Glasses Malone may have just dropped the most controversial song in Hip-Hop all year. With “Tupac Must Die,” the Los Angeles rapper holds nothing back, exuding both courage and strength to release such a bold, telling record.
Being a Crip, Glasses, real name Charles Penniman, embodies the definition of a street rapper, putting his life experiences into his music and turning a negative into a positive. With this new visual, however, he does the impossible: raps from the perspective of Tupac’s killer Orlando Anderson.
While it certainly upset a lot of people in the rap game, Glasses claims this is simply the reality of what life is like in the streets.
In this interview, Glasses Malone explains what inspired “2Pac Must Die,” his time on Cash Money, his love for Donald Trump, and the reality of gangbanging.
AllHipHop: What inspired you to create “Tupac Must Die”?
Glasses Malone: I thought it was a dope story from the other side, the other perspective. I’ve been a gangbanger for over 20 years at this point. I know what it’s like to feel that pressure, and wanted to keep focusing on gangbanging. Been talking about it for years. Everybody’s paying attention now because 2pac was involved. The culture had an influence on him, that’s what brought me here.
Wanted to make sure people hear the story about gangbanging correctly, see the trauma and duress people are under in that situation. This song represents a lot of misplaced aggression, a lot of fear and embarrassment. People don’t know that’s what going into a lot of the actions and retaliation.
AllHipHop: About how gangbanging is being misrepresented in Hip-Hop or in general?
Glasses Malone: Both. In Hip-Hop, it’s glorified. Very rarely do I make songs that make gangbanging sound exciting, outside of “Eastsidin” with Snoop and Nip. The music I provide and deliver is always very traumatic. The content of it — even the experience of “2Pac Must Die” is a very traumatic experience. It’s sad. That’s why people are so outraged, but that’s the point of it.
I’m trying to get you to understand the culture, trying to get the rappers to not partake in such a culture unless you understand. Trying to get the youth to understand if this could happen to the greatest rapper of all time, it can happen to you if you get in the middle of it. The same message I’ve been delivering, people hear it now because it’s somebody they love and care about. It’s always somebody I love and care about getting killed.
AllHipHop: What was it like rapping from the perspective of Tupac’s killer?
Glasses Malone: Familiar. Not necessarily to Tupac because I grew up listening to his music like everybody else, but the retaliation part is very familiar. It was really therapeutic to get it out. The embarrassment part, being embarrassed by someone you don’t necessarily respect as part of the culture itself, the outrage and emotions to be able to tap back into that.
It’s been a long time since I’ve really had to retaliate on somebody in that fashion, over gangs per se. Real therapeutic to rap about it. Making the video was a whole other experience. To shoot inside a casino when you’re not supposed to, we had to guerilla that. To be on the corner where he got shot at, it was really different. I was looking for every reason to back out. Working on the video, we should have gotten caught a 1000x. No way you can shoot in a casino. If I couldn’t shoot the location, I wouldn’t finish the video, because it has to be true to the location. 1000 things that shouldn’t have happened, happened. That’s how I knew I was supposed to deliver the message.
AllHipHop: Do you worry about bad press or inflaming the tension?
Glasses Malone: Sometimes, but f##k it. I’ve been making gangster rap professionally for 10 years. Some people aren’t going to get the message a chance because of the title of the experience. It’s the price you pay for being dope. If it wasn’t good, people wouldn’t even care. They’d write it off.
But if you look at it, it really puts you there. It’s supposed to be sad, not anger. If you listen, even the retaliation portion of the song isn’t really anger. It’s more I feel like I have to. It’s pressure, it’s embarrassment, it’s worry, very little anger in it. I hope people get that from it, but they probably won’t.
AllHipHop: What was your decision to call it “Tupac Must Die”?
Glasses Malone: Because the experience was first-person, from his perspective of being assaulted and embarrassed by a rapper he really liked. One of his favorite rappers and some of his enemies from his side of town, that was his emotions. I know the emotion well, so I kept it true to the experience.
AllHipHop: Is this a career “Hail Mary”? No pun intended.
Glasses Malone: Not at all. As a matter of fact, if this makes them upset, they are in trouble! I got a bag of this s##t. It’s war. It’s not a Hail Mary ‘cause I don’t think anything ever happened with my career. Always been on a certain level where authenticity was there. Now mainstream’s starting to have to deal with it, that’s where it’s getting scary.
Mainstream never had to deal with my creativity. I’ve always allowed mainstream to escape my creativity, they not going to get away with that anymore. Now that mainstream accepts so many rappers who not even real motherf##kers, you gotta deal with a real motherf##ker. You can’t just be cool with all these people glorifying it and faking it, you gotta deal with the real deal.
More or less, mainstream’s being backed into a corner intentionally to have to deal with my content. People who never heard about Glasses Malone — they’re supposed to talk about it on the news tonight. My goal as a creator is to back them in the corner and force them to deal with my message because that’s who really needs to hear it.
AllHipHop: What was your relationship with Nipsey Hussle?
Glasses Malone: That was my guy, one of the new West. Relationship over 10 years, lots of trial and tribulation. We supported each other from the beginning to the end, till the last day.
AllHipHop: What was your reaction when he passed?
Glasses Malone: F##ked up. Same thing happens all the time in gangbanging, it’s nothing new. Just sad it’s him. It’s sad for everyone. I’m tired of acting like I’m not just as sad for the n##ga I don’t know from 60’s, to the n##ga I loved who was a rapper from 60’s. Sad when any of us have to die, I’m tired of reducing everybody down. Everybody is a man, everyone got a family for the most part. Nip, that was f##ked up.
AllHipHop: Why are so many rappers gang members too? Which comes first?
Glasses Malone: My generation, you had to be a gangbanger and then you rap. Now, you have people with full-fledged, million-dollar careers becoming gang bangers. Them n##gas crazy. I don’t know what’s wrong with them. [chuckles] But I get it. I get the allure, the respect you see someone get. I see all of that, it makes a lot of sense. What comes first to me is making the smartest decisions. I try not to make a lot of decisions for my homeboys I grew up with, my friends, my little homies. They’re grown, they can make their own damn decisions. Try to give them the best decisions to stay out of trouble.
When you forced into it, just like I knew what to do, you gon’ know what to do. Being a gangbanger is nothing more than being a friend. It seems a lot more eerie and evil, but it’s really just being a friend. Gangbanging ain’t nothing but my friends. These ain’t strangers, they my friends. We protect each other. The environment around where we at is a little more hostile, every now and then things go too far, but you’re just protecting your friends. Ain’t nothing special. Where you grew up, someone jumped on your homegirl, I hope you don’t stand there and let that happen. I hope you’d stand up for her.
AllHipHop: Hell nah! I’m from the Bay, we throw down.
Glasses Malone: Exactly. You do what you gotta do, that’s all gangbanging is. The overall mistake of it is Crip and Blood. People feel like you did this ‘cause you a Crip and he a Crip — we from two different gangs completely. Crip is like saying someone’s Asian, and not recognizing they’re from Japan. Saying this general thing is a Crip is horrible.
AllHipHop: Talk about being a Crip & the reality of life growing up in the city.
Glasses Malone: Being a Crip doesn’t mean you get love from all the Crips, that’s for damn sure. It’s a very broad statement, like a Japanese person thinking they’re going to get love in China because they Asian. It’s not like that, it’s f##ked up. All my first beefs were with Crips, that’s the truth. I could lead the people on but the first people you grew up beefing with where I’m from: most likely other Crips. Then automatically Bloods are supposed to hate you, but my whole life, Bloods have always showed me love. I got a relationship with a ton of Crips, tons of Bloods. It’s the same as being an elephant in the jungle, you run into all different animals, you gotta learn how to do your thing and exist. If they think you’re not strong enough to exist, they definitely gon’ get you out of there.
Everywhere you go, you probably gon’ run into other Crips you beef with or other Bloods you beef with. All kinds of crazy s##t. Your only goal is you gotta represent. That’s the trick, you have to still represent. You don’t want your pride, your tail to get touched so you gotta represent. Even if enemies around, people have to know you’re present. You representing your community, where you’re from, that’s what makes it really unique. You have to, it’s a sense of pride. “Yo I’m from 7th St, I don’t know where those n##gas from…” It’s a prideful thing, very reputation-based.
AllHipHop: Do you respect/salute Crips from places like NY?
Glasses Malone: Yeah I shot the first album, shout out to my brother Winc Loc from NY. I shot my video in NY, shout out my boy Killa. Shout out to all my partners from Jersey from Grape. Hell yeah, I respect them. They not f##king around. Shout out to my brothers from Eastside 180 NH Rocc Gang in the Bronx. I was in the Bronx chilling, they have a whole Neighborhood gang out there. That’s crazy. Tray Pizzy, I hung out in their neighborhood for a couple days really politickin’. That s##t serious. Really take this culture out here seriously, I respect that. Kill your motherf##king ass over that s##t. I respect anyone who protects their reputation with their life. If you’re willing to risk your freedom for your reputation and your friends, that’s all it’s about.
AllHipHop: Talk about being signed to Cash Money at one point.
Glasses Malone: It was awesome, a great experience. I flew to different countries, made a lot of money. Got a chance to be part of the most successful record label at all times. Nobody was more successful than Cash Money outside of Def Jam maybe. Got to watch one of the top 5 rappers of all time rise to his greatest heights, got to watch his work ethic. I got to watch Birdman make 9 figure deals. I watched the biggest rapper in the game come in and have to develop himself (Drake). I watched the most popular female MC in the game, one of the dopest rappers, Nicki Minaj come in and get her stuff going.
I watched who’s competing for one of the better rappers on the West Coast, Tyga come in and fight his way too — people make fun of him then get recognized. People felt like he couldn’t do it, then come back and reestablish himself again. I watched Lil Wayne, they just emailed him verses, email him people to rap. He didn’t even care who it was, he’d put it on and slay it every time. It was awesome, s##t I’ve never seen before.
AllHipHop: Talk about your respect for Donald Trump.
Glasses Malone: Donald Trump is a man who gon’ say what he wants to say. I like that he’s free. He’s not a prisoner to anybody’s expectation, I really respect that. A lot of people get caught up trying to make sure they aren’t getting anyone mad but somebody walks up in a f##ked up toupee or a f##ked up tan and stands there like the hottest motherf##ker in the room. Cussing out the news, this motherf##ker is crazy and I like that. s##t’s very masculine, I appreciate that. I hope if my hair go bad and I got a f##ked up toupee, I’m that confident. I like his confidence. I’m not really into the politics side of it because everything’s f##ked up politics-wise. I only care about people in Black politics.
AllHipHop: Talk about your love for boxing.
Glasses Malone: My favorite sport! As violent as it seems, it’s very intelligent. Take Floyd Mayweather who’s not per se educated, but he has to be vastly intelligent to adjust consistently in the middle of a physical contest. I love how intelligent the sport is. I listen to Deontay Wilder, Floyd Mayweather, or Muhammad Ali who may not have the greatest grammar or vocabulary, but I can see their intelligence in the ring. I love sports that combine intelligence and athleticism.
You have to understand space. I’m a math dude, so the geometry of it all. People know “my arms are shorter, so I need to stay within this punching range,” or “my arms are longer, so I need to keep him outside of my punching lane.” Make adjustments. I love the IQ required, that s##t’s brilliant. More brilliant than any other sport I’ve watched, like “damn he figured it out.”