Thug Life
Nearly a year after he was charged with a shooting death in L.A., T-Bone of Da Lench Mob was acquitted of murder charges last week. A former bandmate was not so lucky: J.D. was recently sentenced to 29 years to life for an unrelated homicide. (“Which crime are you referring to, please?” said a perky publicist at Priority, the Mob's label. “We've got several artists up on charges.”) The acquittal means T-Bone is free to perform with labelmate Paris on a tour that, as reported here last week, won't make it to S.F. after a DNA show was allegedly canceled due to police pressure.

Meanwhile, Tupac Shakur renounces the thug life in a gripping jailhouse interview in this month's Vibe. The cover quote reads, “This is my last interview. If I get killed, I want people to have the real story.” Incarcerated for sexual abuse, Shakur gives a riveting — and self-serving — account of his New York rape case and the shooting that earned him five bullet wounds. (He also dispels rumors that he set himself up for jury sympathy: What rapper would get himself shot in the balls?) Hard time has apparently scared the 23-year-old straight: Shakur calls his troubles a “gift” for helping him see the light. “I'm going to save these young niggas, because nobody else wants to save them,” he says. “If we really are saying rap is an art form, then we've got to be more responsible for our lyrics.” Shakur may sound sincere, but stories like these are part of the problem. What timing: The Vibe article is accompanied by a review of Shakur's new album, Me Against the World. Like Slick Rick and Snoop Doggy Dogg, Shakur's police record is fodder for the publicity mill. For Tupac, whose mediocre artistry has always been overshadowed by his outlaw myth, lockdown translates into even more “realness” dollars. Check out Request for another angle: The family of Philip Wodermarian — who Snoop is charged with killing — gives a heartbreaking account of their son's murder and its contribution to the cult of Snoop.

Repo Man
Actor Harry Dean Stanton (Repo Man, Wild at Heart) has gained a sizable cult following for character roles that go down like crushed glass with a coffee chaser: edgy, dark and bitter to the core. But when the old hangdog steps up to the mike, honey flows. “I was a singer before I was an actor,” he insists. “I'm no dilettante.” Still, it was only at Ry Cooder's urging that Stanton seriously took up music again. He stresses that he doesn't want to be labeled another actor-who-wants-to-sing (see Bruce Willis). “It's a stigma,” he grumbles. “It's always a pain in the ass.” Stanton plays the Great American Mon, March 20.

By Sia Michel, Tim Kenneally

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