Last month, Kristen Parcus travelled to Las Vegas, to the intersection of Flamingo Road and Koval Lane, where she poured out some orange soda on the hot pavement. On September 7, 1996, at that very spot, Tupac Shakur suffered the gunshot wounds that would eventually claim his life. “It was his favorite drink,” says Parcus, a 38-year-old mother of three from Dixon, Illinois. As Shakur’s self-proclaimed “biggest fan,” Parcus was there to honor the life and death of the immortal rapper, who she fell in love with after hearing his debut album, 2pacalypse Now. We found Parcus, who drives a bus and works with special needs kids, after a simple Google search. There she was, on the red carpet at Shakur’s 40th birthday celebration in Atlanta, showing off her brand new Tupac tattoo. Here she is on Tupac murder conspiracies, his Coachella resurrection, and what she’d say to him if he was alive today.
Do you remember the first time you discovered Tupac’s music?
In 1991, when his first album came out.
Were you a fan of rap music beforehand?
Oh god, yeah. I used to listen to Run DMC, LL Cool J, Salt-N-Pepa, all of them.
Have you ever seen him live?
No, I wish I had. But I did meet his mother. at his 40th birthday celebration in Atlanta.
Do you remember when how you found out about his death?
I was sitting at home, and MTV News came on, and they said he was dead. My daughter turned one the night he was shot. I was sitting in the living room and she was walking around, and they said he died and I just started bawling. It scared my daughter so I just picked her up and held her.
What was your reaction when you saw his hologram at Coachella?
I drive a school bus and work at the school with the special needs kids. And so I came home and looked at the Yahoo homepage, and it said “Tupac Hologram trending now.” I was like, what the heck is that? So of course I got on there and I looked at it and when I saw that it was by Dre and Snoop, I was kind of taken aback because Dre and Tupac didn’t get along when he was murdered. So I’m thinking, why is Dre doing this? And Snoop—they had some falling out but I know Pac still cared about him. I thought that was okay, but I wanted to know how his mother felt because it doesn’t matter what anybody else thinks, it’s all about what she thinks and feels. So then, they were having a lot of articles about how she felt about it, so when I saw that she approved it—which I knew she would have had to have done—and that she was okay with it, then I was okay with it. The first time I saw it, it made me cry because it looked so real.
What do other people think about your love for Tupac? As a 38-year-old white woman with three kids, are people skeptical?
Yeah, I have a lot of haters. Last summer I went to the Great America swimming park with my kids, and my tattoo was showing, and people walked by like, “Is that real? Oh, look at that white girl with the Tupac tattoo.” You know what? I don’t care what they think. I can be a fan of whatever. I was like twelve when Run DMC and Kool Moe Dee came out, and I’ve been listening to them ever since. Rap music is for everybody and I don’t see people as a color— my kids are mixed. I see people as a human race. You can be the most beautiful person on the outside and be the ugliest person on the inside. I just feel like I’ve got everything of his, I’ve watched everything of his, and I think about him on a daily basis. I’ve had him above my bed since before he died. Some of my boyfriends didn’t like that, but he’s still above my bed.
Tell me about your pilgrimage to his birthday celebration.
When I found out they were celebrating his birthday at the Atlanta Symphony Hall I drove down with my kids and I was blessed enough to meet his mother Afeni.
What did you say to Afeni when you met her?
I just ran and gave her a hug and I told her that I came from Chicago and I brought the kids. I said I think he was the most misunderstood person on the planet, because he had a good heart. I told her I planned my whole trip around this, and she said, “This can be like your second home.”
When did you get the tattoo?
I didn’t get it for this little fame that I’ve been getting. I got it because he’s close to my heart. I’ve never had a tattoo before, and I’ve always debated it, with me being a bus driver and working in a school, I can’t just have any old tattoo and put it any-old-where. But I love him so much, I wanted him on my arm. I’m kind of chubby, so I couldn’t get it over my heart. I got it on my arm but I told the guy, “I got to make sure that it’s covered because I can’t just have any old thing”—not that he’s a bad person, I just don’t know what the school would think of that if it was showing. I had it put on my arm and it says, “Keepin’ it real” underneath, and I did it because I wanted to honor him and to show how much I love him. And if anybody wants to debate with me whether I’m his biggest fan, like I said, I know pretty much anything and everything about him and they haven’t been coming to his birthday celebrations. Where you at?—that’s all I got to say.
Do you ever think about what he would be like or what he would be doing if he was alive?
Yeah, he loved children and I’ve seen and heard him say many times that he wanted to open up community centers all over and I think he would’ve done that. I think that he would’ve left Death Row Records, and I think that he’d probably be rapping a little bit, but not as much and he’d be doing a lot more for the community. I also think he would’ve made a lot more movies, and I would’ve been right there at every one of then, just like I was when Tupac Resurrected came out.
There’ve been conspiracy theories about his death. Did you ever doubt that he was dead?
It crossed my mind a couple of times because I’m his biggest fan, so I’m on everything that pops up on the internet. I guess I wish it was true, but I don’t think Afeni’s the type of person that she’d be over there opening the Center, doing the stuff that she’s doing, and saying that he’s dead if he wasn’t. If his mom says he’s dead, I believe that he’s dead. I’d love to believe that he’s somewhere waiting to come back—like they’re saying he’s coming back next year—but you couldn’t shut Tupac up. If he was alive, he would’ve been making another rap. He would’ve been like, “Oh yeah? You came at me again. Well, keep trying.” But I think Orlando Anderson and his boys got together and found him on the Strip and they killed him that night.
If you could say something to him if he was alive today, what do you think you would you tell him?
I’d tell him, “I know that you didn’t rape that woman that you were accused of raping.” He was officially charged with inappropriately touching the buttocks or something, but a lot of people call him a rapist. I see the comments on sites and it just infuriates me. But I would tell him, “I know that you are extremely misunderstood and people don’t see your heart the way I see your heart.” The reason he’s ‘F U this and F U that’ is he’s a little Panther. He came from two Panthers. When you back him into the corner, he’s going to fight his way out.
Are you a fan of modern rap music?
No, I tell my kids all the time that this music in the late ‘90s and the 2000s is pretty much crap. The ’80s and ’90s is way better than what we have now. They’re not talking about nothing, and auto-tune—I could sing with auto-tune. I don’t mean any disrespect to anybody else, but I’m 38 years old and I’m still very young and heart. As far as rappers, no one can ever compare to Tupac— dead, alive or whatever. He made songs like “Brenda’s Got a Baby,” “Dear Mama,” “Keep Ya Head Up.” Nobody’s talking about positive stuff like that, they’re talking about big rims and their fancy cars. I don’t care how much money you have. He had a good heart and he would give people his last dollar. I’ve seen him giving homeless people a stack of $100 bills.
What is your favorite Tupac song if you could choose one?
There’s too many. After he died I would listen to “Life Goes On” all the time, and I would always listen to “To Live and Die in L.A.” when I would be taking my kids to daycare before I went to work, I’d play that every morning. My kids know everything about Tupac. Even my mom and dad can come in here and I’ll tease them, “Who is this again, dad?” They know about Tupac. My mom called me about a year ago and she said, “I was watching a documentary about your beloved Tupac and it said that he raped somebody,” and I said, “Mom, misinformation. That didn’t happen. He didn’t have the heart for that. He loved and respected women. He loved and respected his mom and his aunt and his sisters too much. He didn’t need to rape anybody.” He could’ve come around here anytime. I would tease my boyfriend, “You know, if Tupac ever comes around here, you know you’re going to have to leave.”
[Laughs] That’s great. Would you be able to send us a photo with the tattoo?
Yeah, I’ve got a lot of them. I was just in Vegas and I went and poured out orange soda where he was murdered and then put a robe there.
Why orange soda?
That was his favorite drink.