That’s Just the Way It Is: Tupac’s Childhood Poetry Book Is Up for Auction, Estimated to Sell Up to $300,000 - Arts & Culture

The manuscript is the earliest piece of writing Tupac has on record.

Influential rapper Tupac Shakur’s (1971 to 1996) childhood poetry book is currently up for bids at Sotheby’s. The manuscript titled Haiku is expected to sell from $200,000 to $300,000 after the starting bid of $140,000. 

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The lot is part of the British auction house’s “The Art and Influence of Hip Hop” sale. The lots include Shakur’s handwritten letters to loved ones when he was 17 years old, vinyl records from the collection record producer Jazzy Jay, and an Adidas track jacket worn by breakdancer Crazy Legs during a performance. 

A page from Tupac’s “Haiku”, signed poetry manuscript / Photo from Sothebys.com

Shakur’s poetry book was written at 11 years old while he was living through his childhood trauma. 

Early struggles

His parents, Afeni Shakur and Billy Garland were active members of the Black Panther Party (also known as the Panther 21). This organization fought for “Black nationalism, socialism, and armed self-defense, particularly against police brutality” from the late 1960s to the early 1970s.

While Afeni was pregnant with Shakur, the Panther 21 were accused of bombing and attacking two police stations in New York in May 1971. During the trial, Shakur was under constant FBI surveillance with Afeni, his godfather Jamal Joseph and babysitter Sekiya. 

Afeni and Joseph, also part of the movement, were facing 366 years in prison but spent two years in jail after being acquitted. 

Art as solace

According to Sotheby’s, the rapper turned to art for refuge and wrote poems on subjects to give him solace, such as nature, peace, hope, strength, and liberation. 

The young Shakur gifted the booklet to his incarcerated relatives. Joseph told Sotheby’s that if he had not sent it home to his wife Joyce, correctional officers would have confiscated the item. 

“Manuscript material by Tupac is incredibly rare—indeed, the only material that has appeared free and clear on the market has been a sprinkling of his beautifully composed and poetic love letters (see lots 101-107 for the most important tranche of such letters to have come to market).

Rare find

“Nothing even closely resembling the present manuscript has ever been offered,” the auction house says. 

The manuscript is the earliest piece of writing Shakur has on record. “Black/ Black is our color/ We were born black / in Africa/ I am Black and proud,” the Grammy award winner wrote in one of the poems. 

A page from Tupac’s “Haiku”, signed poetry manuscript / Photo from Sothebys.com

In 1996, when he was only 25 years old, Shakur was tragically shot in Las Vegas by an unknown gunman. Six days later, he passed away. 

Although it’s been over two decades since his death, today’s prevalent musicians note Shukar as inspiration, such as J.Cole, Jhene Aiko, Eminem, Alicia Keys, and Drake.

Bidding for Shakur’s childhood poetry book closes on March 31.

Banner photo from @notorious.2pac on Instagram

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