Best-selling author Sanyika Shakur, formerly known as ‘Monster’ Kody Scott, has died. The former L.A. Crip turned motivational speaker was found dead in his tent at a homeless encampment in Oceanside, California on June 7, according to the San Diego medical examiner’s report and an article in the Los Angeles Times. He was 57.
It’s ironic that Shakur became a best-selling author after living such a storied life himself. Here are 6 things to know about Sanyika Shakur, the gang-member-turned author and motivational speaker who strived to use his life in the streets as a cautionary tale.
Born Kody Dejohn Scott on November 13, 1963, Shakur had a rough start in life. Allegedly conceived during an adulterous affair his mother Birdie Canada had with former LA Rams running back, Dick Bass, Shakur said he was mistreated by his mother’s husband, Ernest Scott. He said Scott would take his biological kids to dinners, movies and more, but leave him home. He also said Ernest showed him immense contempt and saved his most painful blows for him during a 1999 interview with the LA Weekly.
On June 15, 1975, after his sixth-grade graduation, Shakur said he was initiated into the Eight Tray Gangster (ETG) Crips at just 11-years-old. That same night, he shot at rival gang members. He was also mentored by Crips co-founder Stanley ‘Tookie’ Williams.
According to Shakur, he received the moniker of ‘Monster’ after beating an older Black man he and one of his fellow gang members attempted to rob while the man was walking through his neighborhood. He viciously beat the man for over 20 minutes so badly, it left the victim permanently disfigured. The officers at the scene allegedly said whoever committed the assault was a monster and the moniker stuck.
While serving time in and out of prison in the 1980s, Shakur was introduced to the Republic of New Afrika Movement, which he said led him to change his outlook and reform his life. This is also when he changed his name from Kody Scott to Sanyika – which means custodian on the land/nation – Shakur.
“Well, when I got to San Quentin in January of ‘86, on the tier was study material from the Black Liberation Movement (BLM), a lot of material from the Black Panther Party, the African People’s Party, the African People’s Socialist Party, etc. And as I said, I read it all … They identified more with Malcolm and Black Power than with Martin and Negro Civil Rights,” Shakur told the San Francisco Bay View. “Cats were pushing a Nationalist line, recognizing, if only rudimentarily, that we were more of a nation inside of this empire than a disenfranchised ‘minority’ of citizens of the empire. One can’t be disenfranchised, if you’ve never been enfranchised, feel me?”
Shakur also converted to Islam during his time in prison.
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In 1993, Shakur published his memoir, “Monster: The Autobiography of an L.A. Gang Member.” The book went on to become a bestseller and receive rave reviews. Shakur said he penned it as a cautionary tale.
“I was a criminal. I became a revolutionary. And people expected me to commit class suicide as a successful writer and become a noted author, and to me, I didn’t want to go that way. I didn’t want to be the go-to guy when they said, ‘What about gangs?’ Because that’s not what it’s about,” Shakur said.
Shakur also wrote two other books, including the fictional novel “T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E” in 2008 and a book of essays entitled “Stand up, Struggle Forward: New Afrikan Revolutionary Writings on Nation, Class, and Patriarchy” in 2013. He also penned columns and did interviews with various figures, including Suge Knight, whom he initially believed was responsible for murdering legendary hip-hop MC Tupac Amaru Shakur, with whom he was friends.
Although Shakur was homeless when he died, he was working on another book, in talks with a streaming service to adapt his story and planning to launch a podcast, Leo “Pretty Boy” Smith – a former rival-turned friend of Shakur’s – told the LA Times.
Though Shakur described in detail the violence and pain he inflicted upon others over the course of his life, his family and friends said they never saw that side of him.
“Of course I heard about the violence and I also read it in the book, but I never met ‘Monster’ Kody. I always [saw] pops.” his youngest son, Sanyika Shakur II, 31, told the LA Times. “[He was] like the older best friend. This was the guy that comes in, he’s ready to play all day. My mom was probably at home taking care of all the business [and] getting on our behind, he comes in, he wants to play, crack jokes, tickle, play fight, things like that.”
“People just assume that he closed off because of the stories that they hear about him or whatever, but I’ve never had nothing but love from him,” former ETG member Bernard Cooper added.
Condolences for Shakur poured out on social media after his death.
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