In part two of our conversation with the brilliant Lolita Files, we talk tales from college, favorite Tupac songs, and how the A&E docu-series came to be! Check out the final part below.
M: That was me. I have a funny story from back home. This was 2009 I want to say, and I was taking classes at this community college about 20 minutes away from home and I literally had a paper due let’s say like 2 o’clock in the afternoon. I’m there at the library at like 10 am doing this paper because of what you were saying ‘putting pressure on myself’ but also a little bit of “I’ll get to it later”, then later came!
LF: It was like that for me too, I had to create the crisis. The crisis didn’t even have to happen, I created the crisis and the crisis then put me under the gun for it to have to be good or great because I had no more time to work with.
M: Wow, that’s a gem right there. You know what, I love that perspective because up to this point I had never really thought about why. I’d always asked myself “why do you do this to yourself when you know you have time?”
LF: You’re creating a crisis.
M: You know what I like that term way better than ‘procrastinating’.
M: Like you said, the pressure of the moment would force me to be great.
LF: You have to operate at maximum level when you do it that way.
M: You know what, you’re teaching me a lot and I’m glad it’s not just me.
LF: Because you are probably not that you aren’t good if it’s not a crisis because you probably are but you’re probably superior in a crisis. So you create an artificial crisis.
M: That’s an amazing way of looking at it because I would wonder why I waited so long when I had a month to do it!
LF: And I’ll loathe myself during this time that’s passing. I’ll go through self-loathing like you know dang well you should’ve been working on this! (laughter)
M: Right now you sound like what my thoughts would say if they could talk! I’d tell myself I’ll get to it right after I finish watching this YouTube interview when I could’ve been working. (laughter)
LF: That’s my ritual! You asked earlier what my ritual was, I’ll go “you know what? I’m gonna do this!” And I’ll even wake up in the morning and go….let me check Twitter first and I’ll say let me click this hashtag..and you keep finding these reasons to stall. And the stalling is creating this pressure, and in the midst of the pressure and the stalling (again, the self-loathing) but that’s my process.
M: That is incredible. This went from being some interview to, like this is like therapy. Real enlightening conversation, because now I don’t feel crazy.
LF: You have to find people who are like you because it’s so many writers and classes and circles and stuff “oh I get up every day and I write a thousand words” I might get up with the intention of writing a thousand words…
LF: No, not happening.
M: Whether I’m watching an interview or reading an article I discover writers saying they write a piece every day and I’m thinking to myself “yea in my head I have it, I just haven’t written it yet.”
LF: You feel like you’re not a real writer in the sense that..you know…these are trained professionals and they get up every day write a thousand words I don’t do it, sorry! So many of my peers, close friends who are writers; they write that way. That’s not the way I write and I don’t beat myself up for it.
M: I learned a long time ago not to get too down on myself for not having the same process as someone else because we’re two different people and we’re not supposed to operate the same.
Now it all makes sense. I read about an incident in college where they thought you were a professor passing as a student?
LF: That was crazy! That was bananas. It was my last year of college and it was the last part of college, I was in summer school, and I took twenty hours that summer semester so I could get out. I was just ready, craziness with my boyfriend you know, I’m just ready to get out of here. Gainesville, Florida in the summer was blazing hot. And classes in the summer were every single day, they were like an hour and a half and you couldn’t skip a class. But one day, one of the classes I had was advanced expository writing and they had asked us to write about this place, some place that we know of that’s familiar or whatever. And my parents were from the Mississippi Delta originally, and every summer we went there to visit. So I wrote about this small town they were from, where my grandparents lived. I turned this paper in and I skipped class the next day. The crazy part is I dreamed that night that the professor confronted me about the paper, right. And accused me of being a professional writer.
When I woke up I’m like “I’m bout to get flunked out this class. It’s no way I’m gonna come back in the fall.” I go to the class, we’re waiting for the professor to show up to open the doors. And everyone’s looking at me because no one skipped class, and I had skipped class and they were all like “you’re the one who wrote that paper.” And I said, “aww shit he’s gonna fail me.” The professor walks up and says he wants to see me after class in my office at 2:30, and I’m like this dude is gonna fail me. I’m terrified. I go to his office and I’m not even thinking about the dream I had. It was a silly dream. I sit in his office and he says I don’t appreciate people like you in my class. And I said “people like me?!”..I’m thinking some racist stuff.
M: Yeah! Like, what you mean?!
LF: What do you mean people like me? He says “professional writers. My class is for students who are trying to learn. I don’t appreciate people like you coming in here trying to get an easy A!” I’m like, I’m a student! I pull out my student ID and you know the Jedi mind trick goes where somebody gets so angry about something then they realize they’re wrong and flip it on you? And so he says “well you should be a professional writer! And I’ll help you with whatever you wanna do.” And he was still in his angry stage. And it took me a second to realize this dude is actually saying he thinks I’m a good writer, but he just came to me wrong. But yeah that actually happened. Again, I’m panicking but it ended up being a good meeting.
M. So he ended up doing Step Brothers, “did we just become best friends? Yup.”
LF: Yes! Exactly.
M: When I read that I couldn’t believe it! I absolutely had to hear this story. Explain that feeling. In that moment when you hear that from a professor. What did that do for you?
LF: It was confirmation for me because by the time I graduated high school everyone thought that I was going to be an author. I had these two advanced placement English teachers all through high school and they saw in me that I had a knack for writing and they encouraged me. So in my senior year of high school, I had seven classes, five of them were English, one was for the yearbook and seventh one I was the teacher’s aid for the AP English class. And I ended up getting seven scholarships because I did so well in English. So believing that I would do this all through high school and hearing this from a totally independent person, it was confirmation.
M: Absolutely. It had to be a surreal moment. So from that, what is like to be a New York Times bestseller? And you’re six times!
LF: It’s exciting! You love when people connect with your stories. You want them to connect with the way that you write. That the part that’s exciting to me, I go back to “Child Of God” and people would lose their minds over that book. The people who love that book are rabid fans of it. The same with the first book I had published “Scenes From A Sistah”, it was really popular and people would come to me you know and tell me how they connected to the characters. You’re sitting there as a writer in these four walls coming off the top off your head, you don’t realize the depth and the impact it’s gonna have on people. It’s amazing when you get that back, it’s really powerful the way it resonates.
M: Yea, like it’s obviously good to you because you’re writing it but when it connects with other people it’s incredible. I get that. Does it make you feel a certain sense of power? Like “this is what I’m meant to do.” because there are powers in those words.
LF: Absolutely. You know, I joke about a lot of things that I can’t do but I absolutely know that I can do that. I can write. I know I can cook, I know I can write.
M: I like that! See now I feel like I’m on the right path. Our writing process as far as creating the crisis is similar, now this.
LF: It sounds like you’re on the right path!
M: I hope I am! Switching gears, how did the docu-series on A&E come about?
LF: I was writing the book “Once Upon A Time In Compton”, the book that I wrote with former Compton gang detectives. And a friend of mine, who does production in television, was going out to pitch the show about who murdered Tupac and she was like you should be a part of the show. You’re an expert on Compton and all the gangs and stuff. The whole Compton element is a big part of the question who killed Tupac. And so, next thing you know A&E picks up the show, they’re very excited about it so she’s like come on, I’ll introduce you. Next thing you know, here I am! They’re like “they want you to be in the show” and I’m like oooooh wait a minute! Next thing you know, I’m one of the investigators on every episode. And so I came in one way, I had already been producing stuff for film and tv, but this just took me down a path I didn’t expect. I was open to that path it took me down, but I was not prepared at first! You know, they’re like you have the look, you have this great look and I’m like oK I’m doing this! I love doc-series, I love documentaries period. And we went down so many rabbit holes doing this show. I’m an intense researcher anyway as a writer. We were literally trying to solve a case.
M: Going back to the beginning, about your words jumping off the page; you sound just as excited about this as I read, to begin with. Have you learned anything new during this process, and will the audience learn something new by watching?
LF: Oh my gosh, absolutely. Yes to both questions. I mean I’ve learned so much stuff, just had jaw-dropping moments after moments after moments doing this show. And it hasn’t stopped, so yes I have and I feel like the audience will do the same. There are moments where I learned about things that. I mean I don’t even know how to articulate it (laughter) because you go into it like sure I’ll do this and be an investigator and then you’re really investigating stuff. There are reasons this case hasn’t been solved for so long. There are people who clearly want this to get out. There are 26 deaths that have occurred in int he wake of Tupac, that are connected to his murder. So that gives you pause alone. As we’re investigating, we’re like this is serious. So yeah, I think the audience will be riveted by the stuff they read.
M: Over the years, there’s been like a lot of surface level things and at times you’ll get a little gem here and somebody will say something new. So when I read this was going on, I knew this couldn’t be the original run of the mill, just giving us surface level Tupac. I’m excited to check it out. I know you were a Tupac fan growing up, you know what, let me hit you with a ‘Pac question. Do you have a favorite Tupac song, verse, or line?
LF: You know, I have a favorite song but it’s not for the reason you expect. My father was my biggest fan and biggest influence. He’s the greatest storyteller I’ve ever met in my life. And my father only had a 5th-grade education, he had to quit school to support his family. But he was an excellent oral storyteller. My friends would just come over to hear my dads stories. And music is my first love and my dad came from the era of R&B and Motown. So he loved the Temps (Temptations), Isley Brothers, stuff like that. So if he liked stuff that wasn’t in those parameters, it stood out to me. So, I’ll never forget when Pac came out, when “How do you want it” came out, I remember I would be driving places, driving my father places. Whenever he heard the first note of “How Do You Want It”, not even with the beat coming in, just that eee :: mimics note:: he would go “turn that up Lolita, I like that song, that’s Tupac”. And I’m like ::whispers:: “What the heck”. My father’s passed away now, that’s why that’s my favorite song.
M: That’s an incredible story and a connection to that song. There has to be something about that song. I have a funny story about that song. I do a Podcast that’s ESPN related there’s a guy name Amin Elhassan, and a couple of weeks ago, actually it was Tupac birthday. So he (Amin) told this story about when he was back in College, he had this roommate. There was an Asian Kid who was raised in South Carolina, and I think one of his parents might’ve been Jewish, he (Amin) said this kid did not listen to rap music at all.Amin gets there, he’s black, playing music. The first song he plays is “How Do You Want It”. His roommate asked, “What is that?” Amin tells him its Tupac and his roommate ask can he hear it again. So the roommate gets all into it and its the first rap song he’s ever listened to. He loves it right away.(Ends story) So the fact that you told me your Father would hear the first note and go crazy for the song lets me know there’s something about that song.
LF: It has all the right elements! It’s got the groove. K-CI has got the harmonies. Pacs rhymes. Everything is on point. My father would just turn up. He would light up.
M: My mom loves Tupac. My mom and my oldest brother. When I was younger I thought my older brother was Tupac because he loved him so much.
LF: What’s your favorite song?
M: Well, my favorite song is All Eyes On Me and it’s for the smallest reason. First off, the beat is amazing. I love his flow on there.But the opening line of the song, there’s genius and simplicity in that opening line. ::raps opening line to All Eyes On Me::
I bet you got it twisted you don’t know who to trust, So many player hating n***** trying to sound like us.
It may seem like nothing, but I love it. That’s my favorite Pac song for that. Me and my cousin would listen to Tupac as kids, we probably shouldn’t even have been listening to it but we were listening to him at an early age.
LF: Yea, he had a way of speaking to you. I loved that Tupac loved Shakespeare, so I’ve always felt that connection with him.
M: I was just about to ask did Pac inspire you. Like you mentioned earlier, you like Shakespeare and Pac did too. Did you ever listen to his music and relate right to it? He was a great writer, did you pick up on his writing style.
LF: His wordplay was fire. His wordplay, his cadence, it was a gift.
M: For Pac to not be the greatest lyricist he had a way of painting pictures. His energy was unmatched. So speaking of Tupac, let’s go to his movie. I heard you actually know Demetrius Shippe Jr. How do you know him and how did you think he did in the movie?
LF: I’m a fan (to Demetrius) he’s family. I met him because I was doing some of the behind the scenes content, we also did some of the marketing content. There was an HBO First Look for the movie and I was the on set Producer for that First look. I interviewed him (you just can’t see me). But I have a huge amount of regard for him because he really emerged himself into that role. It wasn’t just about him looking like him. He studied every solitary aspect about him. He took acting classes. His father produced the song “Toss It Up”. In the beginning, you may feel like you’re not sure if this guys going to disappear into this role. By the end, you definitely feel like you’re watching Tupac. That’s how it works for me. I saw the movie four times before it came out and it only became more of that for me. He really disappeared into that role. He did a great job making the audience feel he was Tupac.
M: That’s crazy. That’s one of the things as soon as people hear the idea of it they are already like “Nah.”
M: Tupac is such a legendary figure you almost can’t get it right. If someone made a movie about you, you would be the hardest critic saying things like “I never said that my hair wasn’t like that.” I’m guessing for Demetrius it was a mix of emotions. Did you get a chance to talk to him during the filming?
LF: After the fact I did, and he talked about it in interviews. He had so many people supporting him, and the cast was great. They all believed in him. Most of them when they first met him were shoo saying he was so much like Pac it’s scary. He was able to deliver
M: I never thought about that. As fans, we just see him on screen but for the people who had to work with him, I know they had to get chills.
LF: Friends of Pac stopped by the set and watched him, they were shook. Treach pulled Demetrius to the side and told him he was giving him Pac.
M: If Treach cosigned it, I know its official. Treach is probably one of the hardest critics. So being that the docu-series is coming out and being a Pac fan. Does it feel like it came full circle? Did you see yourself “One day, I’m going to be in this”
LF: Never in a million years. For me doing the Compton book, there’s a 40-page chapter of the Murder of Tupac because they were the cops that investigated the case. I never thought I would even be writing about that. And then from that, getting into this show, where I’m trying to find out who/what circumstances behind someone’s work I greatly admire and who I really admired as a revolutionary, who spoke up for our people. Here I am investigating his murder, playing a role in trying to get closure for everyone, for the people who loved him.
M: I imagine it fueled you. You had a hand in helping. Just the thought of being able to help is unimaginable. That’s amazing. So after this, I know you like to create the chaos. Are you creating any chaos for a project you have coming out?
LF: I am. Chaos is the right thing because I’m supposed to have an outline that was supposed to be written by today.
M: Oh well this is going to be amazing then.
LF: It got to be flames.
M: I already like it. Knowing the history of your approach I love it. I’m going to champion this. I absolutely love it.
LF: This has been the best interview, really.
M: Listen, this has been the best conversation I’ve had in a minute.
LF: Yea I was going to say it was more like a conversation.
M: You made that happen. Right away when I read some of your stuff, you sound exactly like the energy I got from there.
LF: That’s good. I try to be the way I sound. I believe in being authentic.
M: Your energy is amazing. And you helped me not use the word procrastinate, it’s creating the chaos.
I learned something and you helped me. This absolutely has been the best conversation.
LF: You may need chaos.
M: I love writing. Now that you’re saying create the chaos. I absolutely have to push myself to do it. If I have a 30-day deadline, I have to do it on the 29th. I’m so glad we did this. The date on the docu-series is?
LF: Its actually premiering on October 12 and it will be on for 6 weeks. (Editors note: After this interview was conducted, the premiere date had been pushed back.)
M: I’ll be tuned in. You’ve definitely gained a fanatic. I’m sold. Again. Thank you for your time
LF: Thank you for this call. This was great.
M: I’m glad to hear that. You take care. Have a blessed day. Thank you.
LF: You too. Thank you.
If you missed the premiere episode of Who Killed Tupac? check it out here.