Before his tragic death in 1996, rapper Tupac Shakur had a blueprint. The visionary often scrawled his lyrics, letters and grand career plans on lined paper. One of those plans included a restaurant called the Powamekka Cafe with the tagline "A passionate paradise 4 people with power 2 play and parlay." Per his notes — which were displayed in the East Village hot spot Sweet Chick owned by co-owners, John Seymour and rapper Nas — 'Pac dreamed up a hangout for like-minded creatives to come together in "the perfect hideout 4 those who wish 2 escape the world'z cold reality!"
Inside the pop-up cafe (which ran from from April 8 to 9 in New York City), family photos of 'Pac and social activist leaders Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. as well as the rapper's quotes lined the walls. The savory menu also showcased his love for Southern cuisine including macaroni and cheese, rice and beans, and the original recipe of his cousin Jamala's fried chicken. The drink selection was also quintessentially 'Pac and included the Ghetto Russian (Bailey's and cream with Remy Martin cognac) and Playa Passion (Hennessy and Coke).
The idea for Powamekka Cafe began as a conversation between Bravado CEO Mat Vlasic and Seymour, who grew up in New York together. They ran the idea by Nas before bringing in the Tupac estate to add their input. "They brought out these papers with the full-blown menu and I was like, 'Oh my God, this is insane,'" recalls Seymour of initially seeing Tupac's notes. "That’s before the Food Network. That was before restaurants were cool and that was a thing to do. He was thinking about this over 20 years ago."
Sweet Chick's brand also aligned with Tupac's vision. "At the end of the day, Sweet Chick's motto is how we go about our events and things we do to impact society and culture — we’re just constantly saying, "Let’s do dope shit," adds Seymour. "So when this [Tupac cafe] came across, I was like, 'Man, here’s another opportunity to do something amazing.'"
Next door was the pop-up shop powered by Bravado that offered the exclusive Tupac by VLONE collection, a Makaveli loyalist's dream wardrobe. Washed in hues of red and black to match the merch's color scheme, the store featured fitted caps bearing "2Pac" in gothic print, black robes with the letter "V" etched in the back as well as black tees bearing the rapper's face and long-sleeve shirts that read "because I'm on my own" along the sleeve.
Says Vlasic of the collaboration with A$AP Bari's line, "[VLONE's] whole ethos is living creative. [Their tagline] Lives alone, dies alone or lives at the moment, dies in the moment. You can really draw similarities and that connection [to Tupac]." He notes, "The authenticity of Tupac shines through in that."
Coinciding with the rapper's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on Friday night (April 7), the opening of Powamekka Cafe also celebrated Tupac's forward-thinking and passion for people. "'Pac was a fashion icon, a music icon, food — it’s a lifestyle," explains Vlasic. "So what we’re trying to do here is step into his lifestyle — hear the music, eat the food, see the clothes, feel the clothes. At the end of the day, we’re trying to create that deeper connection within."
See photos from the restaurant and store below.