In American Dream/American Knightmare, a new documentary airing on Showtime Dec. 21, filmmaker Antoine Fuqua conducted several exclusive interviews with Marion “Suge” Knight from Dec. 2011 to Nov. 2012. And the intimate conversations between the Training Day director and the co-founder and ex-CEO of Death Row Records offers plenty of eye-opening revelations—the most notable being that, according to Suge, rapper Tupac Shakur spoke about faking his own death.
“Tupac is still alive” is a conspiracy theory that has, of course, circulated quite frequently in the years since the legendary rapper was gunned down in 1996 on the Las Vegas Strip. Every few months, there’s a “sighting” of Tupac somewhere in Malaysia, or Hawaii, or Mexico, you name it. Much of the speculation has been fueled by Suge who, when asked if Tupac is still alive in an interview last year, replied, “With Pac you never know.” And Suge’s son recently poured fuel on the fire, posting (and deleting) several Instagrams in October alleging that Tupac is still alive and kicking.
According to Suge, shortly after he posted Tupac’s $1.4 million bail, sprung the artist from jail and signed him to Death Row, the crew took a trip to Maui, Hawaii. And Tupac couldn’t have been happier. “We was in Maui, you know what I mean, and Pac had, like, never been to Maui,” Suge tells Fuqua. “And he get to talking about faking his own death. And Pac was more down for doing, like, the… the… the last little videos and shit of him dying all in the white, you know what I’m sayin’, with Redd Foxx and everybody like that.”
The music video Suge’s referring to is “I Ain’t Mad At Cha,” which was recorded just weeks before Tupac’s death, and sees the legendary MC shot whilst in a white suit, enter Heaven, and then return to Earth as a spirit-guide.
Suge says that, unlike other videos, Tupac acted differently with this one. “He was cussin’ everybody out. With this particular video, he was like, man, what’s up, right?” he explains. “And I felt like, he talkin’ about this shit, and our dreams and our future is built together because we plannin’ on doing, so if you talkin’ about not bein’ here, losing your life, and doin’ all these muthafuckin’ videos where you dead and shit, I’m like, shit… if somethin’ really happen to you, nigga, I ain’t gonna be that muthafucka there with tears in my muthafuckin’ eyes, I’m gonna be that muthafucka like, shit, still pushin’ for you.”
Of course, it should be noted that Suge has a history of making outrageous claims. During a 2003 interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, he said that rapper Eazy-E was assassinated and injected with AIDS; and on Howard Stern, he said that Tupac once confronted Dr. Dre about his sexuality, calling him a bunch of homophobic slurs.
At one point during American Dream/American Knightmare, Fuqua has Suge drive along the Vegas strip, recreating the path they took the night Tupac was shot.
As Suge tells it, a Cadillac pulled up beside their vehicle and fired several shots in their direction, with four hitting Tupac and one hitting Suge in the head as he tried to cover him up. Then, the former rap exec alleges that the Las Vegas PD significantly delayed their trip to the hospital.
“That’s when we got jacked up by the police. They wanted to search us and shit,” he tells Fuqua. “So when the ambulance finally came, I’m like, hey, get him out the muthafuckin’ car. But the police jamming me up too. So they didn’t know how to take the seatbelt off, because it was that new shit. So I’m like, hold up man, shit, show ‘em how to take the seatbelt off. Pac was cool, laughing. He said, ‘Man, you can tell you all is some broke muthafuckas, you don’t know how to take them expensive seatbelts off. If muthafucka was in a Honda, you’d have had me out the car already.”
He adds, “When we was both goin’ to the hospital, we laughed and joked the whole way. He looked at me, and he was like, ‘Man… sweaty head, you need to be at the hospital faster than me, nigga, you bleedin’ out your head and shit. How can you see with blood out your eyes?’”
When Fuqua asks Suge about rumblings that he was involved in Tupac’s murder as the two cruise around Vegas, Suge’s voice turns to a whisper. “Outsider’s opinion doesn’t matter, ‘cause they opinion, they just going by what somebody in the media, somebody else say to cover up they own tracks,” he offers. “What kind of man gonna turn around and say, ‘Hey, shoot him and shoot me in the head too when I cover him up.’” Suge stops the vehicle. “Not only did I lose the idea of a friend you can have, or a little brother you can have, Pac was one of those incredible artists that I know for a fact he worked way more alive than dead.”
He then opens the car door and vomits uncontrollably onto the pavement.
Later on, Suge is grilled about whether he had rapper Biggie Smalls murdered the following year in retaliation for the murder of Tupac.
“You know, when you really look at it like I said before, Biggie’s involvement in most of the things I felt that, any involvement he ever had, I felt it was because the next person he was with was pushing the negative. So he rolled with it,” Suge says, alluding to Biggie’s boss, Diddy. “Number one, it wouldn’t benefit me to have Biggie murdered. And second, whatever happened to Biggie, I was in the county jail. So how could I have any involvement or participated in having anything done to Biggie when I’m locked the fuck up?”
One of the most haunting moments of American Dream/American Knightmare comes when Suge describes—in detail—what transpired on the night of Sept. 7, 1996, right before Tupac was murdered.
Suge maintains that, after they saw Mike Tyson knock out Bruce Seldon at Vegas’ MGM Grand, the Death Row crew spotted “a well-known Compton gangbanger” by the name of Orlando “Baby Lane” Anderson in the lobby, who’d been suspected of robbing a Death Row affiliate. He was also a member of the Crips. After Anderson pointed threateningly at Tupac, Suge says the rapper “took the nigga down,” then looked at him and crowed, “You see how I took off?”
“I said, understand one thing, you gonna push that line on somebody, it’s some gangbanger activities gonna be involved, it’s consequences with that, you know,” Suge recalls. “After that situation, we was on some real ghetto politics right now. You got homies over here, and you got the Crips over here. And you gettin’ everything you asked for: you the best in this rap game, shit, now you being the best in this street game. I said, the only thing different, in the rap game there’s a reward; in the streets when you known as the best, you become a trophy. Everybody wants the trophy.”