John Cole on his friendship with Tupac
John and Tupac’s friendship, which began at the Baltimore school for the Arts, challenged stereotypes. The fact that Tupac, a theater major, was from one of the worst parts of Baltimore, and John, a visual artist, was from one of the wealthiest didn’t affect their connection
Tupac live in an area known for being a drug hotspot. There were a lot of drug dealers around, so he hung out some with them. but he wasn’t selling drugs-he was going to the school for the Arts and trying to be more artistic, more centered in the arts than centered on being a thug. But that’s what he went home to at night. Even in his neighbourhood he was an outsider-people in that area wouldn’t accept you unless you’d been living there for a long time. So he really didn’t hang out there that much. When we met, he started hanging out at some parties I went to. We used drive around in my brothers VW a lot, not really doing much, just driving around trying to get into something. Jada’s cousin, Jada, Tupac and I hung out all the time. We were a close-knit group.
My life and Tupac’s life had some parallels; both of us grew up without a father, and both of us had mother figures as our role models. Because of this, we both had a lack of understanding of the male world to a degree. When you grow up like we did, you don’t really get how it’s supposed to be. We weren’t raised to be the jock with male macho bravado, “look who I can beat up.” or “look who I can Mac on.” We were pretty close in a lot of ways, and I believe this is one of the reasons.
I miss Tupac’s laugh, and what a pain in the ass he could be. I miss how he could make light of certain situations, and bring another perception. Few people can do that.
Tupac was definitely into getting attention. I like to be entertained. Just one more reason why we got along so well. He was always on stage. He was always entertaining, always hammin’ it up. We’d go to parties and he’d be doing stand-up, with ten or fifteen people around him cracking up. He would do different characters. One of my favorites was this old drunk black man named Redbone who was always staggering around running into things. Redbone would always get on my nerves after a while. Tupac would stay in character for two three days at a time. I’d say “Look, you gotta do something else. I’m really getting sick of Redbone.”
After Tupac moved to California, we didn’t interact again until he invited me out there to hang out while he was a dancer with Humpty. Then when he was shooting Poetic Justice he asked me to come out again. When he got into all the thug stuff, that really wasn’t so interesting to me. That was so predictable. It’s not the most creative thing. I think he eventually got bored of that role, but he was stuck. Maybe the only way to get out of that role was to die.