Fresh out of prison after serving a term for rape, Mike Tyson was a hit on the MTV Video Music Awards show earlier this month, where he was embraced by a variety of hip-hop, pop and media stars as a returned hero.
Will rapper-actor Tupac Shakur--nearly a year into a term of up to 4 1/2 years for sexual assault--get the same treatment when he's released?
He doesn't have to wait.
The new video for his song "Temptations" sports a cast of top rappers and actors who stepped in as a show of support for him.
Coolio plays the central role, a bellhop who spies on sexual goings-on in various rooms. Among those in on the escapades: Salt-N-Pepa's Salt and Spinderella; Yo-Yo; Warren G; Cypress Hill's B-Real; Naughty by Nature's Treach; Adina Howard and actresses Jasmine Guy and Jada Pinkett. Ice-T takes a comic turn as the hotel manager in opening and closing segments. "People really came out to support him," says the video's director David Nelson, who conceived the scenario as a way to get around Shakur's absence--though there are shots of a look-alike.
But what's the message of that support? Do these people believe Shakur (who raps under the name 2Pac) got a raw deal? Or that the crimes he was convicted of can be overlooked?
The clip itself practically invites that kind of scrutiny. The hotel setting and explicit sex echo Shakur's own crimes, which involved sodomy occurring in a hotel. That setting was just a coincidence, insists Nelson, who also points out that the relationships depicted are "healthy" interplay where women are in as much control as men.
Darryl James, editor in chief of Rap Sheet magazine, says that the star turnout is simply testimony to the respect Shakur has garnered in the hip-hop world.
"Anyone who knew him realized this was a good guy who did a bunch of stupid [stuff] and got caught up," James says. "And hopefully he can learn from this unfortunate situation so he can go back to being a nice guy."
Still, some are concerned that the support of the rappers and actors could send a mixed message.
"On the surface it would sound appalling to me," says Elizabeth Toledo, California coordinator for the National Organization for Women. "But Salt-N-Pepa participated in our rally on violence in D.C. last April and are active with that issue. I'm willing to hear the explanations of the people involved before condemning it."