Updated: Jun 10, 2021
Annapolis native Delray Richardson was showing off his new hometown, Los Angeles, to friends from his old hometown. It was late August 1996.
The memory of a brief interchange that night would fade for more than two decades until Richardson, now 44, was sorting through some film negatives during a visit to his friend Nanette Nick's Annapolis home in late June. Nick had recently cleared out her mother's house in Bay Ridge Gardens and showed Richardson the old negatives she'd found.
What he dug out of the pile of celluloid strips was an image of a young, 25-year-old man at the wheel of a black Hummer responding to a question. It was one of the final photos taken of legendary rap and hip-hop artist and actor Tupac Shakur before a violent attack in Las Vegas the night of Sept. 7, 1996, caused his death six days later.
This April, Shakur was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Yet another movie about the late performer and cultural icon, "All Eyez on Me," was released on June 16, on what would have been Shakur's 46th birthday, to mixed reviews. Richardson was a guest at the premiere in Los Angeles on June 14.
A look back
Back in 1996, Richardson, then 23, was an aspiring songwriter and performer. He'd grown up in Annapolis' Robinwood community and, despite a troubled youth, poverty, drugs and run-ins with the law, Richardson had persevered, created rap music in a Harbor House bedroom, sold cassettes of his music for under a dollar, and struck out for Hollywood in 1994 to make his mark.
And he did.
In Los Angeles studios, Richardson wrote and recorded songs with Shakur, Dr. Dre, Melle Mel, the Sugar Hill Gang, 50 Cent, The Game and Eminem, among others. His songs have been featured on the TV shows like "America's Next Top Model" and "Soul Food" and have earned gold and platinum records commemorating record sales in the millions. In 2000, he won a Los Angeles Music Award for independent hip-hop artist of the year, edging out the Black Eyed Peas.
Delray Richardson standing in front of his Gold and Platinum Plaques.
Annapolis Mayor Ellen Moyer declared May 23 "Delray Richardson Day" in 2008 and presented the rapper with a proclamation in the Stanton Center gymnasium. A recent album, Richardson's fifth, is "Mahogany Masterpiece: The Return of Hip Hop" under his label Del-Funk-Boy Music, released in 2015.
Delray Richardson holding one of his latest music project 'Mahogany Masterpiece. By Paul W. Gillespie, Capital Gazette
Off Sunset Boulevard
That evening in '96, with friends Nick and Ingrid Hicks, the trio had gone celebrity sight-seeing, visiting rapper Ice-T at his Hollywood Hills residence and in-home basement recording studio called the Crack House, O.J. Simpson's Rockingham estate, the murder scene at the home of O.J.'s ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson, Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles, and the notorious nightlife scene.
Driving west on Hollywood Boulevard, they made a left onto La Brea Avenue and, shortly after, were stopped at the red light at the intersection of La Brea and Sunset Boulevard.
Richardson looked up and spotted a shiny, new black Hummer.
He knew Shakur had purchased a customized 1996 AM General Hummer H1 Hardtop with a V8 engine a few weeks earlier. Was it his? Richardson pushed the gas pedal.
The two had worked together recently on the songs "We Ain't" and "One Day at a Time" on Shakur's "Resurrection" soundtrack, plus a few remixes. Some have been released. Others, not yet.
The unusual Hummer was making a right turn onto La Brea. The two women yelled at Richardson to catch up with the vehicle.
They pulled alongside the Hummer at another red light at Fountain Avenue and La Brea. Windows opened on both cars. The driver was Shakur.
Shakur, also known as 2Pac and a few other names, had ties to this area, too. His family moved to Baltimore in 1986. He finished his final two years of high school at the Baltimore School of the Arts in 1988, before heading off to perform as a dancer, actor and singer.
"Yo Pac," yelled Richardson. "These are my homegirls from Maryland. They wanna take a picture with you."
Shakur demurred. "I can't get out of my car because there's too much traffic." He was also en route to a session with a group called the Outlawz.
Richardson handed his camera to Nick. "Take a picture. It's better than nothing," he said.
As the camera was raised, Hicks asked the 25-year-old legend, "Tupac, can I ask you a question?"
"Sure, baby," was the reply.
"How many times did you get shot?"
She was referring to an incident in Manhattan on Nov. 30, 1994, when the singer was attacked in the lobby of the Quad Recording Studios.
Shakur held up his right hand and spread all five fingers. "Five," he said. Nick's' photo captured that moment.
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The lights changed. The two cars went their separate ways.
Richardson is still recording music. Still in the music business. The Hummer? It sold at auction on August 2017 for over $206,000.
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