After attending Club 662 during the weekend of the shooting in Las Vegas, Riskie returns to LA on the Sunday evening.
I was up all that night with the baby and then friends were calling me for an exclusive as to what had happened over the weekend. Monday morning, Greg picked me up at 7.30am. We headed towards the office on our regular route: the 105 freeway to the 405 north, all the way down La Cienega Blvd…I knew it like the back of my hand. We talked momentarily about the weekend. Neither of us could understand how all this could have possibly happened and left Pac shot again. We arrived at 9171 Wilshire Blvd. in Beverly Hills around 8.45am. Death Row staff had to be there by 9am or else! Consequences included your pay being docked plus you never knew if Suge was gonna call or not. We never knew who he was gonna need at what time. We took an elevator from the parking garage up to the lobby.
I never saw so many camera crews in my entire life in one spot, all itching to get to the office area but the lobby was as far as they were going.
Our security was on extra alert today. Once in, we were all summoned to an emergency meeting asking us not to respond to the media: no interviews, no quotes, let Papa G do his job. All my weeks at Death Row had been crazy but that day was the craziest.
The next day, Tuesday, was totally different – so quiet it was eerie. I felt like I had changed jobs and was now working in a library. It had never been this silent at Death Row – ever! Everybody stayed in their own offices, sad and still shook up. Roy and Norris’ office was never really closed and was usually the heart of Death Row where most of the excitement and noise came from. Not that day. You could have heard a rat piss on cotton or a pin drop to the floor. I was bored as hell as all my projects were done and I had nothing to do, nowhere to go. I couldn’t go kick it in Papa G’s office like usual. Him and Greg were super busy with the public relations stuff and I didn’t want to be in the way. Hen Dogg wasn’t around so all I could do was roam the halls, wall to wall, hall to hall. I stopped by Linda Tubbs’ (Suge’s sister) office a few times to see if Kevin, her husband who had stayed at the Vegas hospital, had called in with an update. He had just called: Pac’s condition was the same – critical.
The next day, Wednesday, the office seemed a little bit more lively. Roy and Norris had their office door open and were clowning as usual. I walked into their office and suddenly noticed this new glass display case they had up against the wall. I couldn’t see exactly what was inside of it because I was at a side angle so I stepped around. It was Pac’s new medallion – the Euphanasia logo he wore around his neck the night of the shooting. It was like looking at a relic from a King Tut exhibit. The chain just hung there in the glass case. I just stared at it, mesmerized. I noticed the gold had been stained with Pac’s blood. Linda entered the office with the update: no change. Pac was still critical.
Thursday everyone was hoping for some good news. Greg and I were chilling in Junella’s office. Papa G was out so Greg had a little freedom. We ordered breakfast from the café downstairs. While we waited for our food, we had a brief conversation about Pac. We talked about how we knew he was gonna pull through and be ok. He survived the first time so we prayed he was gonna do it again. We thought about what type of music he would make this time around. We knew he would be brutal. I recalled when I was at Can-Am studios a few weeks prior with Papa G and I remembered him laying down ‘Against All Odds’. Pac was a beast! Linda came through with the Pac update: no change, guys.
Friday September 13th was pay day. Usually everybody was happy on paydays but not that day. The office was emotionless. We all sat around, not much to do unless Papa G wanted me to go to the studio or somewhere with him. He loved for me to go places with him, saying it was like having his own personal bodyguard as nobody fucked with him when I was around. Maybe it was because I was so big plus my reputation with the artists was gold as I’d grown up in the same ‘hood as Suge.
Papa G had nowhere for us to go that day so I hung out in Junella’s office and watched TV. A load of us were just in there, in a cool mood. It was about 4.10pm when Linda stepped in and said, ‘I have some bad news, you guys. Tupac just died.’ Everybody went silent and tears started pouring from the entire staff everywhere.
After six days in on that one day, the seventh, he was out.
The full impact of the symbolism of the piece Pac had commissioned me to paint began to fall on me. I felt that was my first truly artistic piece. I felt bad as being the last person to connect with Pac through that painting. I showed it him and he loved it .
I spent a lot of time trying to escape that shadow. I can do something new yet feel forever under the Makaveli album cover. For many years, it was my greatest accomplishment but it was also my darkest secret. I felt it was my fault for creating it and that it was a message from God.
After Death Row collapsed, I took a knock. That was pretty hard to get my head around: losing Pac, losing Hen Dogg, Aaron, losing my dream. But they always told me: "Riskie, do your own thing". I carried on doing airbrush and body art. I started off freelancing at different studios and taught myself that. Another guy taught me different techniques. I learnt a lot more within the last year.
My inspirations are Basquiat, Hex, Andy Warhol, Disney – I love their colour schemes and how they show images through different ways, those comic book colours.
I’m an artist but I’ve not really been creating my own vision. I’ve been creating everybody else’s vision, being a technician for them. Now I want to do my own thing, my own thoughts. I know how I feel. I’m done doing t-shirts and little paintings. I want to create my own ideas and sell them.
"Ultimately, I want to be a big artist like Michelangelo. I don’t want to be just a guy who’s painted t-shirts. I’m constantly searching for that bigger canvas. I’m a practical person, I’m from the streets but that doesn’t mean I don’t dream big. Only that I mean it."
And pragmatists who dream make the most dangerous people – because they’ll do it.
Words by Nina Bhadreshwar