More stories of Tupac Shakur's time in Baltimore, from town hall meetings to school sleepovers

Mention the name Tupac Shakur to the people who knew him, and you’re bound to get some good stories. That was the case, time after time, during interviews for Sunday’s A&E story on the rapper and future Rock and Roll Hall of Famer's time in Baltimore. We couldn’t fit them all, so here are more anecdotes on Shakur from the Baltimoreans who taught and befriended the future hip-hop icon. (Quotes have been edited and condensed for readability.) 

Becky Mossing, friend and current Baltimore School for the Arts teacher, on Shakur missing out on an amusement park trip:

“After prom, the next morning, we were all going to Kings Dominion. Our friend Daniel had his parents’ car. We drove down North Avenue to a gas station. Tupac was in the car, and we dropped him off at a building because he couldn’t go to Kings Dominion because he had to go work. Rather than joining the rest of his friends, he had to be conscientious.” 

Mossing on Shakur’s use of the N-word: 

“I have this very clear memory of his using the N-word all the time. I remember saying to him, ‘You cannot use that word in front of me. I do not like hearing it.’ He said to me, ‘I use this word because it empowers me. I need to be empowered. I’m using this word as a means to do that.’ For him, that word and using that word empowered him as a young black male in the world that we live in.”

Mossing on sleepovers Shakur attended at her parents’ Pikesville home: 

“I used to have a lot of parties that were chaperoned. My parents were upstairs; we’d be in the basement. I have these memories of him and another friend named Gerard Young, and they would want to spin records in my basement. We had a crappy, yucky record player that was mine down in the basement. They wanted the other one. I don’t know how [Shakur] did it, but he somehow convinced my dad that it would be OK to bring down the good record player. I just remember them bringing this record player down the steep basement steps at my parents’ house so that these two guys could spin records in my basement. The next morning, it was always back upstairs. He would always take it back.”

Donald Hicken, Shakur’s former acting teacher at Baltimore School for the Arts, on Shakur’s views of Baltimore:

“I remember [former mayor] Kurt Schmoke had a town-hall meeting about drugs and drug gangs, and Tupac went to it and he actually spoke. Kurt Schmoke mentioned him to me later, that this kid from BSA stood up and talked about how, in his neighborhood, the people who were trying to keep their families together and going to church on Sundays didn’t have glass in their windows, and the guys who were selling drugs were driving around in Mercedes, wearing thousand-dollar suits and Rolex watches. So he said, ‘If you’re a kid growing up, and you’re taking a look at those two situations, who do you think the winners are?’ I thought it was a really interesting perspective on a young kid looking at the situation in those neighborhoods.”

Hicken on Shakur returning to Baltimore as his career was taking off:

“Whenever he was in the area, he would come and see me. He showed up in a stretch-limo one time. He pulled up on my little street in Evergreen. He and his posse, they pile out of the car and they come and knock on my door. He wanted to have lunch, so I made them all grilled cheese sandwiches. We sat around my kitchen and talked. He would come into the school. The minute he’d look at me, the whole expression on his face would change. He’d go from this furrowed brow, narrow eyes to this big wide smile. Within a few minutes of sitting in the office and talking, he was back to being the Tupac that I knew as a teenager. We had a good relationship.”

Richard Pilcher, BSA principal acting teacher, on realizing Shakur’s worldwide influence:

“I taught for a year in England. This was 15 years ago or more. We were an international school, and I had kids from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Italy, Germany. Once they heard I had taught Tupac, it was like I was an apostle. Little kids come up to me and say, 'I love Tupac.' We did dorm checks, and one kid, his room was just plastered with Tupac posters. I walked in there and went, ‘Wow.’ I hadn’t really realized what a worldwide icon he had become until that moment.” 

Pilcher on his Shakur-related classroom rule:

“Interestingly enough, I don’t allow students to wear Tupac T-shirts in my class, because he’s a kid that I knew who was murdered. Yes, it’s iconic and I understand why you’re wearing that, but it just makes me sad. So I ask them not to do that.”

wesley.case@baltsun.com

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