"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 20 September 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Number One With A Hail of Bullets



Ladies and gentlemen: the

hardest-working men in show

business, Tupac Shakur and Suge

Knight. You could play

connect-the-dots through the

holes in their reality. They've

got a lot of heart, and a lot of

blood. This is rap music's

updated version of a Vegas hit,

and the pay-per-view customers

are complaining that it didn't

last long enough.



Like most gang members and

Angelenos in general, these

high-rollers were character

actors on the shaky media stage.

The sawboards are made from

recycled entertainment press and

degrading videotapes of MTV's

music news. In a street-fair

spill in the Grand Guignol and

West African griot tradition,

the players make slapstick fit

for Popeye, fired by weed

instead of spinach. Gangstas are

laughing 'til it hurts.



To make hip hop you need a

producer and some rapping

skills. Swearing used to be

enough to keep it un-real, but

now the state pen is mightier

than the s-word. For the record,

Harry Houdini died when an

unexpected fist caved in his

famous solar plexus. Step right

up, ladies and gentlemen, and

take a swing at the amazing

invulnerable man. It's what you

call getting in on the ground




Shakur's momma went to prison for

Bobby Seale, but LL Cool J is

only famous for walking like a

Panther. Was Thug Life supposed

to be an oxymoron? Rap ontology

ate up Tupac. Even if the Lakers

beat the Supersonics, a

basketball game could never be

so ironic. Rap's two main

audiences, semioticians and kids

on the streets, can agree: It's

all about representing.


It's great that every Tupac lyric

was basically a variant of "I am

so great" - it beats the

horrifying conceit of rock and

roll's aging belief in grandiose

statements, and indie rock's

antecedental angst. "Live for

2Day, 2Pac, cuz U R under tha

gun." If it was worth saying two

seconds ago (or last week),

don't be afraid to repeat.



There's an epidemic of

experience-by-association going

around. Children should learn

home is the only place to try

stupid stunts. Videogames

installed in the cockpits of

anti-Kurd jet fighters can save

our oil and keep the President's

approval ratings together, but

by and large most people are

wannabes. Business schools can

breed dummy industries like

multimedia, but the MBAs of

today have no clue how to help

existing empires like retail

shopping from slipping away.


"If this vest is not sexy, then

I'm a gay vegetarian," brays

small businessman Ted Nugent, of

the custom zebra-striped death

doodads he coerces his wife and

daughter into cheesecake poses

to model. One of rap's most

jealous market-share observers,

the PCP-addled redneck is making

his own semantic pretzels to dry

out our mouths. His bully pulpit

is Nature Calling, a mail-order

manifesto for saving nature and

keeping families together by

killing rare animals and

listening to bad rock music.

"Watch out for falling Nuge

debris," warns the Ted Nugent

World Bowhunters' homepage.

That's right, because it's

bullshit season.


[The Nuge]

It's taken Nugent 20 years to

live up to his mid-'70s wild-man

image, and I'd guess 16.7

percent of the world's wild game

has been bloodily "appreciated"

in the process. The man

shouldn't have been bashful when

Ross Perot was auditioning

sidekicks - he's a sociopath

with an eye on the public

interest, and certainly enough

of a lunatic. Even though a

Tupac PAC is unlikely to form,

it's never a surprise when

showbiz types are addicted to

politics. Still, when a Cambodian

activist is picked from his car

in L.A., it is a genuine horror -

the Khmer Rouge are Ted

Nugent's kind of people, and

when they ship six million

units, there's no royalty rate.



Ours isn't an ideology-driven

Southeast Asian society, anyway;

it's America. A newsflash for

Crips and Bloods in the audience -

the West wasn't won by Jesse

James, but by J.P. Morgan. When

the high-riding bank robbers are

shot dead, the undertaker gets

paid first, and the vultures

swoop off of their gleaming

white cow skulls to feed.

Spilling Suge only means Donald

Trump buys Death Row Records,

and Julian Schnabel gets to make

another biopic with a heroic

role written in for himself.

It's the same when Bill Gates is

cast as big Mac, using Explorer

to worm through the last juicy

bits of Apple.



Ultimately, the show must go on -

the world watches the Wild West

in fascination, and the homeboys

in Hollywood whose gangs are

called corporations make a lot

of money. With all the hungry

sharks to feed, somebody has to

lure the crowds - so the

proscenium was tattooed on

Tupac's stomach. This one's for

all those suckers - there'll be

another one along in about a

minute. Take your applause like

a man - bow, duck, and cover.

Sorry there's not a trapdoor



R.I.P., rapper.

courtesy of DJ Abraham Lincoln