Twenty years ago today, Tupac Shakur’s mother told doctors it was time. Her son, who had been shot in the hand, pelvis and chest in Las Vegas, was taken off life support. He died at age 25.
Among those who last spoke with Tupac before he slipped into a coma: his fiancee, Kidada Jones, according to the Vanity Fair account of his final days. “Do you know I love you?” she said to him as he lay in a hospital bed, according to VF. “Do you know we all love you?”
He nodded; as she turned to the door, Tupac convulsed and slipped into the coma from which he never woke.
Tupac’s romance with Kidada, the daughter of Quincy Jones, loomed large during his final months and is an often overlooked aspect of his biography.
“Tupac was the love of my life,” Kidada wrote in a first-person account published in her father’s autobiography. “He and I lived together for four months and then he was murdered in Las Vegas in 1996. It was the most horrible thing that ever happened to me.”
Tupac Shakur & fiancée Kidada Jones. pic.twitter.com/UzNBkoKGPm
— boqor riya. (@hausofriya) March 26, 2015
Their relationship had a rocky start. Tupac said some nasty things about her dad in a 1993 Source Magazine interview using terms we can’t quote here. (He basically said the music icon only had sex with white women, and the result of those unions were messed-up kids.)
This angered Quincy Jones, as well as Rashida and Kidada Jones, the daughters he had with Peggy Lipton. Rashida responded with some harsh words in a letter the Source published.
She defended her father as a musical pioneer who climbed his way from humble roots to the heights of success through talent and hard work.
“Where the hell would you be if Black people like him hadn’t paved the way for you to even have the opportunity to express yourself?” she wrote of Tupac. “I don’t see you fighting for your race. In my opinion, you’re destroying it and s—-ing all over your people.”
Later, Tupac and Kidada met at a club, according to VF and Kidada’s first-person account. He apologized to her, and the pair began dating.
“I wasn’t happy at first,” Quincy Jones told the New York Times in 2012 about the relationship. “He’d attacked me for having all these white wives.”
Then, one night, the couple was at Jerry’s Deli in Los Angeles when “these two hands slammed down on Tupac’s shoulder from behind,” Kidada wrote. “We jumped up, and there was Dad standing there.”
It was the first time they met.
Quincy recounted how he had been dropping off his daughter, Rashida, when he spotted the couple. “Like an idiot, I went over to him, put two arms on his shoulders and said, ‘Pac, we gotta sit down and talk, man,’ ” Quincy told the Times. “If he had had a gun, I would’ve been done.”
The two went to a table and spoke for a long time, Kidada wrote. She saw them hug, VF recounted.
According to Quincy, Tupac apologized for what he had said about him and his family. “We became very close after that,” Quincy recalled to the Times. One time, while Quincy was at the Hotel Bel-Air on a date, he ran into Tupac. “He came by and told the waiter that he would be back, he was going home to put on a tie.”
Rashida also became friends with Tupac, despite her previous public rebuke. While an undergraduate at Harvard, she wrote a paper about the rapper; she said Tupac graciously spoke to her for the project.
“That was a nice full circle,” she told the Guardian in 2014 about her sister’s engagement to Tupac. “And it was a good lesson for me, because I knew in my heart of hearts that I’d never forgive anyone for talking like that about my family, and I was wrong.”
Then came that fateful night in Las Vegas. Kidada was in town with Tupac, and she was in their hotel suite when she received the call that he had been shot, she wrote in her dad’s autobiography.
After she got to the hospital, she was handed his bloody clothes and was told Tupac had no blood pressure when he came in. She later walked around the parking lot for nine hours, repeating to herself that he couldn’t die, she wrote.
“I knew we should’ve never gone to Vegas that night. I had a horrible feeling about it. I’ve gone over it in my mind a million times. It wasn’t supposed to happen,” Kidada wrote. “We weren’t supposed to be there. It was the worst possible thing that could’ve happened — I still to this day don’t know who shot him. I wasn’t able to say goodbye. It’s not something that should happen to anyone.”
Kidada Jones with the Tupac shoulder tat. Crying. pic.twitter.com/xeKyNBQHXN
— Christina Sterbenz (@xtinasterbenz) September 1, 2016
The lore and conspiracy theories surrounding Tupac’s death have persisted over the years, and even include rumors that Quincy Jones was somehow behind his murder (he has vehemently denied them).
Years after the murder, Quincy Jones wrote in a foreword in a book about Tupac: “The tragedy of Tupac is that his untimely passing is representative of too many young black men in this country.”
“If we had lost Oprah Winfrey at 25, we would have lost a relatively unknown, local market TV anchorwoman. If we had lost Malcolm X at 25, we would have lost a hustler nicknamed Detroit Red,” Jones wrote. “And if I had left the world at 25, we would have lost a big-band trumpet player and aspiring composer — just a sliver of my eventual life potential.”