There has been no name more renowned and revered than that of the late, great Tupac Amaru Shakur. The son of freedom fighters, Pac embodied a persona that resonated with millions throughout the world. The stories about him are almost mythical in proportion and, though he ded almost 20 years ago, his legend continues to grow, even today.
One element of Tupac’s legacy is detailed in briefly in Ben Westhoff’s new book Original Gangstas: The Untold Story of Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Tupac Shakur, and the Birth of West Coast Rap. In this excerpt, Westhoff describes the meeting between the Bloods and Crips that Pac was instrumental in organizing and the birth of the THUG LIFE code of conduct:
In the early nineties heavily armed gangs dominated the projects; if you wanted to use the gym at Jordan Downs, you didn’t call the building managers, you contacted the Grape Street Crips. Crossing into another’s territory, even if you weren’t a gang member, was taking your life in your hands. Which is what made the 1992 gang truce between the Bloods and Crips there so astonishing. It was marshaled in part by former NFL star Jim Brown, who met with members of both sets in locations including his Hollywood Hills home, in hopes of breaking the cycle of gang violence.
Following the L.A. riots, representatives of the Watts gangs, including Grape Street Crips, PJ Watts Crips, Bounty Hunter Bloods, and Hacienda Village Bloods, met on one another’s turfs. These were summits, raucous parties, and family picnics all in one.
Fights interrupted the proceedings, and a police helicopter descended upon the scene to break things up. But the meetings produced fruit; the involved parties agreed to abide by a twenty-six-point treaty, a code of ethics for the drug‑dealing game to reduce violence and harm to the community at large. Its bullet points decried selling to the underage and pregnant, as well as protecting civilians and making the hood “safe for squares.”
This was the code Tupac and Mopreme had dreamed up in Oakland before the truce meetings took place. They called it Thug Life, and had received help from Mopreme’s father, Mutulu Shakur, locked up at Lompoc federal prison upstate, who put it to paper. Mopreme said their thinking was: “If we could just put a governor on the greed and focus on survival, we might save a few lives.”
It’s extraordinary that Tupac was able to facilitate this. He’d only recently arrived in California and didn’t come from a gangbanging background. But suddenly the hardest gangbangers were enlisting his counsel. Tupac’s Black Panthers connections, with whom he’d stayed in touch even after moving away from his mother, helped connect him with these veteran Watts gang members, who loved his music and what he stood for. “I got people in the penitentiary, big‑time OG criminals, calling me, telling me they want me to lead their movement,” Tupac explained.
Tupac didn’t attend the Watts truce negotiations, but his involvement was critical in facilitating it. And he did attend a treaty with similar goals in Brooklyn, where shot‑calling drug dealers from all over New York City — the Bronx, Queens, Harlem, Brooklyn — discussed the Thug Life code and worked on resolving their differences. “They were running the streets on the East Coast back then,” said Mopreme. “Different gangs, different groups, but they’re all doing the same shit.”
There wasn’t unanimous consensus, but simply getting everyone to the table was an example of Tupac’s extraordinary diplomatic and community‑building abilities, which he undertook with no fanfare in the midst of an exploding recording and film career. In a move reminiscent of Johnny Cash, Tupac even performed before inmates at Lompoc. Mutulu hosted the event, in which Tupac, Mopreme, and others rapped at the federal prison in 1993. (Mopreme noted that the boys behind bars were particularly glad to see the pulchritudinous female R&B group that accompanied them, called Y?N‑Vee.)
Though the Watts truce eventually petered out, those involved believed it contributed to the dramatic drop in Los Angeles gang violence, which continues today.
(The full excert can be read on HipHopDX, here.)
For reference, this is the THUG LIFE 26-point platform (via MutuluShakur.com):
1. All new Jacks to the game must know: a) He’s going to get rich. b) He’s going to jail. c) He’s going to die.
2. Crew Leaders: You are responsible for legal/financial payment commitments to crew members; your word must be your bond.
3. One crew’s rat is every crew’s rat. Rats are now like a disease; sooner or later we all get it; and they should too.
4. Crew leader and posse should select a diplomat, and should work ways to settle disputes. In unity, there is strength!
5. Car jacking in our Hood is against the Code.
6. Slinging to children is against the Code.
7. Having children slinging is against the Code.
8. No slinging in schools.
9. Since the rat Nicky Barnes opened his mouth; ratting has become accepted by some. We’re not having it.
10. Snitches is outta here.
11. The Boys in Blue don’t run nothing; we do. Control the Hood, and make it safe for squares.
12. No slinging to pregnant Sisters. That’s baby killing; that’s genocide!
13. Know your target, who’s the real enemy.
14. Civilians are not a target and should be spared.
15. Harm to children will not be forgiven.
16. Attacking someone’s home where their family is known to reside, must be altered or checked.
17. Senseless brutality and rape must stop.
18. Our old folks must not be abused.
19. Respect our Sisters. Respect our Brothers.
20. Sisters in the Life must be respected if they respect themselves.
21. Military disputes concerning business areas within the community must be handled professionally and not on the block.
22. No shooting at parties.
23. Concerts and parties are neutral territories; no shooting!
24. Know the Code; it’s for everyone.
25. Be a real ruff neck. Be down with the code of the Thug Life.
26. Protect yourself at all times..