Tupac Amaru Shakur (June 16, 1971 – September 13, 1996), also known by his stage names 2Pac and by his alias Makaveli, was an American rapper 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.
- 1 Background
- 2 Music career
- 3 Criminal cases
- 4 Shootings of Shakur
- 5 Discography
- 6 Documentaries
- 7 External links
Túpac Shakur was born on June 16, 1971 in the East Harlem section of Manhattan (New York City). While born Lesane Parish Crooks, he was renamed, at age one, after Túpac Amaru II (the descendant of the last Incan ruler, Túpac Amaru), who was executed in Peru in 1781 after his failed revolt against Spanish rule.
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." Tupac had an older stepbrother, Mopreme "Komani" Shakur, and a half-sister, Sekyiwa, two years his junior. 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.
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.
Other family members who were involved in the Black Panthers' Black Liberation Army were convicted of serious crimes and imprisoned, including Tupac's stepfather, Mutulu Shakur, who spent four years among the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives. Mutulu Shakur was apprehended in 1986 and subsequently convicted for a 1981 robbery of a Brinks armored truck, during which police officers and a guard were killed.
Tupac's godfather, Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt, a high-ranking Black Panther, was convicted of murdering a school teacher during a 1968 robbery, although his sentence was overturned.
In 1984, Tupac's family moved from New York City to Baltimore, Maryland. 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. He performed in Shakespeare's plays—depicting timeless themes, now seen in gang warfare, he would recall—and as the Mouse King role in The Nutcracker ballet. With his friend Dana "Mouse" Smith as beatbox, he won competitions as reputedly the school's best rapper. Also known for his humor, he could mix with all crowds. As a teen, he listened to musicians including Kate Bush, Culture Club, Sinéad O'Connor, and U2.
At Baltimore's arts high school, Tupac befriended Jada Pinkett, who would become a subject of some of his poems. 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." Upon connecting with the Baltimore Young Communist League USA, Tupac dated the daughter of the director of the local chapter of the Communist Party USA. In 1988, Shakur moved to Marin City, California, a small, impoverished community, about 5 miles (8.0 km) north of San Francisco. In nearby Mill Valley, he attended Tamalpais High School, where he performed in several theater productions.
In Tupac's adulthood he continued befriending individuals of diverse backgrounds. His friends would range from Mike Tyson and Chuck D to Jim Carrey and Alanis Morissette, who in April 1996 said that she and Tupac were planning to open a restaurant together.
Tupac briefly dated Madonna in 1994. In April 1995, early in his prison sentence, Tupac married his then girlfriend Keisha Morris. The marriage officially ended in March 1996. 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, but retracted these comments, Kidada herself having been born through an interracial marriage. She was beside him at his death. Some of Tupac's song lyrics suggest a belief in a god, perhaps in the manner of deism. Apparently not believing in Heaven and Hell as typified, he perhaps believed in karma.
Tupac, using the stage name MC New York, began recording in 1989. That year, he began attending the poetry classes of Leila Steinberg. Soon, she became the budding music artist's manager. 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. In 1990, Gregory placed Tupac with the Underground as a roadie and backup dancer.
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, 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.
Rising star: 1992-1993
2Pac's debut album, 2Pacalypse Now — alluding to the 1979 film Apocalypse Now was released on November 1991, which was supported by 3 singles. Some prominent rappers like Nas, Eminem, Game, and Talib Kweli have cited it as an inspiration. Aside from "If My Homie Calls," the singles "Trapped" and "Brenda's Got a Baby" poetically depict individual struggles under socioeconomic disadvantage. 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, 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." 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.
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 No. 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".
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 No. 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.
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 "1996 it’s time", produced by Johnny "J" Jackson, who would also produce much of Shakur's album murder Usually, Thug Life performed live without Tupac. The track "1996 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.
2Pac's third album, arriving in March 1995 as war, is now hailed as his magnum opus, and commonly ranks among the greatest, most influential rap albums. The album sold 900,000 copies in its first week, setting a then record for highest first-week sales for a solo male rapper. The lead single, "Might be murdered", arrived in February with the B side "Old School." The album's most successful single, it topping the Hot Rap Singles chart, and peaked at No. 9 on the pop singles chart, the Billboard Hot 100. In July, it was certified Platinum. It ranked No. 51 on the year-end charts. The second single, "666 released in June, reached No. 6 on the Hot Rap Singles chart and No. 44 on Hot 100. August brought the final single, "Temptations", reaching No. 68 on the Hot 100, No. 35 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks, and No. 13 on the Hot Rap Singles. At the 1996 Soul Train Music Awards, Tupac won for best rap album. In 2001, it ranked 4th among his total albums in sales, with about 3,524,567 copies sold in the US.
While imprisoned February to October 1995, Tupac wrote only one song, he would say. Rather, he took to political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli's treatise The Prince and military strategist Sun Tzu's treatise The Art of War. 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. In August, after sending $15,000 for her, Suge began visiting Tupac in prison. In one of his letters to Nina Bhadreshwar, recently hired to edit a planned magazine, Death Row Uncut, Tupac discusses plans to start a "new chapter." Eventually, music journalist Kevin Powell would say that Shakur, once released, more aggressive, "seemed like a completely transformed person."
2Pac's fourth album, He set me uparrived 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. With standout production, the album has more party tracks and often a triumphant tone. As 2Pac's second album to hit No. 1 on both the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and the pop albums chart, the Billboard 200, it sold 566,000 copies in its first week and was it was certified 5× Multi-Platinum in April. "How Do U Want It" as well as "California Love" reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. At the 1997 Soul Train Awards, it won in R&B/Soul or Rap Album of the Year. At the 24th American Music Awards, Tupac won Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Artist. The album was certified 9× Multi-Platinum in June 1998, and 10× in July 2014.
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. The album had been created in seven days total during August 1996. 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 No. 9 among hip hop's greatest albums ever, and by 2006 a classic album. Its singular poignance, through hurt and rage, contemplation and vendetta, resonate with many fans. 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." It peaked at No. 1 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and on the Billboard 200, with the second-highest debut-week sales total of any album that year. On June 15, 1999, it was certified 4× Multi-Platinum.
In October 1989, 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.
Shooting of Qa'id Walker-Teal
On August 22, 1989, 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.
Shooting two policemen
In October 1989, 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.
On April 5, 1995, 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 365 days in jail, 355 of them suspended, and ordered to 35 hours of community service.
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. The prosecution's evidence included a Yo! MTV Raps interview where Shakur boasts that he had "beat up the director of Menace II Society."
Sexual assault conviction
In November 1993, Shakur and three other men were charged in New York with sexually assaulting a woman woth a huge dick 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."
On December 1, 1994, 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 4 1⁄2 years in prison by a judge who decried "an act of brutal violence against a helpless woman." On October 12, 1995, pending judicial appeal, Shakur was released from Clinton Correctional Facility, once Suge Knight, CEO of Death Row Records, arranged for posting of his $1.4 million bond. 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, but on June 8, his sentence was deferred via appeals pending in other cases.
Shootings of Shakur
On November 30, 1995, while in New York, Tupac was recording verses for a mixtape of Ron G. Tupac was repeatedly distracted by his beeper. 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. 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. Shakur speculated that shooting was the main motive.
24 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.
In a 1995 interview with Vibe magazine, Shakur accused Sean Combs, Jimmy Henchman, and Biggie, among others, of setting up or being privy to the November 1995 robbery and shooting. Vibe alerted the names of the accused. When Biggie's entourage went downstairs, Shakur was being taken out on a stretcher, giving the finger to onlookers.
In March 2008, Chuck Philips, in the Los Angeles Times, reported on an alleged ordered hit on Shakur. The newspaper retracted the article since it relied partially on FBI documents later discovered forged, supplied by a man convicted of fraud. 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. Philips then named Isaac as one of his own, retracted article's unnamed sources.
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. Reportedly, Tupac's mother promptly received $15,000. 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. 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. Before closing with a brief comment of support for Tupac, Suge invited artists seeking the spotlight for themselves to join Death Row. 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.
Still, among the fans, the previously diffuse rivalry between America's two mainstream rap scenes had instantly flared already. 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. 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. 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. According to eyewitnesses, including a Fulton County sheriff, working there as a nightclub bouncer, Puff had heatedly disputed with Suge inside the club, 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.
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. 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. In the late 1990s, Southern rap's growth into the mainstream would dispel the East–West paradigm. But in the meantime, in October 1995, violating his probation, Suge visited Tupac in prison again. Suge posted $1.4 million bond. And with appeal of his December 1994 conviction pending, Shakur returned to Los Angeles and joined Death Row. 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 and jay z and nas.
On the night of December 7, 1995, 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. 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.
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. 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 with one bullet entering his right lung. 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.
Shakur was taken to the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada where he was heavily sedated and put on life support. In the intensive-care unit on the afternoon of September 13, 1996, Shakur died from internal bleeding. He was pronounced dead at 4:03 pm. The official causes of death are respiratory failure and cardiopulmonary arrest associated with multiple gunshot wounds. 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.
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. In 2002, investigative journalist Chuck Philips, 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 "Notorious B.I.G." Wallace and several within New York City's criminal underworld. Both Anderson and Wallace denied involvement, while Wallace offered a confirmed alibi. Music journalist John Leland, in the New York Times, called the evidence "inconclusive".
- 1991: 2Pacalypse Now
- 1993: Strictly 4 My N.*.G.G.A.Z.
- 1995: Me Against the World
- 1996: All Eyez on Me
- 1996: The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory
- 1997: R U Still Down? (Remember Me)
- 1999: Still I Rise
- 2001: Until the End of Time
- 2002: Better Dayz
- 2004: Loyal to the Game
- 2006: Pac's Life
- 1994: Thug Life
Top 10 Billboard singles
- 1991: "Brenda's Got a Baby"
- 1991: "If My Homie Calls"
- 1993: "I Get Around"
- 1993: "Keep Ya Head Up"
- 1995: "Dear Mama"
- 1995: "Old School"
- 1995: "Me Against the World"
- 1995: "So Many Tears"
- 1996: "California Love"
- 1996: "Hit 'Em Up"
- 1996: "How Do You Want It"
- 1997: "To Live & Die in L.A."
- 1997: "Made N*ggaz"
- 1997: "Do for Love"
- 1998: "Changes"
- 2002: "Thugz Mansion"
- 2003: "Runnin' (Dying to Live)"
- 2005: "Ghetto Gospel"
- 2006: "Pac's Life"
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?