"Standard question in any hip-hop interview for the next few weeks," I said about halfway through our talk, "but what's your take on Tupac?"

"Well, the first thing it says is that anybody can be hit. Unlike other areas of our society, in hip-hop, fame and fortune do not protect you. In fact, depending upon who you hang out with and how you present yourself, you can make yourself more of a target.

"The second thing is, hip-hop, like the world all over, has gotten just that crazy. The violence is embedded. It seems these days, you can be a nonviolent person, but you say the wrong thing or look the wrong way at somebody in this game and you get pulled down to his level of violence, and climbing out of there can be hard."

About 36 hours later, I was waiting at a red light on Las Vegas Boulevard as the driver of my airport shuttle van told his seven passengers that this was the second to last intersection Tupac Shakur and Death Row Records don Suge Knight drove through in Knight's black BMW before its passenger door was pocked with bullets.

"They went down there and turned left on Flamingo," the driver said, gesturing with the same excited flick of his hand he'd used a few minutes earlier to indicate the site of a new $1.2 billion, "Caribbean-themed" resort and casino going up across the street from Circus Circus. "They got about a block down Flamingo when a white Caddy pulled up and pop, pop, pop, pop! Two in the lungs, one in the leg, and one right through his hand."

My thought on that was, fuck a blaze of glory--whatever it takes, I will live to see 26. This column is no white journalist's "If I Die Tonight." I plan to read this column in print. Maybe by the time it comes out, we will have resolved our conflict. Maybe not. Either way, understand this: I just informed more than 200,000 people that several different sources have told me members of the gangsta rap group Big 5 Click and their entourage are making threats against my life. The police have the same information. If you are really after me, understand another thing: I will not be easy to find, and I will not be alone.

So what about this: What about you call again and we discuss this thing. You can yell at me, call me a cracker, a peckerwood, whatever. Tell me that a white person has no business writing about black, urban music, like you told our receptionist. Then I'll explain to you exactly why I wrote what I did, and why I think I'm qualified to critique hip-hop, and we'll see if we can reach an understanding. I'll even agree to meet you in person, given the terms feel safe.

But whatever you do, Big 5, do me a favor and reflect on this: You fancy yourselves rappers, so why not battle me with words? Any little bitch can make a threat, throw a punch, or pull a trigger. But only an artist can take someone out from the stage, using a mike instead of a gun, rhymes instead of bullets, and leave his pride bleeding instead of his body. Peace.

--David Holthouse

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