Tupac Amaru Shakur (/
Shakur in 1991
Lesane Parish Crooks
June 16, 1971
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||September 13, 1996 (aged 25)|
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
|Cause of death||Gunshot wounds|
(m. 1995; div. 1996)
|Relatives||Mutulu Shakur (step-dad)|
Assata Shakur (step-aunt)
|Awards||List of awards and nominations|
Shakur was born in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City but relocated to San Francisco Bay Area in 1988. He later 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. 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). Later that year, after suffering legal troubles and a robbery and shooting, Shakur became heavily involved in the growing East Coast–West Coast hip hop rivalry. His double-disc album All Eyez on Me (1996) later became one of the best-selling albums in the United States. 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 several months later. Five more albums have been released since his death, all of which have been certified Platinum.
Outside music, Shakur also gained considerable success as an actor, with his starring roles as Bishop in Juice (1992), Lucky in Poetic Justice (1993), Ezekiel in Gridlock'd (1997), and Jake in Gang Related (1997), all garnering praise from critics.
Shakur is one of the best-selling music artists of all time having sold over 75 million records worldwide. In 2003, MTV's "22 Greatest MCs" countdown listed Shakur as the "Number 1 MC", as voted by the viewers. In 2010, he was inducted to the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry. In 2017, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Rolling Stone named Shakur in the list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
Tupac Amaru Shakur was born on June 16, 1971, into an African-American family in the East Harlem section of Manhattan in New York City. His birth name was Lesane Parish Crooks. The following year, he was renamed after Túpac Amaru II, the 18th-century Peruvian revolutionary who was executed after leading an indigenous uprising against Spanish rule.
His parents, Afeni Shakur (born Alice Faye Williams in North Carolina) and Billy Garland, were active members of the Black Panther Party in New York in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Lesane was born a month after his mother was acquitted of more than 150 charges of "Conspiracy against the United States government and New York landmarks" in the New York Panther 21 trial.
Many people in Shakur's life were involved with the Black Liberation Army; some were convicted of serious criminal offenses and imprisoned, including his mother. His godfather, Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt, a high-ranking Black Panther, had been convicted of murdering a school teacher during a 1968 robbery, although his sentence was later overturned. His stepfather, Mutulu Shakur, spent four years at large on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, beginning in 1982. Mutulu was wanted for having helped his friend (no relation) Assata Shakur (also known as Joanne Chesimard), Tupac's godmother, to escape from a penitentiary in New Jersey in 1979. Mutulu was caught in 1986 and eventually convicted and sentenced to prison for the 1981 robbery of a Brinks armored truck, during which two police officers and a guard were killed.
In 1986, the family moved from New York to Baltimore, Maryland. After completing his second year at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, Shakur transferred to the Baltimore School for the Arts. There he studied acting, poetry, jazz, and ballet. He performed in Shakespeare plays and in the role of the Mouse King in the ballet The Nutcracker. Shakur, accompanied by one of his friends, Dana "Mouse" Smith, as his beatbox, won many rap competitions and was considered to be the best rapper in his school. He was remembered as one of the most popular kids in his school because of his sense of humor, superior rapping skills, and ability to mix with all crowds.
Shakur developed a close friendship with Jada Pinkett (later Jada Pinkett Smith) that lasted until his death. In the documentary Tupac: Resurrection, Shakur says, "Jada is my heart. She will be my friend for my whole life." Pinkett Smith calls 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." A poem written by Shakur, titled "Jada", appears in his book, The Rose That Grew from Concrete, which also includes a poem dedicated to Pinkett Smith called "The Tears in Cupid's Eyes."
During his time in art school, Shakur became affiliated with the Baltimore Young Communist League USA. He began dating the daughter of the director of the local chapter of the Communist Party USA.
Move to California
In 1988, Shakur and his family moved from Baltimore to Marin City, California, a small unincorporated suburban community located 5 miles (8 km) north of San Francisco. He attended Tamalpais High School in nearby Mill Valley. Shakur contributed to the school's drama department by performing in several productions. In an English class, Shakur wrote a paper, "Conquering All Obstacles," in which he said:
our raps, not the sorry story raps everyone is so tired of. They are about what happens in the real world. Our goal is [to] have people relate to our raps, making it easier to see what really is happening out there. Even more important, what we may do to better our world.
He began attending the poetry classes of Leila Steinberg in 1989. That same year, Steinberg organized a concert with Shakur's group, "Strictly Dope"; the concert led to his being signed with Atron Gregory. Gregory set him up as a roadie and backup dancer with the hip hop group Digital Underground in 1990.
1988–93: Beginnings and rise to fame
Before using his first name as his rap name, Shakur went by the alias MC New York when starting his career. Although Shakur began recording in 1988, his professional entertainment career did not take off until the early 1990s when he joined Digital Underground in early 1990 and debuted in Digital Underground's "Same Song" from the soundtrack to the 1991 film Nothing but Trouble; Shakur also appeared with the group in the film. The song was later released as the lead song of the Digital Underground extended play (EP) This Is an EP Release, the follow-up to their debut hit album Sex Packets. Shakur appeared in the accompanying music video. After his rap debut, he performed with Digital Underground again, on the album Sons of the P. Shakur went on to feature Shock G and Money-B from Digital Underground in his track "I Get Around", which ranked #11 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.
In November 1991, Shakur released his debut solo album, 2Pacalypse Now. Though the album did not generate any hit singles, 2Pacalypse Now has been acclaimed by many critics and fans for its underground feel, with many rappers such as Nas, Eminem, Game, and Talib Kweli having pointed to it as inspiration. Although the album was originally released on Interscope Records, the rights to its distribution are now owned by Amaru Entertainment, the label owned by Shakur's mother. The album's name is a reference to the 1979 film Apocalypse Now.
2Pacalypse Now generated significant controversy for numerous reasons. The songs "Trapped" and "Brenda's Got a Baby" were widely noted both for their poetic qualities and their strong critiques of unjust social policies. Dan Quayle criticized the album after a Texas youth's defense attorney claimed he was influenced by 2Pacalypse Now and its theme of police brutality before shooting a state trooper. Quayle said, "There's no reason for a record like this to be released. It has no place in our society." Shakur stated that he felt he had been misunderstood. He said, "I started out saying I was down for the young black male, you know, and that was gonna be my thang," Shakur said. "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. I just figured since I lived that life I could do that, I could rap about that." The record was important in showcasing Shakur's political conviction and his focus on lyrical prowess. On MTV's Greatest Rappers of All Time list, 2Pacalypse Now was listed as one of Shakur's "certified classic" albums, along with Me Against the World, All Eyez on Me and The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory. 2Pacalypse Now went on to be certified Gold by the RIAA. It featured three singles: "Brenda's Got a Baby", "Trapped", and "If My Homie Calls".
His second studio album, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z..., was released in February 1993. The album did better than its predecessor both critically and commercially, debuting at number 24 on the Billboard 200. The album contains many tracks emphasizing Shakur's political and social views, and there are noticeable differences in production from his first effort. While 2Pacalypse Now had an indie-rap-oriented sound, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z... is generally considered Shakur's "breakout" album. It spawned the hits "Keep Ya Head Up" and "I Get Around", and reached platinum status. On vinyl, Side A (tracks 1–8) was labeled the "Black Side" and Side B (tracks 9–16) the "Dark Side". It is Shakur's tenth-biggest selling album, with 1,366,000 units moved as of 2004.
1993–95: Acting and rise to prominence
In late 1993, Shakur formed the group Thug Life with a number of his friends, including Big Syke (Tyruss Himes), Macadoshis (Diron Rivers), his stepbrother Mopreme Shakur, and the Rated R (Walter Burns). The group released their only album Thug Life: Volume 1 on September 26, 1994, which went gold. The album featured the single "Pour Out a Little Liquor", produced by Johnny "J" Jackson, who went on to produce a large part of Shakur's album All Eyez on Me. The group usually performed their concerts without Shakur. The album was originally released by Shakur's label Out Da Gutta Records, though Amaru Entertainment has since gained the rights to it. Among the notable tracks are "Bury Me a G", "Cradle to the Grave", "Pour Out a Little Liquor" (which also appears on the soundtrack to the 1994 film Above the Rim), "How Long Will They Mourn Me?" and "Str8 Ballin'". As a result of criticism of gangsta rap at the time, the original version of the album was scrapped and re-recorded with many of the original songs being cut. The album contains ten tracks because Interscope Records felt many of the other recorded songs were too controversial to release. Although the original version of the album was not completed, Shakur performed the planned first single from the album, "Out on Bail" at the 1994 Source Awards. Thug Life: Volume 1 was certified Gold. The track "How Long Will They Mourn Me?" later appeared on 2Pac's posthumous Greatest Hits album.
Shakur's third album, Me Against the World, was released in March 1995 and was very well-received, with many calling it the magnum opus of his career. It is considered one of the greatest and most influential hip-hop albums of all time. It is Shakur's fourth-best-selling album with 3,524,567 copies sold in the United States as of 2011. Me Against the World won best rap album at the 1996 Soul Train Music Awards.
"Dear Mama" was released as the album's first single in February 1995, along with the track "Old School" as the B-side. It would become the album's most successful single, topping the Hot Rap Singles chart and peaking at the ninth spot on the Billboard Hot 100. The single was certified platinum in July 1995, and later placed at #51 on the year-end charts. The second single, "So Many Tears", was released in June, four months after the first single. The single would reach number six on the Hot Rap Singles chart, and number 44 on the Billboard Hot 100. "Temptations", released in August, was the third and final single from the album; it would be the least successful of the three released, but still did fairly well on the charts, reaching number 68 on the Billboard Hot 100, number 35 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks, and number 13 on the Hot Rap Singles charts.
1995–96: Final recordings
All Eyez on Me was the fourth studio album by 2Pac, recorded in October 1995 and released on February 13, 1996, by Death Row Records and Interscope Records. The album is frequently recognized as one of the crowning achievements of 1990s rap music. Steve Huey of AllMusic stated that "despite some undeniable filler, it is easily the best production 2Pac's ever had on record". It was certified 5× platinum after just two months in April 1996 and 9× platinum in 1998. The album featured the Billboard Hot 100 number one singles "How Do U Want It" and "California Love". It featured five singles in all, the most of any 2Pac album. Moreover, All Eyez on Me (which was the only Death Row release to be distributed through PolyGram by way of Island Records) made history as the first double-full-length hip-hop solo studio album released for mass consumption. It was issued on two compact discs and four LPs. Chartwise, All Eyez on Me was the second album from 2Pac to hit number one on both the Billboard 200 and the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts. It sold 566,000 copies in the first week of its release and was charted in the top 100 for one-week Soundscan sales since 1991. By the end of 1996, the album had sold 5 million copies. The album won the 1997 Soul Train R&B/Soul or Rap Album of the Year Award. Shakur also won the Award for Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Artist at the 24th Annual American Music Awards.
The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, commonly shortened to The 7 Day Theory, is Shakur's fifth and final studio album and was released under his new stage name Makaveli. The album was completely finished in a total of seven days during the month of August 1996. The lyrics were written and recorded in three days and mixing took an additional four days. In 2005, MTV.com ranked The 7 Day Theory at #9 on their greatest hip hop albums of all-time list and, in 2006, recognized it as a classic. The emotion and anger showcased on the album have been admired by a large part of the hip hop community. George "Papa G" Pryce, former Head of Publicity for Death Row, claimed that "Makaveli, which we did was sort of tongue-in-cheek and it was not really to come out and after Tupac was murdered, it did come out. But before that, it was going to be a sort of an underground [record]." The album peaked at number one on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and the Billboard 200. The album generated the second-highest debut-week sales total of any album that year. It was certified 4× Platinum on June 15, 1999.
Death Row Records
In October 1995, Shakur was released from prison after serving nine months of a sentence for sexual assault and formed a new group called Outlaw Immortalz. Shakur joined the Death Row label, under which he released the single "California Love".
On February 13, 1996, Shakur released his fourth solo album, All Eyez on Me. This double album was the first and second of his three-album commitment to Death Row Records. It sold more than nine million copies. The record was a general departure from the introspective subject matter of Me Against the World, being more oriented toward a thug and gangsta mentality. Shakur continued his recordings despite increasing problems at the Death Row label. Dr. Dre left his post as in-house producer to form his own label, Aftermath. Shakur continued to produce hundreds of tracks during his time at Death Row, most of which would be released on his posthumous albums Still I Rise, Until the End of Time, Better Dayz, Loyal to the Game and Pac's Life. He also began the process of recording an album, One Nation, with the New York-based Boot Camp Clik and their label Duck Down Records. On June 4, 1996, he and Outlawz released the diss track "Hit 'Em Up", a scathing lyrical assault on The Notorious B.I.G. and others associated with him. In the track, Shakur claimed to have had sexual intercourse with Faith Evans, the wife of Wallace, and attacked Bad Boy's street credibility. Shakur was convinced that some members associated with Bad Boy had known about the 1994 attack on him due to their behavior that night and the information that his sources gave to him. According to a 2005 interview with Jimmy Henchman, in Vibe magazine, after the attack, Shakur immediately accused Henchman, an associate of Bad Boy CEO Sean Combs, of orchestrating the attack. Shakur, therefore, aligned himself with Suge, Death Row's CEO, who was already bitter toward Combs over a 1995 incident at the Platinum Club in Atlanta, Georgia, which culminated in the death of Jake Robles, the friend and bodyguard of Suge Knight; Knight was adamant in voicing his suspicions about Combs' involvement. In the years following their killings, associates of both Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. made comments indicating the pair, were it not for their deaths, would have reconciled.
Collaborator Buckshot claimed in 2015 that Shakur defended him against Suge Knight, who had insisted that the East Coast rapper could not come with him to Las Vegas on the grounds of the ongoing hip hop rivalry. Shakur asserted that he would not board the plane unless accompanied by Buckshot and was described by the fellow rapper as looking "discomforted" while they recorded a song together in a studio after Shakur "tore up the plane tickets".
During an August 15, 1996, appearance at the Brotherhood Crusade Rally, which featured several artists discussing the importance of voting, Shakur compared the sales of Death Row records to voters in the U.S. and the influence he and other artists had over an adoring fanbase.
When Shakur recorded "Hit 'Em Up", a diss song toward Biggie, he recruited three members from the former group, Dramacydal, with whom he had worked previously and was eager to do so again. Shakur, with the three New Jersey rappers and other associates, formed the original lineup of the Outlawz. When Shakur signed to Death Row after his release from prison, he recruited step brother Mopreme Shakur and Big Syke from Thug Life. Hussein Fatal, Napoleon, E.D.I. Mean, Kastro, Yaki Kadafi, and Storm (the only female Outlaw) were also added, and together they formed the original lineup of the Outlaw Immortalz that debuted on All Eyez on Me. They later dropped the Immortal part of their name after the untimely deaths of Shakur and Yaki Kadafi and moved on as Outlawz without the members of Thug Life. Young Noble was later added and appeared on Shakur's second Death Row release The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory. It was on this album that Outlawz first came to the greater rap community's notice, appearing on a few songs. The idea behind the group was for each member to have a rap name coinciding with the names of various tyrants or enemies of America, past, and present. Outlawz chose in later years to make a backronym out of the letters of their group name Operating Under Thug Laws as Warriorz although it does not stand for the group's name and is used infrequently.
On forming the Outlawz, Shakur gave each of them a name of a dictator/military leader and/or an enemy of America.
- Yaki Kadafi, after Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi
- Hussein Fatal, after Iraqi President Saddam Hussein
- Mussolini (formerly Big Syke), after Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini
- Komani (Shakur's step brother Mopreme Shakur), after Iranian Islamic Revolution leader Ruhollah "Ayatollah" Khomeini
- Kastro, after Cuban communist revolutionary and leader Fidel Castro
- E.D.I. Mean, after Ugandan president and dictator Idi Amin
- Napoleon, after French military strategist and leader Napoleon Bonaparte
For himself, Shakur created the alias "Makaveli" from Renaissance Italian philosopher and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli, whose writings inspired Shakur in prison, but who also preached that a leader could eliminate his enemies by all means necessary. He mentioned Makaveli Records a few times before his death. This was supposed to be a music label for up-and-coming artists that Shakur had an interest in developing or potentially signing, and his own future projects would have been published through it as well.
In addition to his endeavors in the music industry, Shakur acted in films. He made his first film appearance in Nothing but Trouble (1991), as part of a cameo by the Digital Underground. His first starring role was in the 1992 film Juice. He played Roland Bishop, a violent member of the Wrecking Crew, for which he was hailed by Rolling Stone's Peter Travers as "the film's most magnetic figure". He then went on to star in Poetic Justice (1993) opposite Janet Jackson and the basketball drama Above the Rim (1994). After his death, three more completed films featuring Shakur were released: Bullet (1996), Gridlock'd (1997), and Gang Related (1997).
Shakur had been slated to star in the 1993 Hughes brothers' film Menace II Society but was replaced by actor Vonte Sweet in the role of "Sharif" after assaulting Allen Hughes as a result of a quarrel. Shakur reportedly wanted another type of role, but Hughes would not conform to his wishes, leading to the altercation between the pair which, according to Tyrin Turner, also led members of Shakur's entourage to become physically aggressive toward Hughes. In 2013, Hughes said Shakur would have outshone the other actors had he been in the film, "because he was bigger than the movie." Hughes' comments were seen as validation that he had forgiven the rapper since the incident. Larenz Tate, who had several rehearsals with Shakur before his part was recast, recalled Shakur being close to the Hughes brothers but that his actions were the result of "creative differences".
According to former Death Row Records sound engineer Rick Clifford, Shakur reportedly read for the role of Mace Windu around the time that George Lucas was holding auditions for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. The role ultimately went to Samuel L. Jackson.
Director John Singleton mentioned that he wrote the script for his film Baby Boy with Shakur in mind for the lead role. It was eventually filmed with Tyrese Gibson in his place and released in 2001, five years after Shakur's death. The film features a mural of Shakur in the protagonist's bedroom, as well as featuring the song "Hail Mary" in the film's score.
Shakur's music and philosophy are rooted in many American, African-American, and world entities, including the Black Panther Party, black nationalism, egalitarianism, and liberty. Shakur's love of theater and Shakespeare also influenced his work. A student of the Baltimore School for the Arts where he studied theater, Shakur understood the Shakespearean psychology of inter-gang wars and inter-cultural conflict.
During a 1995 interview, Shakur said:
[…] I love Shakespeare. He wrote some of the rawest stories, man. I mean look at Romeo and Juliet. That's some serious ghetto shit. You got this guy Romeo from the Bloods who falls for Juliet, a female from the Crips, and everybody in both gangs is against them. So they have to sneak out and they end up dead for nothing. Real tragic stuff. And look how Shakespeare busts it up with Macbeth. He creates a tale about this king's wife who convinces a happy man to chase after her and kill her husband so he can take over the country. After he commits the murder, the dude starts having delusions just like in a Scarface song. I mean the king's wife just screws this guy's whole life up for nothing [...].
In an interview in Spain, American music journalist Chuck Philips said that what impressed him the most about Shakur was that he was a poet. Philips said, "I like sacred texts, myths, proverbs, and scriptures. [...] When Tupac came along, I thought he was quite the poet [...] It wasn't just how cleverly they rhymed. It wasn't just the rhythm or the cadence. I liked their attitude. It was protest music in a way nobody had ever thought about before. [...]These artists were brave, wise and smart – wickedly smart. Tupac had so many sides. He was unafraid to write about his vulnerabilities."
Shakur's debut album, 2Pacalypse Now (1991), revealed his socially conscious side. On this album, Shakur attacked social injustice, poverty, and police brutality in "Brenda's Got a Baby", "Trapped", and "Part Time Mutha". On this initial release, Shakur helped extend the success of such rap groups as Boogie Down Productions, Public Enemy, X-Clan, and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, as he became one of the first major socially conscious rappers from the West Coast.
On his second record, Shakur continued to rap about the social ills facing African Americans, with songs such as "The Streetz R Deathrow" and "Last Wordz". He also showed his compassionate side with the anthem "Keep Ya Head Up", while simultaneously putting his legendary aggressiveness on display with the title track from the album Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z... He added a salute to his former group Digital Underground by including them on the playful track "I Get Around". Throughout his career, Shakur expressed an increasingly aggressive attitude on his subsequent albums.
The contradictory themes of social inequality and injustice, unbridled aggression, compassion, playfulness, and hope all continued to shape Shakur's work, as expressed in his incendiary 1995 album Me Against the World. In 1996, Shakur released All Eyez on Me, and many of the tracks are considered by critics to be classics, including "Ambitionz Az a Ridah", "I Ain't Mad at Cha", "California Love", "Life Goes On" and "Picture Me Rollin". Shakur described All Eyez on Me as a celebration of life, and the album was critically and commercially successful.
Shakur had enjoyed and had been influenced by the work of contemporary English and Irish pop musicians as a teenager such as Kate Bush, Culture Club, Sinéad O'Connor, and U2. His style on 2Pacalypse Now was highly influenced by the social consciousness and Afrocentrism pervading hip-hop in the late 1980s and early 1990s. All Eyez on Me was a change of style from his earlier works; while still containing socially conscious songs and themes, this album was heavily influenced by party tracks and tended to have a more "feel good" vibe than his earlier albums.
Shakur never professed to follow a particular religion, but his lyrics in singles such as "Ghetto Gospel" and "Only God Can Judge Me" and poems such as "The Rose That Grew from Concrete" suggest he believed in God. Many analysts currently describe him as a deist. He believed in karma but rejected a literal afterlife and organized religion.
Shakur had several family members who were members of the Black Panthers: Mutulu Shakur, his step-father; Assata Shakur, his step-aunt; Billy Garland, his biological father; and Afeni Shakur, his mother. Shakur publicly spoke out against interracial marriage in an interview with Source magazine in 1994, but later retracted these comments.
His bandana tied into rabbit ears was considered by British writer Rob Marriott as one of hip-hop's most recognizable style choices.
Shakur was friends with boxer Mike Tyson, Chuck D, Marlon Wayans, Jim Carrey, and Rosie Perez. He befriended fellow rappers Snoop Dogg and Freddie Foxxx, collaborating on songs with the pair and writing to Foxxx while in prison.
Shakur married Keisha Morris-Shakur in April 1995; the marriage officially ended in March 1996.
His father Billy Garland said Shakur's anger developed from his frustrations in being misunderstood. He particularly reacted when people questioned his commitment to the black community and the West Coast.
According to his bodyguard and friend Frank Alexander, Shakur's favorite color was green. He wore a green tank-top on the night of his death.
Shakur lived with Kidada Jones, his girlfriend, daughter of Quincy Jones and actress Peggy Lipton, for several months until his death. Jones was waiting for Shakur in their Las Vegas hotel room when she was notified that he was shot. She rushed to the hospital and remained with him until he died from his injuries six days later.
In October 1991, Shakur filed a $10-million civil suit against the Oakland Police Department, alleging that the police brutally beat him for jaywalking. Shakur received approximately $43,000 in settlement money, much of which went to pay his lawyer.
On August 22, 1992, in Marin City, Shakur performed at an outdoor festival and stayed for an hour afterward signing autographs and pictures. A confrontation occurred and Shakur drew a legally registered Colt Mustang, and allegedly dropped it. As it was picked up by a member of his entourage, a bullet was discharged. About 100 yards (90 m) away, Qa'id Walker-Teal, a 6-year-old boy, was riding his bicycle at a school playground nearby when he was fatally struck by a bullet in the forehead, killing him. Although the police matched the bullet to a .38-caliber pistol registered to Shakur, and although his stepbrother, Maurice Harding, was initially arrested on suspicion of firing the weapon, no charges were filed. Marin County prosecutors have said they were stymied by a lack of witnesses. In 1995, a wrongful death suit was brought against Shakur by Qa'id's mother. The defense attorney acknowledged that the bullet that killed Qa'id was traced by authorities to a gun registered to Shakur. The suit was dropped when Shakur agreed to pay a $300,000–$500,000 settlement to the parents.
On April 5, 1993, Shakur was charged with one count of felonious assault. He was accused of attempting to hit rapper Chauncey Wynn from the group M.A.D. with a baseball bat at a concert at Michigan State University. The incident reportedly began when Shakur became angry and threw a microphone. Shakur pleaded guilty on September 14, 1994, to a misdemeanor in exchange for the dismissal of the felonious-assault charge. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail, 20 of which were suspended, and ordered to perform 35 hours of community service.
In October 1993, in Atlanta, two brothers and off-duty police officers, Mark and Scott Whitwell, were with their wives celebrating Mrs. Whitwell's passing of the state bar examination. The officers were drunk and in possession of stolen guns. As they crossed the street, a car with Shakur inside passed them or "almost struck them". The Whitwells argued with the driver, Shakur, and the other passengers, who were joined by a second passing car. Shakur shot one officer in the buttocks and the other in the leg, back, or abdomen, according to varying news reports. Mark Whitwell was charged with firing at Shakur's car and later lying to the police during the investigation. Shakur was charged with the shooting. Prosecutors dropped all charges against the parties.
In early 1994, Shakur was found guilty of assaulting Allen Hughes, co-director of Menace II Society; he served 15 days in jail. The previous year, Shakur had boasted during an appearance on Yo! MTV Raps that he had "beat up the director of Menace II Society", the line later being used against him in court.
In November 1993, Shakur and others were charged in New York with sexual assaulting a woman in a hotel room. Shakur denied the charges. According to Shakur, he had prior relations days earlier with the woman which were consensual (the woman testified she performed consensual oral sex on Shakur). The complainant claimed sexual assault after her second visit to Shakur's hotel room; she alleged that Shakur and his entourage raped her. At trial, Shakur was convicted of first-degree sexual abuse, and acquitted of the weapons and sodomy charges. The judge described the crimes during the sentencing of Shakur to 1½–4½ years in prison, as "an act of brutal violence against a helpless woman." While appearing on The Arsenio Hall Show, Shakur said he was innocent of all charges and he was hurt that "a woman would accuse me of taking something from her", when he was raised by and was surrounded by females.
In October 1995, Shakur's assault case was on appeal. Because of his considerable legal fees, he could not raise the $1.4 million bail. After serving nine months of his sentence, Shakur was released from the Clinton Correctional Facility on October 12, 1995. Suge Knight, the CEO of Death Row Records, had posted the $1.4 million bail, pending Shakur's appeal of the conviction, in exchange for Shakur releasing three albums under the Death Row label. On April 5, 1996, a judge sentenced Shakur to serve 120 days in jail for violating terms of his release on bail.
Attack at Quad Recording Studios
On the night of November 30, 1994, the day before the verdict in his sexual abuse trial was to be announced, Shakur was robbed and shot five times by three men in the lobby of Quad Recording Studios in Manhattan. Shakur said that he believed the robbery was simply a setup for the attack, wondering why they would take jewelry and leave his Rolex watch. Three hours after surgery for his wounds, Shakur checked out of the Bellevue Hospital Center against doctor's orders. In the day that followed, he entered the courthouse in a wheelchair in the verdict hearing for his sexual abuse trial. He was found guilty of three counts of molestation and found not guilty of six other charges, including sodomy, stemming from his 1993 arrest.
In a 1995 interview with Vibe magazine, Shakur accused Sean Combs, Jimmy Henchman, and Biggie, among others, of setting up the Quad Recording Studios attack. Vibe changed the names of the accused assailants upon publication. Later evidence did not implicate Biggie in the studio assault. When Biggie's entourage went downstairs to check on the incident, Shakur was being taken out on a stretcher, giving the finger to those around.
On March 17, 2008, Chuck Philips wrote in the Los Angeles Times about an alleged order for an attack on Shakur. The article was retracted by the LA Times because it relied partially on FBI documents, which were discovered to have been forged; they had been supplied by a man convicted of fraud. In 2011, Dexter Isaac admitted to having attacked Shakur on Henchman's orders. Following Isaac's public confession, Philips named Isaac as one of his unnamed sources for the retracted article.
Shakur began serving his prison sentence on sexual-assault charges at Clinton Correctional Facility on February 14, 1995. Shortly afterward, he released his Multi-Platinum album Me Against the World. Shakur became the first artist to have an album at number one on the Billboard 200 while serving a prison sentence. Me Against the World made its debut on the Billboard 200 and stayed at the top of the charts for four weeks. The album sold 240,000 copies in its first week, setting a record for highest first-week sales for a solo male rap artist at the time.
While serving his sentence, Shakur married his long-time girlfriend, Keisha Morris, on April 4, 1995; the couple divorced in 1996. Shakur stated that he married her "for the wrong reasons". In an interview after his release, Shakur claimed to have written only one song during his incarceration.
While imprisoned, Shakur became interested in philosophy, philosophy of war, and military strategy by studying the works such as The Prince by Italian philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli and The Art of War by Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu. The works inspired his pseudonym "Makaveli", under which he released the album The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory. The album presents a stark contrast to previous works. Throughout the album, Shakur continues to focus on the themes of pain and aggression, making this album one of the emotionally darker works of his career.
While in prison, Shakur wrote to Death Row Uncut director Nina Bhadreshwar about his plans to begin a "new chapter" of his life. According to Kevin Powell, who spoke to Shakur following his release from prison, the performer "seemed like a completely transformed person." Powell recalled Shakur being more dark and menacing, to the extent that Powell wondered whether he had really known him before.
September 1996 shooting
On the night of September 7, 1996, Shakur was in Las Vegas, Nevada to celebrate his business partner Tracy Danielle Robinson's birthday and attended the Bruce Seldon vs. Mike Tyson boxing match with Suge Knight at the MGM Grand. After leaving the match, one of Knight's associates spotted Orlando "Baby Lane" Anderson, an alleged Crips gang member from Compton, California, in the MGM Grand lobby. Earlier that year, Anderson and a group of Crips had robbed a member of Death Row's entourage in a Foot Locker store. Knight's associate told Shakur, who attacked Anderson, assisted by his and Knight's entourage. The fight was captured on the hotel's video surveillance. After the brawl, Shakur went with Knight to Death Row–owned Club 662. Shakur rode in Knight's 1996 black BMW 750iL sedan as part of a larger convoy.
At 11:00–11:05 p.m. (PDT), they were halted on Las Vegas Boulevard by Metro bicycle police for playing the car stereo too loudly and not having license plates. These were found in the trunk of Knight's car and the party was released without being ticketed. At 11:15 p.m. (PDT), when they were at a stop light, a white, four-door, late-model Cadillac with unknown occupants pulled up to the right side of Shakur's sedan. Someone inside rapidly fired gunshots at Shakur. He was hit four times, twice in the chest, once in the arm, and once in the thigh. One of the bullets went into Shakur's right lung. Knight was hit in the head by fragmentation. Shakur's bodyguard, Frank Alexander, was not in the vehicle; he said that Shakur had asked him to drive the car of Shakur's girlfriend, Kidada Jones. After arriving at the scene, police and paramedics took Knight and the wounded Shakur to the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada. According to an interview with music video director Gobi, while at the hospital, Shakur received news from a Death Row marketing employee that the shooters had called the record company and threatened Shakur. Gobi informed the Las Vegas police but said that the police claimed to be understaffed. No attackers came. At the hospital, Shakur was heavily sedated, placed on life-support machines, and ultimately was put under a barbiturate-induced coma to keep him in the bed. While in the intensive-care unit, on the afternoon of September 13, 1996, Shakur died from internal bleeding. He was pronounced dead at 4:03 p.m. (PDT). The official causes of death were noted as respiratory failure and cardiopulmonary arrest in connection with multiple gunshot wounds.
Shakur's body was cremated the next day. Some of his ashes were purportedly later mixed with marijuana and smoked by members of the Outlawz. However, E.D.I. Mean claimed in a 2014 interview that the ashes did not belong to Shakur.
His fifth album, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, was released two months later, and numerous other posthumous albums followed.
In 2002, the Los Angeles Times published a two-part story by investigative reporter Chuck Philips, titled "Who Killed Tupac Shakur?", based on yearlong research that reconstructed the crime and the events leading up to it. Information gathered by the paper indicated that: "the shooting was carried out by a Compton gang called the Southside Crips to avenge the beating of one of its members by Shakur a few hours earlier. Orlando Anderson, the Crip whom Shakur had attacked, fired the fatal shots. Las Vegas police discounted Anderson as a suspect and interviewed him only once, briefly. He was later killed in an unrelated gang shooting." The article also reported the involvement of East Coast rapper The Notorious B.I.G., Shakur's rival at the time, and several New York criminals.
Before they died, The Notorious B.I.G. and Anderson denied any role in the murder. In support of their claims, Biggie's family produced computerized invoices suggesting that he was working in a New York recording studio the night of the drive-by shooting. His manager Wayne Barrow and fellow rapper Lil' Cease (James Lloyd) made public announcements denying Biggie's role in the crime and claimed further that they were with him in the recording studio the night of the event. The New York Times called the evidence "inconclusive", noting:
The pages purport to be three computer printouts from Daddy's House, indicating that Wallace was in the studio recording a song called Nasty Boy on the afternoon Shakur was shot. They indicate that Wallace wrote half the session, was In and out/sat around and laid down a ref, shorthand for a reference vocal, the equivalent of a first take. But nothing indicates when the documents were created. And Louis Alfred, the recording engineer listed on the sheets, said in an interview that he remembered recording the song with Wallace in a late-night session, not during the day. He could not recall the date of the session but said it was likely not the night Shakur was shot. 'We would have heard about it,' Mr. Alfred said.
In 2011, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act, the FBI released documents revealing its investigation of the Jewish Defense League for making death threats against Shakur and other rappers.
At a Mobb Deep concert following the death of Shakur and the release of The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, Cormega recalled in an interview that the fans were all shouting "Makaveli", and emphasized the influence of The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory and of Shakur himself even in New York at the height of the media-dubbed "intercoastal rivalry".
Shakur is held in high esteem by other MCs: In the book How to Rap, Bishop Lamont (Philip Martin) notes that Shakur "mastered every element, every aspect" of rapping and Fredro Starr (Fred Scruggs) of Onyx says Shakur "was a master of the flow." "Every rapper who grew up in the Nineties owes something to Tupac," wrote 50 Cent (Curtis Jackson). "He didn't sound like anyone who came before him." About.com, for their part, named Shakur the most influential rapper ever.
Chuck Philips writes that "the slaying [of Tupac Shakur] 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. The 25-year-old Shakur had helped elevate rap from a crude street fad to a complex art form, setting the stage for the current global hip-hop phenomenon".
To preserve Shakur's legacy, his mother founded the Shakur Family Foundation (later renamed the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation or TASF) in 1997. The TASF's stated mission is 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. The Foundation officially opened the Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts (TASCA) in Stone Mountain, Georgia, on June 11, 2005. On November 14, 2003, a documentary about Shakur entitled Tupac: Resurrection was released under the supervision of his mother and narrated entirely in his voice. It was nominated for Best Documentary at the 2005 Academy Awards. Proceeds will go to a charity set up by Shakur's mother Afeni. On April 17, 2003, Harvard University co-sponsored an academic symposium entitled "All Eyez on Me: Tupac Shakur and the Search for the Modern Folk Hero". The speakers discussed a wide range of topics dealing with Shakur's impact on everything from entertainment to sociology.
Vinyl Ain't Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture
Many of the speakers discussed Shakur's status and public persona, including State University of New York at Buffalo English professor Mark Anthony Neal who gave the talk "Thug Nigga Intellectual: Tupac as Celebrity Gramscian" in which he argued that Shakur was an example of the "organic intellectual" expressing the concerns of a larger group. Professor Neal has also indicated in his writings that the death of Shakur has left a "leadership void amongst hip-hop artists." Neal further describes him as a "walking contradiction", a status that allowed him to "make being an intellectual accessible to ordinary people."
Professor of Communications Murray Forman, of Northeastern University, spoke of the mythical status about Shakur's life and death. He addressed the symbolism and mythology surrounding Shakur's death in his talk entitled "Tupac Shakur: O.G. (Ostensibly Gone)". Among his findings were that Shakur's fans have "succeeded in resurrecting Tupac as an ethereal life force." In "From Thug Life to Legend: Realization of a Black Folk Hero", Professor of Music at Northeastern University, Emmett Price, compared Shakur's public image to that of the trickster figures of African-American folklore which gave rise to the urban "bad-man" persona of the post-slavery period. He ultimately described Shakur as a "prolific artist" who was "driven by a terrible sense of urgency" in a quest to "unify mind, body, and spirit".
In Holler If You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur, Michael Eric Dyson indicated that Shakur "spoke with brilliance and insight as someone who bears witness to the pain of those who would never have his platform. He told the truth, even as he struggled with the fragments of his identity." At one Harvard Conference the theme was Shakur's impact on entertainment, race relations, politics and the "hero/martyr". In late 1997, the University of California, Berkeley offered a student-led course entitled "History 98: Poetry and History of Tupac Shakur."
In late 2003, the Makaveli Branded Clothing line was launched by Afeni. In 2005, Death Row released Tupac: Live at the House of Blues. The DVD was the final recorded performance of Shakur's career, which took place on July 4, 1996, and features a large number of Death Row artists. In August 2006, Tupac Shakur Legacy was released. The interactive biography was written by Jamal Joseph. It features unseen family photographs, intimate stories, and over 20 removable reproductions of his handwritten song lyrics, contracts, scripts, poetry, and other personal papers. Shakur's sixth posthumous studio album, Pac's Life, was released on November 21, 2006. It commemorates the 10th anniversary of Shakur's death. He was still considered one of the most popular artists in the music industry as of 2006[update].
BET placed 2Pac at #1 on their 'The Most Influential Rappers of All Time' list. They then went on to say "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."
On April 15, 2012, a "hologram" of Shakur (technically a 2-D video projection) performed his songs "Hail Mary" and "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted" with Snoop Dogg at the Coachella Music Festival. The effect was created using an optical illusion called Pepper's ghost. The video footage was created by visual effects company Digital Domain. The Wall Street Journal reported Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg were in talks of a possible tour involving the two rappers and the projection version of Shakur, which was later turned down by Dr. Dre. Tupac's 1998 Greatest Hits album returned to the Billboard 200 the following week for the first time since 2000, reaching No. 129 with 4,000 copies sold according to Nielsen SoundScan (a gain of 571% over the previous week). The MC's other albums also saw gains, including All Eyez On Me (2,000; up 95%) and Me Against the World (1,000; up 53%). His singles also saw a boost in sales. His biggest seller of the week was "Hail Mary"—the song his projection opened with at Coachella. His second biggest seller was his No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 hit "California Love" (featuring Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman), shifting 11,000 downloads (119% increase). His third best-seller was the second Tupac song that was performed at Coachella – "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted" (with Snoop). It sold 9,000 (up 881%).
Holler If Ya Hear Me (2014), was a Broadway play based on the lyrics of Tupac. The production lasted 6 weeks before it folded due to being one of Broadway's worst-selling musicals in recent years. It was announced in January 2015 the following month would see an exhibit dedicated to Shakur opened at the Grammy Museum. Executive director Robert Santelli praised Shakur as "one of the most original and important of all hip hop artists", adding that his writings were "both powerful and provocative". During a panel for the exhibit, attended by his mother Afeni, cousins and various members of his extended family, rapper YG said that he was inspired by Shakur to return to school and that Shakur was like a "father figure" to some.
Demetrius Shipp Jr. played Shakur in the biopic All Eyez on Me, which started filming in Atlanta in December 2015. Music video director Benny Boom helmed All Eyez on Me, which had been hamstrung by production problems. With distribution from Morgan Creek Productions, the film had been in development since 2013, with producers Randall Emmett and George Furla having sued Morgan Creek for $10 million, claiming breach-of-contract after the production company allegedly picked a lead, and set a budget and a production schedule without their approval. Morgan Creek also sued Afeni Shakur for the music rights for the film. Multiple directors were involved with the film before Boom, including John Singleton and Antoine Fuqua. The film was released on June 16, 2017, which would have been Shakur's 46th birthday. It received negative reviews.
Awards and honors
In 2003, MTV's "22 Greatest MCs" countdown listed Shakur as the "Number 1 MC", as voted by the viewers. In 2004, at the VH1 Hip Hop Honors Shakur was honored along with DJ Hollywood, Kool DJ Herc, KRS-One, Public Enemy, Run-D.M.C., Rock Steady Crew, and Sugarhill Gang. A Vibe magazine poll in 2004 rated Shakur "the greatest rapper of all time" as voted by fans. Editors of About.com ranked him No. 5 on their list of the Top 50 MCs of Our Time (1987–2007). In 2012, The Source ranked him No. 5 on their list of the top 50 hip-hop lyricists of all time. In a 2005 Rolling Stone magazine vote, Shakur was named No. 86 of the "100 Immortal Artists of All Time" behind Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, and John Lennon. MTV ranked him at No. 2 on their list of The Greatest MCs of All Time. Shakur was inducted into the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame in 2002. VH1 ranked him 69th on the VH1 100 Greatest Artists of All-Time. At the First Annual Turks & Caicos International Film Festival held on Tuesday, October 17, 2006, Shakur was honored for his undeniable voice and talent and as a performer who crossed racial, ethnic, cultural and medium lines; his mother accepted the award on his behalf.
In 2008, The National Association Of Recording Merchandisers in conjunction with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recognized him as a very influential artist and has added him in their Definitive 200 list.
On June 23, 2010, Shakur was inducted to the Library of Congress's National Recording Registry. The seat of the Catholic Church released a list of 12 songs onto the social networking Web site's streaming music service. Among the artists included are Mozart, Muse, and Dame Shirley Bassey; the list also includes Shakur's song "Changes", which was released two years after his shooting death on a greatest hits album in 1998.
His double album, All Eyez on Me, is one of the highest-selling rap albums of all time, with over 5 million copies of the album sold in the United States alone by April 1996; it was eventually certified 9x platinum in June 1998 by the RIAA. In July 2014 it was recertified 10x platinum.
Shakur's hit song "Dear Mama" is one of 25 songs that were added to the National Recording Registry in 2010. The Library of Congress has called Dear Mama "a moving and eloquent homage to both the murdered rapper's own mother and all mothers struggling to maintain a family in the face of addiction, poverty, and societal indifference." The honor came seven days after what would have been Shakur's 39th birthday. Shakur is the third rapper to enter the library, outside of the copyright office, behind Grandmaster Flash and Public Enemy.
In 2016, Shakur was nominated for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, when on December 20, 2016, it was announced that he and 5 others would be inducted into the Hall on April 7, 2017. At the ceremony, Shakur was inducted by his friend and fellow hip hop artist Snoop Dogg, who shared several stories about their time together and of the time Shakur spent in the hospital before his death.
- 2Pacalypse Now (1991)
- Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z... (1993)
- Me Against the World (1995)
- All Eyez on Me (1996)
Posthumous studio albums
- The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory (1996) (as Makaveli)
- R U Still Down? (Remember Me) (1997)
- Until the End of Time (2001)
- Better Dayz (2002)
- Loyal to the Game (2004)
- Pac's Life (2006)
- Thug Life: Volume 1 with Thug Life (1994)
Posthumous collaboration albums
- Still I Rise with Outlawz (1999)
|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|
|2003||Tupac: Resurrection||Himself||Archive footage|
|2017||All Eyez on Me||Himself||Archive footage|
Biographical portrayals in film
|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||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.||Biographical film about Tupac Shakur|
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?
- List of best-selling music artists
- List of best-selling music artists in the United States
- List of murdered hip hop musicians
- List of number-one albums (United States)
- List of number-one hits (United States)
- List of awards and nominations received by Tupac Shakur
- List of artists who reached number one in the United States
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