I am a longtime and passionate fan of the work and social
ideas of the late legendary Tupac Shakur. When I got the chance to sit
down and interview the woman who is behind the branding and professional
legacy for Tupac Shakur, I jumped at the chance! Her name is Dina LaPolt,
owner of LaPolt Law, P.C. She, in conjunction with Tupac's mother Afeni
Shakur, is working very hard to make sure that Tupac Shakur is remembered
as the brilliant artist and revolutionary that he was. They also see to
it that Tupac's production company, Amaru Entertainment, thrives in the
areas of music, poetry, film, and now The Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for
the Arts, which is being built in Atlanta, GA. Dina LaPolt is also co-producer
of the Oscar Nominated documentary about Tupac Shakur's life, "Tupac:
Resurrection." The Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts is their
number one mission, and I am doing my part with this interview to help
them carry that out! It's the very least I can do for a brilliant young
man who gave so much to the world in his 25 years on earth.
PR.com (Allison Kugel): Dina, you are a co-producer of
"Tupac: Resurrection" which is nominated for an Oscar for best
documentary feature this year. Congratulations! Are you going to the Oscars
Dina LaPolt: No. I'm going to all these other things that
I've been doing all week long. The two people who are actually accepting
are the director, Lauren Lazin and Karolyn Ali who is one of the producers.
They got tickets and we had to get Afeni Shakur a ticket and her husband,
but when they were the ones who actually got the tickets, a lot of us
PR.com: But you'll be somewhere watching it of course
Dina LaPolt: Oh of course!
PR.com: I'm rooting for you guys on Sunday, because I
am a huge Tupac Shakur fan!
Dina LaPolt: Oh really?
PR.com: I'm so passionate about his work!
Dina LaPolt: Wow!
PR.com: I love his music and I love what he stood for.
It almost brings tears to my eyes when I think about the fact that he
was killed at the age of 25. When it happened I was in college and 21,
and now that I'm 30, I look back and I'm like "25?" He was an
infant when he died.
Dina LaPolt: The most ironic thing is all the material he
PR.com: How many albums?
Dina LaPolt: 9 albums since his death, 15 albums total.
PR.com: You and your Law Firm, LaPolt Law, represent
Tupac Shakur's entire estate.
Dina LaPolt: Yes. [Tupac's] mother, Afeni Shakur and her
entertainment companies which fall under the umbrella of Amaru Entertainment,
Inc. Amaru is Tupac's middle name. Tupac Amaru Shakur. I do all the entertainment
PR.com: So that encompasses Amaru Films, Amaru Records,
and The Amaru Foundation?
Dina LaPolt: The record company, all the films, the books,
the merchandising, the clothing line, all of that. We have a foundation
lawyer down in Atlanta, and I work very closely with her.
PR.com: Afeni Shakur hired you after the death of her
Dina LaPolt: I met her in August 1998 when I was at my old
firm, and she and I hit it off right away. I was just a little bitty associate
at my old firm, and it was my boss who she had hired thru referral. She
and I met in August of '98 and we hit it off immediately. I can tell you
that I basically grew up practicing law with Afeni Shakur. I learned how
to practice law under her.
PR.com: How would you describe Afeni Shakur as a woman?
Dina LaPolt: The most internally powerful person I have
ever met in my life. Very spiritually and emotionally grounded. She very
much has a warrior spirit which is so refreshing. She's not afraid of
anybody. She's only about protecting her son's legacy and taking care
of her family. And if anybody is messing with that or challenges her,
she doesn't stand down. She's an amazing inspiration for me, as a woman
PR.com: You are responsible for freeing up millions
of dollars in frozen assets and unpaid royalties of Tupac. Where were
these assets tangled up and how did you untangle them?
Dina LaPolt: When Tupac died, he never had a music lawyer.
When you are a recording artist every royalty payment that goes to producers
and other third party royalty participants, people that perform on your
album, comes out of the artist's royalty. And if they write music with
the artist, then the artist has to do agreements with them, like song
split agreements, so these people share in the publishing money. When
Tupac died, nothing was papered on his behalf. Under the terms of his
recording agreement, they were still allowed to release all his albums
notwithstanding the fact that none of the paperwork was done, and they
just didn't pay him. They just froze all the royalty streams and kept
their profits. When I got involved, there was literally over $13 million
dollars in frozen royalty payments that belonged to Tupac, his producers,
all his co-writers
it was just awful. Me in connection with another
lawyer, Donald David, who was very influential in getting this untangled
as well, and then the lawyer for our publishing company, Robert Allen,
two and a half years of our lives we just went song
by song and worked out all the copyright splits.
PR.com: These royalties went to Amaru Entertainment?
Dina LaPolt: No, they went to all the producers who never
got paid, all the song writers who never got paid, and Tupac who never
got paid. It was divided amongst everybody. Tupac didn't have agreements
with his producers, like he was supposed to, so nobody was getting paid.
All the songwriters who wrote songs with Tupac, whether it was Dr. Dre
or The OutLawz or whoever, none of them were getting their songwriter
PR.com: Did any of that money have to go to Marion (Suge)
Dina LaPolt: No, by the time I got involved, Donald David
had already litigated Death Row [Records] and Suge Knight, and got all
the intellectual properties reverted to Afeni Shakur. When I got involved,
the estate was in a very litigious time. And I was the person who was
brought in to help make it into a business. [Suge Knight] has two record
albums that he still owns that are now distributed by Koch Records. So,
he gets royalties on those, and he also gets royalties on some of the
albums that we have on Interscope.
PR.com: Amaru Records' deal is with Interscope...
Dina LaPolt: Although, we are doing a spoken word album
this year with Koch Records.
PR.com: And that's poetry?
Dina LaPolt: Yes. Poems that Tupac wrote that are unpublished,
that we have secured in a vault, and we are getting third party artists
and producers to perform those poems. It's gonna be an album.
PR.com: These nine albums that came out after Tupac's
death in 1996
where did all of this material come from?
Dina LaPolt: Tupac, when he died, he left behind 154 unreleased
master recordings. He told everyone he was gonna die. I mean if you've
seen the film, so see the end when he says, "I don't have time here!"
He goes "I don't have time to lay the hook! You do that after I leave!"
PR.com: Why did he think he was gonna die young?
Dina LaPolt: He just did. He said, even in the movie, you
heard him say, "when I'm gone, you're gonna have all this material
to be released." And as he's talking, they showcased each album we've
released over the years.
PR.com: Do you think that he courted his own death by
his behavior and things he said to the media? Or do you think it was something
that was out of his control?
Dina LaPolt: I will tell you that after being around Afeni
Shakur all these years, I can tell you that it is probably a prophecy.
Because she knows things
talking to her, she'll say to me, "you
better put this in the contract, because in this many years, this is gonna
happen." In the beginning, I was like "What?" and she'd
be like, "no, just do what I say." Now, I don't argue! I mean
she'll say, "Make sure you put this in the contract because in ten
years, this is gonna happen and I need to be protected."
PR.com: Sometimes I've said to people that Tupac Shakur
was an angel who was put on earth for 25 years, and then he had to go
Dina LaPolt: I believe that.
PR.com: How did the documentary, "Tupac: Resurrection,"
come about, and how did Lauren Lazin come into the picture as Director?
Dina LaPolt: Lauren was working in the MTV news and documentaries
department. She came to meet with us, and she said that her lifelong dream
was to do the Tupac Shakur documentary. We finally introduced her to Afeni
[Shakur] who liked her right away. [Lauren] was always attached to the
project from the very beginning. It wasn't like we did a deal with MTV
and then Lauren came around. Afeni Shakur fell in love with Lauren Lazin
and said, "We're doing it with Lauren Lazin!" She is the visionary
of the movie.
PR.com: This was a collaboration between MTV, Amaru Films
Dina LaPolt: Paramount is the distributor. Amaru and MTV
did the film on their own.
PR.com: What was your role as co-producer?
Dina LaPolt: I was working with Lauren so closely over the
years obtaining music and footage. I was in battle every day, fighting
Death Row [Records] who was sending cease and desist letters to everybody
and scaring the pants off of everybody. All the music that Lauren used
in the film
we have 70 Tupac songs in the film and most of them contain
samples. I don't know if you know about intellectual property law, but
we had to reach out to every person who had a little bitty share of any
piece of a song and beg for them to let us put it in the movie. If we
paid retail price for those songs, it would have been a $7 million dollar
production. I begged and groveled for years and begged everybody on behalf
of Afeni Shakur and said, "Please! She's making a movie about her
son. Please help us!" At the end of the day, Lauren [Lazin] and Afeni
[Shakur] said, we're gonna give Dina this [producer] credit.
PR.com: Is Afeni involved in the day to day operations
of her son's production company?
Dina LaPolt: Every step of the way! She's very involved
with everything. I can tell you that I talk to her five times a day!
PR.com: What year did you, Afeni Shakur, Lauren Lazin
and MTV first sit down for your first meeting? And how many years was
it from its inception until the time that it premiered at Sundance?
Dina LaPolt: We met Lauren Lazin in 1998, and the film premiered
at Sundance in January 2003. So it was a five year process.
PR.com: Why do you think Lauren Lazin was so passionate
about making this documentary?
Dina LaPolt: I think she's a huge Tupac fan. She's been
doing news and documentaries at MTV for over ten years I believe, and
I think that out of all the artists that she has covered, I think that
Tupac stood out to her the most.
PR.com: So it was Tupac Shakur that she was very passionate
about, and she wanted to tell his story properly
Dina LaPolt: And then when she met Afeni, it was over the
top. Because everyone who meets Afeni
you fall in love with her.
You just can't help it. Everybody who works for her company and the lawyers
here at my firm, we have this mission, which is her mission, of building
the "Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts."
PR.com: I was gonna ask you about that, so let's talk
about this now
Dina LaPolt: That's why we work so hard, because it's so
PR.com: And in what city is the center being built?
Dina LaPolt: In Atlanta, on Memorial Drive. We're almost
completed with the Meditation Peace Garden and the Visitor Center.
PR.com: This is going to be a school for children
Dina LaPolt: Yes. And Afeni has a school every summer, where
she does a performing arts camp for children, and it just keeps growing
and growing. I think this is gonna be the first summer where we have the
performing arts camp at our own facility on Memorial Drive.
PR.com: That's incredible!
Dina LaPolt: It is! This is just phase one of it. There's
gonna be an auditorium, and a dance studio, and a recording studio and
an editing bay
we are on a national campaign to raise money for
this now. I can tell you this
every project that we do, income streams
are diverted to The Center for the Arts.
PR.com: People can buy a brick and put it in their name
Dina LaPolt: Yup.
PR.com: How is that going?
Dina LaPolt: Great! [Afeni's] goal for 2004 was this national
fundraising campaign. That's what our whole goal was, and three weeks
into January we got nominated for an Academy Award, and that's consumed
PR.com: Tupac was a huge believer in helping the underdog
and he believed in spreading wealth. With all of the money that your company
is generating with Amaru, is any going to philanthropic work?
Dina LaPolt: Well, [Afeni] is building The Center for the
Arts. That's a $5 million dollar undertaking. And she's been doing it
all on her own. She's involved in a lot of different charities, from "The
Place Called Home," which is here in LA to the "Impact Reparatory
Theatre" in New York City. That's the basis of her life's work. Ever
since she was a very young activist, she was involved in the landlord/tenant
right fights in New York. She worked for a law firm for ten years. She
was very involved in getting tenants rights in New York City. She was
fighting the slumlords.
PR.com: In her younger years she was a Black Panther
Dina LaPolt: Yes! She did the Children's Free Breakfast
that's her life's work, philanthropy. That's why now her
life's work has turned into building The [Tupac Amaru Shakur] Center for
the Arts, because she feels as though, when Tupac was accepted into The
Baltimore School of the Arts, it changed the course of his path forever.
PR.com: He found himself there
Dina LaPolt: He studied Shakespeare and Ballet
PR.com: So many people don't know that about him. They
think that he was just a street rapper and there was so much more depth
there. He was a poet, he was a dancer, he knew Shakespeare. He was the
consummate all around artist.
Dina LaPolt: Yeah. So [Afeni] knows that that opportunity
is an opportunity that's not readily afforded to young people of today.
Especially for those who are underprivileged.
PR.com: Is this going to be a public school or private
Dina LaPolt: Public. We haven't worked out how people are
going to be accepted, but according to Afeni, no one's going to go without.
PR.com: There's a woman named Angela Ardis who recently
published a book about Tupac. Are you familiar with her? She wrote a book
called "Inside A Thug's Heart."
Dina LaPolt: Afeni approved that book.
PR.com: Was that publishing deal done thru your law firm?
Dina LaPolt: Yes. And actually Angela [Ardis] donates money
to The Center. Afeni didn't get paid for that. Instead she said, "Can
you please make sure there's a donation going to The Center?"
PR.com: You are also a teacher. You teach a UCLA Extension
Course called "Legal and Practical Aspects of The Recording and Publishing
Dina LaPolt: I swear it's not as boring as it sounds (we
laugh). What I do is, I take every legal agreement in the music industry
and I teach the deal points in those agreements. People in the class are
artists, managers, lawyers, business managers.
PR.com: These are people who are actively working in
the music business?
Dina LaPolt: Yes. I know that Windswept Pacific, The Firm,
Network Management and Sony Entertainment send people to my class. I have
people in the class who are professionally working in the music industry
right now, and people in the class who are very serious about their careers
in the music industry.
PR.com: What are the common financial pitfalls that young
and inexperienced artists fall into?
Dina LaPolt: They sign agreements that they don't give somebody
to look at, the worst thing they can do.
PR.com: They're very anxious to get started
Dina LaPolt: Right
and they don't understand what the
ramifications of doing that are. You have a young artist who comes out
here [to LA], and they're very talented and they're "discovered"
by somebody in a club, and the guy says to them, "I want to develop
get you a fat record deal
sign on the dotted line."
The artist who's so excited to get ahead, decides to sign on the dotted
line, only to realize later on, that that artist gave up all their publishing,
all their merchandising, the rights to all their trademarks for their
If you're an artist, you better know what your publishing is,
you better know mechanical royalties, what artist royalties are, what
merchandising licensing is. You need to know all that stuff.
PR.com: What are the mechanics of representing the estate
of a musician who has passed away, as opposed to a musician who is alive
and actively working in the business?
Dina LaPolt: I can tell you that working with a deceased
artist is a lot harder, especially at the record company level. I'll tell
you my experience especially with Tupac
when Tupac's albums come
out, Tupac is not there to yell at somebody when his video is not out
when it's supposed to be. Tupac's not here to pick up the phone and say
to the president of the record company, "Hello! What are you doin'?!
I want a list of all the radio stations that are playing my music!"
It was great this past album working with Eminem, because he was in Tupac's
role. It was phenomenal.
PR.com: He and Afeni co-executive produced the "Loyal
to the Game" CD, which was just released
Dina LaPolt: Yeah, we love Eminem!
PR.com: He is working with you as well?
Dina LaPolt: He is represented by somebody else, but we
work with their people very closely. Tupac is one of the biggest influences
of [Eminem's] life, and he'll tell you that within five minutes of speaking
PR.com: Then he and I have something in common.
Dina LaPolt: Eminem is very much a Tupac fan, and he did
a couple tracks for the "Tupac: Resurrection" album and it really
moved Afeni [Shakur]. When they started contacting people who were involved
in the soundtrack, it got back to us that Eminem was so eager to be involved.
He cooperated, made himself available to be interviewed, and that really
moved Afeni and the entire family. When we asked him to produce tracks,
he was like "Ok Yes!" and then the tracks were done!
PR.com: Over the top
Dina LaPolt: Oh, over the top! (We both laugh) That really
moved the family. When it came time this year to put this album out (Loyal
to the Game), he approached - we have the same record company, Interscope
- someone very high up at Interscope called me one day and said, "Eminem
wants to work on this album." I asked Afeni, and she said "Absolutely!"
So we said, "Yes, of course Eminem can do tracks." He did three
tracks and then the record company called us back and said that he wants
to produce the entire album. And this is the funniest story, are you ready?
PR.com: Mmm Hmm
Dina LaPolt: I was at a music conference in Boston and
Afeni calls me and she goes, "Dina, Oh My God! I got the cutest letter
from Eminem! And she read it to me on the phone. He personally wrote to
her and said, "Dear Afeni
I would like to produce the entire
album. I am such a huge fan of your son
" It was the sweetest
letter! Afeni said, "I'm faxing the letter to your office for the
files." I said, "Ok great!" A couple hours later I call
my office to check in, and my assistant Heidi says, "We got some
random fax from some [guy] named Marshall. He says he wants to produce
the next Tupac album. I put it in your unsolicited pile" (We are
both in hysterics at her assistant's fau paux) I said, "Heidi
PR.com: That's great!
Dina LaPolt: Isn't that funny!?
PR.com: That's priceless!
Dina LaPolt: I know! (We can't stop laughing)
PR.com: Lauren Lazin said that one of the reasons "Tupac:
Resurrection" was able to hold an audience's attention for an hour
and a half is because Tupac never gave a bad interview. Do you agree with
Dina LaPolt: Yes. He was such a personality!
PR.com: Was it impossible for Lauren to cut out everything
she had to cut out?
Dina LaPolt: Yes. Her film was [originally] three and a
half hours. She was like, "I don't know what to cut out! It's too
amazing!" In December , when I was at MTV watching the film
for the first time, it was such a long film. People were like, "Lauren
it has to be less time, less time, less time," and she was like "I
don't know what to cut out! (upset) It's just too amazing!"
PR.com: I would give anything to see the full three and
a half hours.
Dina LaPolt: I don't know if there's a copy.
PR.com: If "Tupac: Resurrection" wins the Oscar
on Sunday, how do you see that changing Amaru Entertainment, Afeni Shakur's
career or your career?
Dina LaPolt: Hopefully we'll raise all the money for "The
Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts." If we win, that will be
our dream, because then we can raise a global awareness as to The Center
for the Arts.
PR.com: I think that's fabulous. That's such a selfless
reason to want to win.
Dina LaPolt: It just gives you the best day at work, to
know that you're doing it because you're going to help some little child.
PR.com: When did your firm, LaPolt Law, open its doors?
Dina LaPolt: October 2001.
PR.com: And you have your own band, Trophy Girls?
Dina LaPolt: Yes.
PR.com: Have you guys ever played a gig on Sunset [Blvd.
in Hollywood, CA]?
Dina LaPolt: Yeah, but [now] we just play in the studio
on weekends and have fun.
PR.com: What's your favorite Tupac Shakur song?
Dina LaPolt: Wow, that's such a great question! I have favorite
songs for different moods
PR.com: When you're in a speeding down the freeway mood?
Dina LaPolt: Oh, that's easy, "Breathin'."
PR.com: What about when you're bummed out or feeling
a little down?
Dina LaPolt: "Thug's Mansion: The Accoustic Remix"
PR.com: One of my favorites is "How Do You Want
Dina LaPolt: That's a great bumpin' song.
PR.com: Hell yeah it is!
about LaPolt Law, P.C. in its PR.com Company Profile
about Tupac Shakur in the PR.com Company Profile for 2Pac Legacy