connections like karmic ones are so transformative and powerful.