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Tupac Shakur
A black and white photo of Tupac Shakur staring at the viewer
Shakur in 1991
Lesane Parish Crooks

(1971-06-16)June 16, 1971
New York City, New York, U.S.
DiedSeptember 13, 1996(1996-09-13) (aged 25)
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
Cause of deathHomicide (gunshot wounds)
Other names
  • 2Pac
  • Makaveli
  • MC New York
  • Rapper
  • songwriter
  • actor
Years active1987 (1987)-1996 (1996)[1][2]
(m. 1995; div. 1996)
Parent(s)Afeni Shakur
Billy Garland
RelativesMutulu Shakur (step-dad)
Assata Shakur (step-aunt)
AwardsFull list
Musical career
Tupac Shakur's signature.svg

Tupac Amaru Shakur ( TOO-pahk sh?-KOOR; born Lesane Parish Crooks, June 16, 1971 – September 13, 1996), better known by his stage name 2Pac and by his alias Makaveli, was an American rapper, songwriter, and actor. He is considered by many to be one of the most influential rappers of all time. Much of Shakur's work has been noted for addressing contemporary social issues that plagued inner cities, and he is considered a symbol of resistance and activism against inequality.

Shakur was born in Manhattan, a borough of New York City, but relocated to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1988. He moved to Los Angeles in 1993 to further pursue his music career. By the time he released his debut album 2Pacalypse Now in 1991, he had become a central figure in West Coast hip hop, introducing social issues in the genre at a time when gangsta rap was dominant in the mainstream.[3][4] Shakur achieved further critical and commercial success with his follow-up albums Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z... (1993) and Me Against the World (1995).[5]

Shakur became heavily involved in the growing East Coast-West Coast hip hop rivalry between 1995 and 1996.[6] His double-disc album All Eyez on Me (1996) became certified Diamond by the RIAA.[7] On September 7, 1996, Shakur was shot four times by an unknown assailant in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas; he died six days later and the gunman was never captured. The Notorious B.I.G., Shakur's friend turned rival, was at first considered a suspect, but was also murdered in another drive-by shooting six months later.[8][9] Five more albums have been released since his death, all of which have been certified platinum in the United States.

Shakur is one of the best-selling music artists of all time having sold over 75 million records worldwide. In 2002, he was inducted into the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame.[10] In 2017, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility.[11]Rolling Stone named Shakur in its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.[12] Outside music, Shakur also gained considerable success as an actor, with his starring roles as Bishop in Juice (1992), Lucky in Poetic Justice (1993) where he starred alongside Janet Jackson, Ezekiel in Gridlock'd (1997), and Jake in Gang Related (1997), all garnering praise from critics.

Personal life

Tupac Amaru Shakur was born on June 16, 1971 in the East Harlem section of Manhattan (New York City).[13] While born Lesane Parish Crooks,[14][15][16] he was renamed, at age one, after Túpac Amaru II[17] (the descendant of the last Incan ruler, Túpac Amaru), who was executed in Peru in 1781 after his failed revolt against Spanish rule.[18]

Shakur's mother explained, "I wanted him to have the name of revolutionary, indigenous people in the world. I wanted him to know he was part of a world culture and not just from a neighborhood."[17] Tupac had an older stepbrother, Mopreme "Komani" Shakur, and a half-sister, Sekyiwa, two years his junior.[19] His parents, Afeni Shakur--born Alice Faye Williams in North Carolina--and his birth father, Billy Garland, had been active Black Panther Party members in New York in the late 1960s and early 1970s.[20]

Panther heritage

A month before Tupac's birth, his mother Afeni was tried in New York City as part of the Panther 21 criminal trial. She was acquitted of over 150 charges, in sum, "Conspiracy against the United States government and New York landmarks."[21][22] Other family members who were further involved in the Black Panthers' Black Liberation Army were convicted of serious crimes and imprisoned.

Tupac's godfather, Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt, a high-ranking Panther, was convicted of murdering a school teacher during a 1968 robbery, although his sentence was overturned. In 1982, for aiding the 1979 New Jersey prison escape of Tupac's step-aunt and godmother Assata Shakur, his stepfather Mutulu Shakur spent four years among the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives. Captured in 1986, Mutulu was convicted and imprisoned for the 1981 robbery of a Brinks armored truck, during which police officers and a guard were killed.[23]

A bird's-eye view of New York City, looking north from 96th Street, along Second Avenue, towards East Harlem. The intersection in view is 97th Street.
East Harlem neighborhood of New York City, where Shakur was born

School years

In 1984, Tupac's family moved from New York City to Baltimore, Maryland.[24] He attended eighth grade at Roland Park Middle School, then two years at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. On transfer to the Baltimore School for the Arts, he studied acting, poetry, jazz, and ballet.[25][26] He performed in Shakespeare's plays--depicting timeless themes, now seen in gang warfare, he would recall[27]--and as the Mouse King role in The Nutcracker ballet.[23] With his friend Dana "Mouse" Smith as beatbox, he won competitions as reputedly the school's best rapper.[28] Also known for his humor, he could mix with all crowds.[29] As a teen, he listened to musicians including Kate Bush, Culture Club, Sinéad O'Connor, and U2.[30]

At Baltimore's arts high school, Tupac befriended Jada Pinkett, who would become a subject of some of his poems.[31] After his death, she would call him "one of my best friends. He was like a brother. It was beyond friendship for us. The type of relationship we had, you only get that once in a lifetime."[32][33] Upon connecting with the Baltimore Young Communist League USA,[34][35][36] Tupac dated the daughter of the director of the local chapter of the Communist Party USA.[37] In 1988, Shakur moved to Marin City, California, a small, impoverished community,[38] about 5 miles (8.0 km) north of San Francisco.[39] In nearby Mill Valley, he attended Tamalpais High School,[40] where he performed in several theater productions.[41]

Later relations

In Tupac's adulthood he continued befriending individuals of diverse backgrounds. His friends would range from Mike Tyson[42] and Chuck D[43] to Jim Carrey[44] and Alanis Morissette, who in April 1996 said that she and Tupac were planning to open a restaurant together.[45][46]

Tupac briefly dated Madonna in 1994.[47][48] In April 1995, early in his prison sentence, Tupac married his then girlfriend Keisha Morris.[49] The marriage officially ended in March 1996.[50] In the four months before his death, Tupac lived with his girlfriend Kidada Jones, daughter of the record producer Quincy Jones and the actress Peggy Lipton.

In 1994, Tupac had spoken against interracial marriage,[51] but retracted these comments,[52] Kidada herself having been born through an interracial marriage. She was beside him at his death.[53] Some of Tupac's song lyrics suggest a belief in a god,[54] perhaps in the manner of deism.[55] Apparently not believing in Heaven and Hell as typified, he perhaps believed in karma.[56]

Music career

In January 1991, Tupac, rapper, nationally debuted under the stage name 2Pac, guest on rap group Digital Underground's single "Same Song," compiled on the soundtrack of the February 1991 movie Nothing but Trouble.

2Pac's first two solo albums, November 1991's 2Pacalypse Now and February 1993's Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z..., preceded September 1994's eponymous and only album of his side group Thug Life, himself in it.[57]

Rapper/producer Stretch guests on the above, three 2Pac projects. 2Pac's third solo album, March 1995's Me Against the World, features rap clique Dramacydal, reshaping as the Outlawz on 2Pac's fourth solo.

The fourth 2Pac solo album, and last in his lifetime, February 1996's All Eyez on Me, features also, among its numerous guests, Thug Life member Big Syke. Yet another solo album was already finished.

November 1996's The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, under the stage name Makaveli, is a studio album made in one August week, whereas later posthumous albums are archival productions.

Later posthumous albums are R U Still Down? (1997), Greatest Hits (1998), Still I Rise (1999), Until the End of Time (2001), Better Dayz (2002), Loyal to the Game (2004), Pac's Life (2006).[58]

Beginnings: 1989-1991

Tupac, using the stage name MC New York, began recording in 1989. That year, he began attending the poetry classes of Leila Steinberg.[59] Soon, she became the budding music artist's manager.[38]

Steinberg organized with Tupac's rap group Strictly Dope a concert. She managed to get Tupac signed by Atron Gregory, manager of the rap group Digital Underground.[38] In 1990, Gregory placed Tupac with the Underground as a roadie and backup dancer.[38][60]

Under the stage name 2Pac, he debuted on the group's January 1991 single "Same Song," leading the group's January 1991 EP titled This Is an EP Release,[38] while 2Pac appeared in the music video. It also went on the soundtrack of the February 1991 movie Nothing but Trouble, starting Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Chevy Chase, and Demi Moore.[38]

Rising star: 1992-1993

2Pac's debut album, 2Pacalypse Now--alluding to the 1979 film Apocalypse Now--arriving in November 1991, would bear three singles. Some prominent rappers--like Nas, Eminem, Game, and Talib Kweli--cite it as an inspiration.[61] Aside from "If My Homie Calls," the singles "Trapped" and "Brenda's Got a Baby" poetically depict individual struggles under socioeconomic disadvantage.[62] But once a Texas defense attorney, with a young client who had shot a state trooper, rationalized the defendant had been listening to the album, which touches upon police brutality, controversy ensued.

US Vice President Dan Quayle partially reacted, "There's no reason for a record like this to be released. It has no place in our society." Tupac, finding himself misunderstood,[27] explained, in part, "I just wanted to rap about things that affected young black males. When I said that, I didn't know that I was gonna tie myself down to just take all the blunts and hits for all the young black males, to be the media's kicking post for young black males."[63][64] In any case, 2Pacalypse Now was certified Gold, half a million copies sold. Altogether, 2Pacalypse Now seats well with the socially conscious rap, addressing urban black concerns, still prevalent in rap at the time.[38]

2Pac's second album, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z..., arrived in February 1993. A critical and commercial advance, it debuted at #24 on the pop albums chart, the Billboard 200. More hardcore overall, it emphasizes Tupac's sociopolitical views, and has a metallic production quality, in fact featuring Ice Cube, the famed primary creator of N.W.A's "Fuck tha Police," but who, in his own solo albums, had newly gone militantly political, along with L.A.'s original gangsta rapper, Ice-T, who in June 1992 had sparked controversy with his band Body Count's track "Cop Killer," heavy metal.

In fact, in its vinyl release, side A, tracks 1 to 8, is labeled the "Black Side," while side B, tracks 9 to 16, is the "Dark Side." Nonetheless, the album carries the single "I Get Around," a party anthem featuring the Underground's Shock G and Money-B, which would render 2Pac's popular breakthrough, reaching #11 on the pop singles chart, the Billboard Hot 100. And it carries the optimistic compassion of another hit, "Keep Ya Head Up," encouraging women. This album would be certified Platinum, a million copies sold. As of 2004, among 2Pac albums, including of posthumous and compilation albums, the Strictly album would 10th in sales, about 1 366 000 copies.[65]

Stardom: 1994-1995

The test pressing single for "Dear Mama": the platinum single is among the top ranked songs in hip-hop history.

In late 1993, Shakur formed the group Thug Life with Tyrus "Big Syke" Himes, Diron "Macadoshis" Rivers, his stepbrother Mopreme Shakur, and Walter "Rated R" Burns. Thug Life released its only album, Thug Life: Volume 1, on October 11, 1994. It went Gold. It carries the single "Pour Out a Little Liquor", produced by Johnny "J" Jackson, who would also produce much of Shakur's album All Eyez on Me. Usually, Thug Life performed live without Tupac.[66] The track "Pour Out a Little Liquor" appears also on the 1994 film Above the Rim's soundtrack. But due to gangsta rap being under heavy criticism at the time, the album's original version was scrapped, and the album redone with mostly new tracks. Still, along with Stretch, Tupac would perform the first planned first single, "Out on Bail," which was never released, at the 1994 Source Awards.[67]

2Pac's third album, arriving in March 1995 as Me Against the World, is now hailed as his magnum opus, and commonly ranks among the greatest, most influential rap albums. The album sold 240,000 copies in its first week, setting a then record for highest first-week sales for a solo male rapper.[68] The lead single, "Dear Mama," arrived in February with the B side "Old School."[69] The album's most successful single, it topping the Hot Rap Singles chart, and peaked at #9 on the pop singles chart, the Billboard Hot 100.[70] In July, it was certified Platinum.[71] It ranked #51 on the year-end charts. The second single, "So Many Tears," released in June,[72] reached #6 on the Hot Rap Singles chart and #44 on Hot 100.[70] August brought the final single, "Temptations,"[73] reaching #68 on the Hot 100, #35 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks, and #13 on the Hot Rap Singles.[70] At the 1996 Soul Train Music Awards, Tupac won for best rap album.[74] In 2001, it ranked 4th among his total albums in sales, with about 3 524 567 copies sold in the US.[75]

Superstardom: 1995-1996

While imprisoned February to October 1995, Tupac wrote only one song, he would say.[76] Rather, he took to political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli's treatise The Prince and military strategist Sun Tzu's treatise The Art of War.[77] And on Tupac's behalf, his wife Keisha Morris communicated to Suge Knight of Death Row Records that Tupac, in dire straits financially, needed help, his mother about to lose her house.[78] In August, after sending $15,000 for her, Suge began visiting Tupac in prison.[78] In one of his letters to Nina Bhadreshwar, recently hired edit a planned magazine, Death Row Uncut,[79] Tupac discusses plans to start a "new chapter."[80] Eventually, music journalist Kevin Powell would say that Shakur, once released, more aggressive, "seemed like a completely transformed person."[81]

2Pac's fourth album, All Eyez on Me, arrived on February 13, 1996. Of two discs, it basically was rap's first double album -- meeting two of the three albums due in Tupac's contract with Death Row -- and bore five singles while perhaps marking the peak of 1990s rap.[82] With standout production,[70] the album has more party tracks and often a triumphant tone.[70] As 2Pac's second album to hit #1 on both the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and the pop albums chart, the Billboard 200,[70] it sold 566,000 copies in its first week and was it was certified 5× Multi-Platinum in April.[83] "How Do U Want It" as well as "California Love" reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. At the 1997 Soul Train Awards, it won in R&B/Soul or Rap Album of the Year.[84] At the 24th American Music Awards, Tupac won in Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Artist.[85] The album was certified 9× Multi-Platinum in June 1998,[86] and 10× in July 2014.[87]

Tupac's fifth and final studio album, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, commonly called simply The 7 Day Theory, was released under a newer stage name, Makaveli.[88] This album had been created in seven days total during August 1996.[89] The lyrics were written and recorded in three days, and mixing took another four days. In 2005, MTV.com ranked The 7 Day Theory at #9 among the hip hop's greatest albums ever,[90] and by 2006 a classic album.[91] Its singular poignance, through hurt and rage, contemplation and vendetta, resonate with many fans.[92] But according to George "Papa G" Pryce, Death Row Records' then director of public relations, the album was meant to be "underground," and "was not really to come out," but, "after Tupac was murdered, it did come out."[93] It peaked at #1 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and on the Billboard 200,[94] with the second-highest debut-week sales total of any album that year.[95] On June 15, 1999, it was certified 4× Multi-Platinum.[96]

Film career

Tupac's first film appearance was in 1991 in Nothing but Trouble, a cameo by the Digital Underground. Yet in 1992, he starred in Juice, where he plays the fictional Roland Bishop, a violent gang member. Rolling Stones Peter Travers calls him "the film's most magnetic figure."[97]

Then, in 1993, Tupac starred alongside Janet Jackson in John Singleton's romance film, Poetic Justice. Tupac then played another gangster, the fictional Birdie, in Above the Rim. Soon after Tupac's death, three more films starring him were released, Bullet (1996), Gridlock'd (1997), and Gang Related (1997).[98][99]

Director Allen Hughes had cast Tupac as Sharif in the 1993 film Menace II Society, but replaced him once Tupac assaulted him on set. Nonetheless, in 2013, Hughes appraises that Tupac would have outshone the other actors, "because he was bigger than the movie."[100][101] For the lead role in the eventual 2001 film Baby Boy, a role played by Tyrese Gibson, director John Singleton had originally had Tupac in mind.[102] Ultimately, the set design includes in the protagonist's bedroom a Tupac mural, and the film's score includes the 2Pac song "Hail Mary."[103]

Criminal cases

In October 1991, Shakur filed a $10-million lawsuit against the Oakland Police Department for allegedly brutalizing him over jaywalking. The case was settled for about $43,000.[104] Thereafter, he would be involved in a series of cases where he was accused of inflicting harm.

Shooting of Qa'id Walker-Teal

On August 22, 1992, in Marin City, Shakur performed outdoors at a festival. For about an hour after the performance, he signed autographs and posed for photos. A conflict broke out and Shakur allegedly drew a legally carried Colt Mustang but dropped it on the ground. Shakur claimed that someone with him then picked it up when it accidentally discharged. About 100 yards (90 meters) away in a schoolyard, Qa'id Walker-Teal, a boy aged 6 on his bicycle, was fatally shot in the forehead.

Police matched the bullet to a .38-caliber pistol registered to Shakur. His stepbrother Maurice Harding was arrested, but no charges were filed. Lack of witnesses stymied prosecution. In 1995, Qa'id's mother filed against Shakur a wrongful death suit, settled for about $300 000 to $500 000.[105][106]

Shooting two policemen

In October 1993, in Atlanta, Mark Whitwell and Scott Whitwell, two brothers who were both off-duty police officers, were out celebrating with their wives after one of them had passed the state's bar examination. Drunk, the officers were crossing the street when a passing car carrying Shakur allegedly almost struck them. The Whitwells, later found to have stolen guns, argued with the car's occupants. When a second car arrived, the Whitwells ran away, as Shakur shot one officer in the buttocks and the other in the leg, back, or abdomen. Shakur was charged in the shooting. Mark Whitwell was charged with firing at Shakur's car and later with making false statements to investigators. Prosecutors ultimately dropped all charges against both parties. Both brothers filed civil suits against Shakur; Mark Whitwell's was settled out of court, while Scott Whitwell's $2 million lawsuit resulted in a default judgment entered against the rapper's estate.[107][108]

Assault convictions

On April 5, 1993, charged with felonious assault, Shakur allegedly threw a microphone and swung a baseball bat at rapper Chauncey Wynn, of the group M.A.D., at a concert at Michigan State University. On September 14, 1994, Shakur pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, twenty of them suspended, and ordered to 35 hours of community service.[109][110]

Slated to star as Sharif in the 1993 Hughes brothers' film Menace II Society, Shakur was replaced by actor Vonte Sweet after allegedly assaulting one of the film's directors, Allen Hughes. In early 1994, Shakur served 15 days in jail after being found guilty of the assault.[111][112] The prosecution's evidence included a Yo! MTV Raps interview where Shakur boasts that he had "beat up the director of Menace II Society."[113]

Sexual assault conviction

Shakur's 1995 mugshot

In November 1993, Shakur and three other men were charged in New York with sexually assaulting a woman in his hotel room. The woman, Ayanna Jackson, alleged that after consensual oral sex in his hotel room, she returned a later day, but then was raped by him and other men there. Interviewed on The Arsenio Hall Show, Shakur said he was hurt that "a woman would accuse me of taking something from her."[114]

On December 1, 1994, denying that he himself had raped her, Shakur was convicted of first-degree sexual abuse, but acquitted of associated sodomy and gun charges. In February 1995, he was sentenced to 18 months to ​ years in prison by a judge who decried "an act of brutal violence against a helpless woman."[115][116] On October 12, 1995, pending judicial appeal, Shakur was released from Clinton Correctional Facility,[27] once Suge Knight, CEO of Death Row Records, arranged for posting of his $1.4 million bond.[104] On April 5, 1996, Shakur was sentenced to 120 days in jail for violating his release terms by failing to appear for a road cleanup job,[117] but on June 8, his sentence was deferred via appeals pending in other cases.[118]

New York scene 1990s

In 1991, 2Pac debuted on a new record label, Interscope Records, that knew little about rap music. Until that year, Ruthless Records, formed during 1986 in Los Angeles county's Compton city, had prioritized rap, and its group N.W.A had led gangsta rap to platinum sales, but N.W.A's lyrics, outrageously violent and misogynist, precluded mainstream breakthrough. On the other hand, also specializing in rap, Profile Records, in New York City, had a mainstream, pop breakthrough, Run-DMC's "Walk This Way", in 1986. In April 1991, N.W.A disbanded via Dre. Dre's departure to, with Suge Knight, launch Death Row Records, in Los Angeles city.[119] With it very first two albums, Death Row became the first record label both to prioritize rap and to regularly release mainstream, pop hits with it.[119]

Released by Death Row in late 1992, Dre's The Chronic--its "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang" ubiquitous on pop radio and "Let Me Ride" winning a Grammy--was trailed in late 1993 by Snoop's Doggystyle.[119] Gangsta rap, no less, these propelled the West Coast, for the first time, ahead of New York to rap's center stage.[119] But meanwhile, in 1993, Andre Harrell of Uptown Records, in New York, fired his star A&R man, Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs, later "P. Diddy."[119] Puffy, while leaving behind his standout projects Jodeci and Mary J. Blige--two R&B acts--took to his own, new record label, Bad Boy Records, the promising gangsta rapper Biggie Smalls, soon also known as The Notorious B.I.G.[119] His debut album, released in late 1994 as Ready to Die, promptly returned rap's spotlight to New York.[119]

Rap world

Stretch and Live Squad

In 1988, Randy "Stretch" Walker, along with his brother, dubbed Majesty, and a friend debuted with an EP as rap group and production team, Live Squad, in the Queens borough of New York City.[120] Tupac's early days with Digital Underground made his acquaintance with Stretch, who featured on a track of the Digital Underground's 1991 album Sons of the P. Becoming fast friends, Tupac and Stretch recorded and performed together often.[120] Stretch as well as Live Squad contributed tracks on 2Pac's first two albums, first November 1991, then February 1993, and on 2Pac's side group Thug Life's only album of September 1994.

The end of Tupac's and Stretch's friendship in late 1994 surprised the New York rap scene.[120] The next 2pac album, released in March 1995, lacks Stretch, and 2Pac's album after that, released in February 1996, has lines suggesting Stretch's impending death for betrayal. No objective evidence would publicly emerge to tangibly incriminate Stretch in the gun attack on Tupac, while with Stretch and two others, at about 12:30 AM on November 30, 1994. In any case, after a Live Squad production session for the second album of Queens rapper Nas, Stretch's vehicle was chased while receiving fatal gunfire at about 12:30 AM on November 30, 1995.[120]

Biggie and Junior M.A.F.I.A.

During 1993 and 1994, the Biggie Smalls guest verses on several singles, often R&B, like Mary J. Blige's "What's the 411? Remix," set high expectations for his debut album. The perfectionism of Puffy, still forming his Bad Boy label, extended its recording to 18 months. In 1993, visiting Los Angeles, Biggie asked a local drug dealer for an introduction to Tupac, who then welcomed Biggie and Biggie's friends to Tupac's house and treated them to food, weed, and entertainment.[78] On later visits to Los Angeles, Biggie would stay at Tupac's place.[78] And when in New York, Tupac would go to Brooklyn and hang out with Biggie and his circle.[78]

During this period, at his own live shows, Tupac would call Biggie onto stage to rap with him and Stretch.[78] Together, they recorded the songs "Runnin' from the Police" and "House of Pain." Reportedly, Biggie asked Tupac to manage him, whereupon Tupac advised him that Puffy would make him a star.[78] Yet in the meantime, Tupac's lifestyle was comparatively lavish, whereas Biggie appeared to continue wearing the same pair of boots for perhaps a year.[78] Tupac welcomed Biggie to join his side group Thug Life.[78] Biggie would instead form his own side group, the Junior M.A.F.I.A., with his Brooklyn friends Lil' Cease and Lil' Kim, on Bad Boy.


Despite the "weird" timing of Stretch's shooting death,[120] a theory implicates gunman Ronald "Tenad" Washington both here and in the 2002 murder of Run-DMC's Jam Master Jay via, as the unverified theory speculates, Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff punishing the rap mentor for recording 50 Cent despite Supreme's prohibition after this young rapper's 1999 song "Ghetto Qu'ran" had mentioned activities of the Queens drug gang Supreme Team.[121] Supreme was a friend, rather, of Irv Gotti, cofounder of Murder Inc Records,[121] whose rapper Ja Rule would vie among New York rappers after the March 1997 shooting death of Biggie, visiting Los Angeles.

Haitian Jack

By some accounts, the role Birdie, played by Shakur in the 1994 film Above the Rim, had been modeled on a New York underworld tough, Jacques "Haitian Jack" Agnant,[122] a manager and promoter of rappers.[123] Reportedly, Shakur met him at a Queens nightclub, where, noticing him amid women and champagne, Shakur asked for an introduction.[78] Reportedly, Biggie advised Tupac to avoid him, but Tupac disregarded the warning.[78]

In November 1993, in his Manhattan hotel room, Shakur received a woman's return visit. Soon, she alleged sexual assault by him and three other men there: his road manager Charles Fuller, aged 24, one Ricardo Brown, aged 30,[124] and a "Nigel," later understood as Haitian Jack.[78] In November 1994, Jack's case was split off and closed via misdemeanor plea without incarceration.[78] In 2007, for shooting at someone, he would be deported.[125] Yet in November 1994, A. J. Benza, in the New York Daily News, reported Tupac's new disdain for Jack.[78][122]

Jimmy Henchman

Through Haitian Jack, Tupac had met James "Jimmy Henchman" Rosemond.[78] Another underworld figure formidable, Jimmy Henchman doubled as music manager.[122]Bryce Wilson's Groove Theory was an early client.[122]The Game as well as Gucci Mane were later clients.[122] In 1994, a client lesser known, and signed to Uptown Records, was rapper Little Shawn, friend of Biggie and Lil' Cease.[122] Eventually, Jack and Henchman would reportedly fall out, allegedly shooting at each other in Miami.[122] And for his major drug trafficking, Henchman would be sent to prison on a life sentence.[122] But in the early 1990s, Jack and Henchman reputedly shared interests, including a specialty of robbing and extorting music artists.[122]

Shootings of Shakur

November 1994

On November 29, 1994, while in New York, Tupac was recording verses for a mixtape of Ron G.[122] Tupac was repeatedly distracted by his beeper.[122] It was music manager James "Jimmy Henchman" Rosemond, reportedly offering $7 000 for Tupac to stop by Quad Studios, in Times Square, that night to record a verse for his client Little Shawn.[78][122] Tupac was leery, but needing cash to offset steepening legal costs, took the gig. Tupac arrived with Stretch and one or two others. In the lobby, three men attempted to rob Tupac at gunpoint, Tupac resisted and was shot.[126] Shakur speculated that shooting was the main motive.[63][127]

Three hours after surgery, against doctor's advice, Shakur checked out of Bellevue Hospital Center. The next day, in a Manhattan courtroom bandaged in a wheelchair, he received the jury's verdict in his ongoing criminal trial for a November 1993 sexual assault in his hotel room. Convicted of three counts of sexual assault, he was acquitted of six other charges, including sodomy and gun charges.[128]

In a 1995 interview with Vibe magazine, Shakur accused Sean Combs,[129] Jimmy Henchman,[126] and Biggie, among others, of setting up or being privy to the November 1994 robbery and shooting. Vibe alerted the names of the accused.[130] When Biggie's entourage went downstairs, Shakur was being taken out on a stretcher, giving the finger to onlookers.[131][132]

In March 2008, Chuck Philips, in the Los Angeles Times, reported on an alleged ordered hit on Shakur.[133] The newspaper retracted the article since it relied partially on FBI documents later discovered forged, supplied by a man convicted of fraud.[134] In June 2011, convicted murderer Dexter Isaac, incarcerated in Brookyn, issued a confession that he had been one of the gunmen who had robbed and shot Shakur at Henchman's order.[135][136][137] Philips then named Isaac as one of his own, retracted article's unnamed sources.[138]

Tupac became convinced that Stretch had likely been somehow privy to the impending hit. Present during its unfolding, Stretch had shown atypical tolerance for and exemption from it, Tupac felt. But Tupac accused James "Jimmy Henchman" Rosemond, rather, of arranging the hit. Further, Tupac was convinced the Bad Boy record label's inner circle, especially its star rapper Christopher "Biggie" Wallace and label's boss Sean "Puffy" Combs, two who had seemed Tupac's friends, had certainly been privy.

Death Row signs Shakur

During 1995, imprisoned, impoverished, and his mother about to lose her house, Tupac had his wife Keisha Morris get word to Marion "Suge" Knight, in Los Angeles, boss of Death Row Records.[78] Reportedly, Tupac's mother promptly received $15,000.[78] After an August visit to Clinton Correctional Facility in northern New York state, Suge traveled southward to New York City to join Death Row's entourage to the 2nd Annual Source Awards ceremony.[78] Already reputed for strongarm tactics on the Los Angeles rap scene, Suge used his brief stage time mainly to belittle Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs, boss of Bad Boy Entertainment, the label then leading New York rap scene, who routinely performed with his own artists.[119][139] Before closing with a brief comment of support for Tupac,[140] Suge invited artists seeking the spotlight for themselves to join Death Row.[119][139] Eventually, Puff recalled that to preempt severe retaliation from his Bad Boy orbit, he had promptly confronted Suge, whose reply -- that he had meant Jermaine Dupri, of So So Def Recordings, in Atlanta -- was politic enough to deescalate the conflict.[141]

Still, among the fans, the previously diffuse rivalry between America's two mainstream rap scenes had instantly flared already.[119][140][139] And while in New York, Suge visited Uptown Records, where Puff, under its founder Andre Harrell, had started in the music business through an internship.[142] Apparently without paying Uptown, Suge obtained the releases of Puff's prime Uptown recruits Jodeci, its producer DeVante Swing, and Mary J. Blige, all then signing with Suge's management company.[142] On September 24, 1995, at a party for Dupri in Atlanta at the Platinum House nightclub, a Bad Boy circle entered a heated dispute with Suge and Suge's friend Jai Hassan-Jamal "Big Jake" Robles, a Bloods gang member and Death Row bodyguard.[119][143] According to eyewitnesses, including a Fulton County sheriff, working there as a nightclub bouncer, Puff had heatedly disputed with Suge inside the club,[119] whereas several minutes later, outside the club, it was Puff's childhood friend and own bodyguard, Anthony "Wolf" Jones, who had aimed a gun at Big Jake, fatally shot while entering Suge's car.[119][144][145]

The attorneys of Puff and his bodyguard both denied any involvement by their clients, while Puff's added that Puff had not even been with his bodyguard that night.[146] Over 20 years later, the case remains officially unresolved. Yet immediately and persistently, Suge blamed Puff, cementing the enmity between the two bosses, whose two record labels dominated the rap genre's two mainstream centers.[119][147] In the late 1990s, Southern rap's growth into the mainstream would dispel the East-West paradigm.[140] But in the meantime, in October 1995, violating his probation, Suge visited Tupac in prison again.[119] Suge posted $1.4 million bond. And with appeal of his December 1994 conviction pending, Shakur returned to Los Angeles and joined Death Row.[119] On June 4, 1996, it released the 2Pac B side "Hit 'Em Up." In this venonmous tirade, the proclaimed "Bad Boy killer" threatens violent payback on all things Bad Boy--Biggie, Puffy, Junior M.A.F.I.A., the company--and on any in New York's rap scene, like rap duo Mobb Deep and obscure rapper Chino XL, who allegedly had commented against Shakur about the dispute.


East Flamingo Road and Koval Lane, where the murder occurred

On the night of September 7, 1996, Shakur was in Las Vegas, Nevada, to celebrate his business partner Tracy Danielle Robinson's birthday[148] and attended the Bruce Seldon vs. Mike Tyson boxing match with Suge Knight at the MGM Grand. Afterward in the lobby, someone in their group spotted Orlando "Baby Lane" Anderson, an alleged Southside Compton Crip, whom the individual accused of having recently in a shopping mall tried to snatch his neck chain with a Death Row Records medallion. The hotel's surveillance footage shows the ensuing assault on Anderson. Shakur soon stopped by his hotel room and then headed with Knight to his Death Row nightclub, Club 662, in a black BMW 750iL sedan, part of a larger convoy.[149]

At about 11 PM on Las Vegas Boulevard, bicycle-mounted police stopped the car for its loud music and lack of license plates. The plates were found in the trunk and the car was released without a ticket.[150] At about 11:15 PM at a stop light, a white, four-door, late-model Cadillac sedan pulled up to the passenger side and an occupant rapidly fired into the car. Shakur was struck four times: once in the arm, once in the thigh, and twice in the chest[151] with one bullet entering his right lung.[152] Shards hit Knight's head. Frank Alexander, Shakur's bodyguard, was not in the car at the time. He would say he had been tasked to drive the car of Shakur's girlfriend, Kidada Jones.[153]

Shakur was taken to the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada where he was heavily sedated, put on life support, and later, to prevent involuntary reactions injurious, put under a barbiturate-induced coma.[9] In the intensive-care unit on the afternoon of September 13, 1996, Shakur died from internal bleeding.[9] He was pronounced dead at 4:03 PM.[9] The official causes of death are respiratory failure and cardiopulmonary arrest associated with multiple gunshot wounds.[9] Shakur's body was cremated the next day. Members of the Outlawz, recalling a line in his song "Black Jesus," (although uncertain of the artist's attempt at a literal meaning chose to interpret the request seriously) smoked some of his body's ashes after mixing them with marijuana.[154][155]

In 2011, via the Freedom of Information Act, the FBI documents reveal its investigation of the Jewish Defense League for making death threats against Shakur and other rappers.[156][157] In 2002, investigative journalist Chuck Philips,[158][159] after a year of work, reported in the Los Angeles Times that Anderson, a Southside Compton Crip, having been attacked by Suge and Shakur's entourage at the MGM Hotel after the boxing match, had fired the fatal gunshots, but that Las Vegas police had interviewed him only once, briefly, before his death in an unrelated shooting. Philips's 2002 article also alleges the involvement of Christopher "Biggie Smalls" Wallace and several within New York City's criminal underworld. Both Anderson and Wallace denied involvement, while Wallace offered a confirmed alibi.[160] Music journalist John Leland, in the New York Times, called the evidence "inconclusive."[161]

Legacy and remembrance

A stone statue of Shakur standing on a tall stone pillar in front of the MARTa Herford museum
Statue of Shakur at the MARTa museum in Herford, Germany

The online, rap magazine AllHipHop held a 2007 roundtable where, among fellow New York rappers, Cormega, citing tour experience with New York rap duo Mobb Deep, imparted a broad assessment: "Biggie ran New York. 'Pac ran America."[162] In 2010, writing Rolling Stone magazine's entry on Tupac Shakur at #86 among the "100 greatest artists," New York rapper 50 Cent appraised, "Every rapper who grew up in the Nineties owes something to Tupac. He didn't sound like anyone who came before him."[163]Dotdash, formerly About.com, while ranking him fifth among the greatest rappers, nonetheless notes, "Tupac Shakur is the most influential hip-hop artist of all time. Even in death, 2Pac remains a transcendental rap figure."[164] Yet to some, he was a "father figure" who, said rapper YG, "makes you want to be better--at every level."[165]

According to music journalist Chuck Philips, the dead artist "had helped elevate rap from a crude street fad to a complex art form, setting the stage for the current global hip-hop phenomenon."[166] Philips writes, "The slaying silenced one of modern music's most eloquent voices--a ghetto poet whose tales of urban alienation captivated young people of all races and backgrounds."[166] Via numerous fans perceiving him, despite the questionable of his conduct, as a martyr, "the downsizing of martyrdom cheapens its use," Michael Eric Dyson concedes.[167] But Dyson adds, "Some, or even most, of that criticism can be conceded without doing damage to Tupac's martyrdom in the eyes of those disappointed by more traditional martyrs."[167] More simply, his writings, published after his death, inspired rapper YG to return to school and get his GED.[165] In 2020, California Senator and Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris called Shakur the "best rapper alive", a mistake that she explained because "West Coast girls think 2Pac lives on".[168][169]

Afeni Shakur

In 1997, Shakur's mother founded the Shakur Family Foundation. Later renamed the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation, or TASF, it launched with a stated mission to "provide training and support for students who aspire to enhance their creative talents." The TASF sponsors essay contests, charity events, a performing arts day camp for teenagers, and undergraduate scholarships. In June 2005, the TASF opened the Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts, or TASCA, in Stone Mountain, Georgia. Afeni also narrates the documentary Tupac: Resurrection, released in November 2003, and nominated for Best Documentary at the 2005 Academy Awards. Meanwhile, with Forbes ranking Tupac Shakur at 10th among top-earning dead celebrities in 2002,[170] Afeni Shakur launched Makaveli Branded Clothing in 2003.

Academic appraisal

In late 1997, the University of California, Berkeley, offered the course "History 98: Poetry and History of Tupac Shakur," a course led by a student.[171] Yet in April 2003, Harvard University cosponsored the symposium "All Eyez on Me: Tupac Shakur and the Search for the Modern Folk Hero."[172] The papers presented cover his ranging influence from entertainment to sociology.[172] Calling him a "Thug Nigga Intellectual," an "organic intellectual,"[173] English scholar Mark Anthony Neal assessed his death as leaving a "leadership void amongst hip-hop artists,"[174] as this "walking contradiction" helps, Neal explained, "make being an intellectual accessible to ordinary people."[175] Tracing Tupac's mythical status, Murray Forman discussed him as "O.G.," or "Ostensibly Gone," with fans, using digital mediums, "resurrecting Tupac as an ethereal life force."[176] Music scholar Emmett Price, calling him a "black folk hero," traced his persona to black American folklore's tricksters, which, after abolition, evolved into the urban "bad-man." Yet in Tupac's "terrible sense of urgency," Price identified instead a quest to "unify mind, body, and spirit."[177]

Multimedia releases

In 2005, Death Row released, on DVD, Tupac: Live at the House of Blues, his final recorded live performance, an event on July 4, 1996. In August 2006, Tupac Shakur Legacy, an "interactive biography" by Jamal Joseph, arrived with previously unpublished family photographs, intimate stories, and over 20 detachable copies of his handwritten song lyrics, contracts, scripts, poetry, and other papers. In 2006, the 2Pac album Pac's Life was released and, like the previous, was among the recording industry's most popular releases.[178] In 2008, his estate made about $15 million.[179]

In 2014, BET explains that "his confounding mixture of ladies' man, thug, revolutionary and poet has forever altered our perception of what a rapper should look like, sound like and act like. In 50 Cent, Ja Rule, Lil Wayne, newcomers like Freddie Gibbs and even his friend-turned-rival Biggie, it's easy to see that Pac is the most copied MC of all time. There are murals bearing his likeness in New York, Brazil, Sierra Leone, Bulgaria and countless other places; he even has statues in Atlanta and Germany. Quite simply, no other rapper has captured the world's attention the way Tupac did and still does."[180]

On April 15, 2012, at the Coachella Music Festival, rappers Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre joined a 2Pac hologram,[181] and, as a partly virtual trio, performed the 2Pac songs "Hail Mary" and "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted."[182][183] There were talks of a tour,[184] but Dre refused.[185] Meanwhile, the Greatest Hits album, released in 1998, and which in 2000 had left the pop albums chart, the Billboard 200, returned to the chart and reached #129, while also other 2Pac albums and singles drew sales gains.[186] And in early 2015, the Grammy Museum opened an exhibition dedicated to Tupac Shakur.[187]

Film and stage

In 2014, the play Holler If Ya Hear Me, based on Tupac lyrics, played on Broadway, but, among Broadway's worst-selling musicals in recent years, ran only six weeks.[188] In development since 2013, a Tupac biopic, All Eyez on Me, began filming in Atlanta in December 2015,[189] and was released on June 16, 2017, in concept Tupac Shakur's 46th birthday,[190] albeit to generally negative reviews. In August 2019, a docuseries directed by Allen Hughes, Outlaw: The Saga of Afeni and Tupac Shakur, was announced.[191]

Awards and honors

In 2003, MTV's viewers voted 2Pac the greatest MC.[192] In 2005, on Vibe magazine's online message boards, a user asked others for the "Top 10 Best of All Time."[193] Vibe staff, then, "sorting out, averaging and spending a lot of energy," found, "Tupac coming in at first".[193] In 2006, MTV staff placed him second.[91] In 2012, The Source magazine ranked him fifth among all-time lyricists.[194] In 2010, Rolling Stone placed him at #86 among the "100 Greatest Artists."[163]

In 2007, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's "Definitive 200" albums--choices irking some otherwise[195]--placed All Eyez on Me at #90 and Me Against the World at #170.[196] In 2009, drawing praise, the Vatican added "Changes," a 1998 posthumous track, to its online playlist.[197] On June 23, 2010, the Library of Congress sent "Dear Mama" to the National Recording Registry,[198] the third rap song, after a Grandmaster Flash and a Public Enemy, ever to arrive there.[199]

In 2002, Tupac Shakur was inducted into the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame. Two years later, cable television's music network VH1 held its first ever Hip Hop Honors, where the honorees were, it says, "2Pac, Run-DMC, DJ Hollywood, Kool Herc, KRS-One, Public Enemy, Rock Steady Crew, Sugarhill Gang."[200] On December 30, 2016, in his first year of eligibility, Tupac was nominated,[201] and on the following April 7 was among five inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.[11][202]


Studio albums

Posthumous studio albums

Collaboration albums

Posthumous collaboration albums


Year Title Role Notes
1991 Nothing but Trouble Himself (in a fictional context) Brief appearance as part of the group Digital Underground
1992 Juice Roland Bishop First starring role
1993 Poetic Justice Lucky Co-starred with Janet Jackson
1993 A Different World Piccolo Episode: Homie Don't Ya Know Me?
1993 In Living Color Himself Season 5, Episode: 3
1994 Above the Rim Birdie Co-starred with Duane Martin
1995 Murder Was the Case: The Movie Sniper Uncredited; segment: "Natural Born Killaz"
1996 Saturday Night Special Himself (guest host) 1 episode
1996 Saturday Night Live Himself (musical guest) 1 episode
1996 Bullet Tank Released one month after Shakur's death
1997 Gridlock'd Ezekiel "Spoon" Whitmore Released four months after Shakur's death
1997 Gang Related Detective Jake Rodriguez Shakur's last performance in a film
2001 Baby Boy Himself Archive footage
2003 Tupac: Resurrection Himself Archive footage
2009 Notorious Himself Archive footage
2015 Straight Outta Compton Himself Archive footage
2017 All Eyez on Me Himself Archive footage

Biographical portrayals in film

Year Title Portrayed by Notes
2001 Too Legit: The MC Hammer Story Lamont Bentley Biographical film about MC Hammer
2009 Notorious Anthony Mackie Biographical film about The Notorious B.I.G.
2015 Straight Outta Compton Marcc Rose[203] Biographical film about N.W.A
2016 Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge & Michel'le Adrian Arthur Biographical film about Michel'le
2017 All Eyez on Me Demetrius Shipp, Jr.[204] Biographical film about Tupac Shakur[205]


Shakur's life has been explored in several documentaries, each trying to capture the many different events during his short lifetime, most notably the Academy Award-nominated Tupac: Resurrection, released in 2003.

  • 1997: Tupac Shakur: Thug Immortal
  • 1997: Tupac Shakur: Words Never Die (TV)
  • 2001: Tupac Shakur: Before I Wake...
  • 2001: Welcome to Deathrow
  • 2002: Tupac Shakur: Thug Angel
  • 2002: Biggie & Tupac
  • 2002: Tha Westside
  • 2003: 2Pac 4 Ever
  • 2003: Tupac: Resurrection
  • 2004: Tupac vs.
  • 2004: Tupac: The Hip Hop Genius (TV)
  • 2006: So Many Years, So Many Tears
  • 2015: Murder Rap: Inside the Biggie and Tupac Murders
  • 2017: Who killed Tupac?
  • 2017: Who Shot Biggie & Tupac?
  • 2018: Unsolved: Murders of Biggie and Tupac?

See also


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  10. ^ "Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur To Be Inducted Into Hip-Hop Hall Of Fame". December 30, 2006. Archived from the original on December 30, 2006. Retrieved 2012.
  11. ^ a b "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame taps Tupac, Journey, Pearl Jam". USA TODAY. Archived from the original on December 20, 2016. Retrieved 2016.
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  57. ^ The album is subtitled Volume 1 since Thug Life's roster had been intended to grow and evolve over time.
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