Tupac Amaru Shakur, also known as 2Pac, Makaveli, or Pac was an iconic American Rapper, Actor, and Social Activist. Shakur’s image as a Thug, and his Thug-Life persona, appealed to fans across the nation and around the world. He is one of the best selling music artists worldwide, and considered as one of the best and the most influential Rap Artist ever. Tupac’s life was unfortunately cut short, after he was shot to death in 1996, at the age of 25, but his legacy lives on to this day.
2Pac was born on June 16, 1971 in East Harlem section of Manhattan, in New York City. His mother is Afeni Shakur, who was an active member of the Blank Panther Party in the late sixties and seventies, and his biological father is Billy Garland, who also was a Black Panther member. Tupac was born a month after his mom was acquitted on more than 150 charges, which were charges against the U.S. government by the Panthers. His mother put his birth name as Lesane Parish Crooks, to disguise his true identity, because she feared that her enemies would attack her son. However, in 1972 after Afeni had separated from Garland, and had married Mutulu Shakur (2Pac’s Step-Father), she renamed 2Pac, Tupac Amaru Shakur, after an Incan ruler who was sentenced to death by the Spaniards, the name Tupac Amaru means, Shining Serpent, in the Inca language. Shakur had a half-sister, Sekyiwa, who was two years younger than him, and an older stepbrother, Mopreme Shakur, who appeared on many of his recordings.
2Pac was surrounded by struggle, incarceration, murder, and more illegal activities from an early age. His mother had ties to drugs, his stepfather was wanted by the FBI, his godfather was convicted of murder and more. When he was twelve years old his mother enrolled him in Harlem’s 127th Street Repertory Ensemble, where he started learning and practicing acting. In 1986, the family moved to Baltimore, Maryland. At Baltimore he completed two years at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, and then transferred to the Baltimore School for the Arts, where he studied acting, jazz, poetry and ballet. Pac used to have rap competitions with school mates and friends, and would always win. And even though he did not have flashy, trendy clothes, he was very popular because of his personality, good sense of humor, rapping skills, and his ability to mix in with a variety of crowds. During those years, Pac also developed a close relationship with Jada Pinkett Smith, and there relationship lasted until his death. In June 1988, the Shakur family moved yet again, this time to Marin City, California. Here 2Pac attended Tamalpais High School. In 1989 Shakur started to take poetry classes of Leila Steinberg. Steinberg organized a concert for Tupac, and a former group of his called Strictly Dope. This concert led to Tupac being signed, and becoming set up with the rap group Digital Underground. In 1990 Pac was hired as the group’s roadie, and back up dancer.
From then on, Pac’s rapping career began. His skills were first debuted in 1991, as Pac had vocal turns in popular songs by Digital Underground. He began to rap with the group, and he was in their music videos. Then Pac decided to go solo. Later in 1991, he released his first solo album, 2Pacalypse Now. His debut album did not sell too well at first, because of marketing troubles, until Interscope Records started to sell his record. In 1993, Pac released his second record, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. This record did better than the first, with hit songs like “Keep Ya Head Up” and “I Get Around” which featured members of Digital Underground. Later that year 2Pac formed the group Thug Life, with his friends, and he considered the concept of Thug Life as a philosophy of life.
As his fame as a rapper started, Tupac’s troubles with the authority also began and increased. In late 1991, Pac had tried to a file a ten million dollar civil suit against Oakland Police Department, claiming that he was brutally beaten for jaywalking. More problems followed. In 1992, a Texas trooper was killed by a teenager, who was listening to 2Pacalypse Now. This raised a lot of media controversy. The Vice President of the nation at the time, Dan Quayle, demanded that the album be withdrawn from music stores and the media across the nation, and denounced the album, saying it has no place in our society. However Interscope refused, and Shakur stated that his album aimed at the problems facing young black males, even though it was criticized for its images of violence towards law enforcement, and graphic language. In 1992, Tupac had an incident with people in Marin City, in which shooting was involved, this eventually led to a wrongful death suit against him in 1995, stating that his shooting killed a six year old in Marin City. Tests proved that neither Pac nor his entourage was the shooter. Criminal charges were not sought, and Tupac settled with the family of the boy with an amount between three hundred to five hundred thousand dollars. In late 1993, Pac and his friends had an altercation with two Atlanta off-duty police officers, again shooting was involved. One of the police was charged with firing at Shakur’s car, and later lying to the police during investigation, but all charges were dropped against all parties. In 1994, he was convicted of attacking a former employer while on a music video set, and was sentenced to fifteen days in jail for that. A big case against Shakur was in November 1993, when Pac and a couple of his friends were charged with sexually abusing a woman in a hotel room. The woman accused many charges against Pac and his friends, but Pac denied the charges. He claimed that he had prior relations with the woman in his hotel room, and that she revisited his hotel room, when the acts she claimed took place. He also claimed that he had fallen asleep shortly after she arrived, and he woke up to her accusations and threats. Most charges were dropped, but Pac was convicted of sexual abuse and was sentenced to one and a half years in a correctional facility. He later wrote in his songs, how he is not and can never be a rapist.
As if the legal problems were not enough, 2Pac was robbed and shot on the night of November 30, 1994, the night before the verdict in his sexual abuse trial was to be announced. Tupac was shot five times and robbed after entering the lobby of Quad Recording Studios in Manhattan. He was shot by two armed men in army material. Doctors at the Bellevue Hospital, where he was taken immediately after the incident, stated that he had received five bullet wounds, two in the head, two in the groin and one through the arm and thigh. Tupac checked out of the hospital three hours after the surgery, against doctor’s orders. And he entered the courthouse in a wheelchair the day after, where he was found guilty for sexual abuse, and sentenced to a year and a half to four years in prison on February 6, 1995. Tupac would later accuse Sean Combs, Biggie Smalls, Andre Harrell for the shooting, he also suspected his close friend/associate, Randy “Stretch” Walker. This accusation heated the West-Coast East-Coast Rivalry.
The Prison Sentence was a major experience in Pac’s Life. He began serving his sentence at the Clinton Correctional Facility on February 14, 1995. Shortly afterwards, Pac released his album, Me Against the World, which became multi-platinum. He is the only artist to have an album at number one on the Billboard 200, while serving a prison sentence. The album broke records, like the highest first week sales for a solo male rap artist at the time. Shakur married his long-time girlfriend while in prison, Keisha Morris, on April 4, 1995, but they later divorced in 1996. Also during his sentence, Pac wrote a screenplay, read many books by Niccolo Machiavelli, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, and other political philosophy and strategy works. After serving eleven months of his sentence, in October 1995, Pac was released mainly due to the influence of Suge Knight, the CEO of Death Row Records. Suge Knight posted a 1.4 million dollar bail in exchange for 2Pac to release three albums under the Death Row Label.
Being a member of Death Row Records was a major part of 2Pac Rapping Career. When Pac was released he formed the group called Outlaw Immortalz, with his close people. And he went to song recording immediately. He released the double album All Eyez on Me, which were the first two albums part of his three-album commitment. The album sold over nine million copies. Pac continued his recordings with Death Row, even with the increasing problems with the label, when Dr. Dre left as producer to start his own label, Aftermath. Pac produced hundreds of track, during his time with Death Row, and most of the songs were released after his death. 2Pac also released songs like “Hit ‘Em Up” with the Outlawz, lyrically assaulting Biggie and others associated with him and Bad Boy Productions. This was during the East Coast West Coast Conflict. 2Pac was also close with Rapper Snoop Dogg. On July 4, 1996 Pac performed at the House of Blues with the Outlawz, Snoop Dogg, and Tha Dogg Pound, which was his last live performance. 2Pac also released his fifth and final studio album under the name Makaveli (from his influence of Niccolo Machiavelli), the album was The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, the album was completed (the lyrics, production and more) within seven days, hence the name. Pac also had plans of starting Makaveli Records, which would have included Outlawz, Wu-Tang Clan, Big Daddy Kane, Big Syke, and Gang Starr.
The Great Rappers life was unfortunately limited. On the night of September 7, 1996, Shakur attended the Mike Tyson and Bruce Seldon boxing match at the MGM Grand, in Las Vegas. At the time Pac was engaged to Kidada Jones. After the fight Pac and his entourage along with Suge and his assistants assaulted Orlando “Baby Lane” Anderson, a member of the Southside Crips, because earlier that year Anderson and fellow Crips had robbed a member of the Death Row entourage. After the brawl Shakur got in Suge’s black 1996 BMW and they were on their way to the Death Row owned Club 662, and on the way, while at a red light, a white, four-door Cadillac rolled to their right side, opened a window and fired gunshots. Shakur was fatally wounded, and Suge was injured. They were rushed to the University Medical Center. Shakur went through many surgeries, life-support and more, unfortunately on the afternoon of September 13, 1996, Shakur died of internal bleeding, and his mother made the decision to tell the doctors to stop the attempts to revive him. He was pronounced dead at 4:03 p.m. and the official cause was respiratory failure and cardiac arrest along with multiple gunshot wounds. Shakur’s body was cremated and some of his ashes were later mixed with marijuana and smoked by members of the Outlawz. The murder case is a cold case. Due to lack of progress on the case by law enforcement, many independent investigations and theories have emerged about the murder. However, the main suspects are not found, and the case has not been solved.
Tupac Shakur was not only a rapper. He was an actor; he played in several movies before his death, and was going to release more, if he had not died. And he also was a social activist. Through his music and image, he cried out to higher authorities to look out for the people in the slums and the ghettos. In his songs he explains the troubles of the people in the urban areas, he reflects on how they need help, and also gets mad at how the government does not care. He is a very big influence to people worldwide for who he represented, as in a young black male, who came out of the slums, became famous, and wanted to make a change. He was also a strong poet; his works are very inspirational and influential. In many interviews, 2Pac has claimed that he will soon try to start a political party, for the people who are not represented by the government, including African-Americans, Mexicans, Armenians and more. He was a very complex artist. He had the Thug-Life persona, of not a gangster, but a thug, a black male from the streets, who held his own, yet he had a soft side, and expressed it in his music. For example he addresses to Black women in the ghettos to be strong, he motivates them like in “Keep Ya Head Up”, and he also expresses his soft side through songs such as “Dear Mama” and more. He read works of Machiavelli, Maya Angelou and more. And he has said, “I’m not saying I’m gonna change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world.”
Pac’s legacy lives on to this day, and he is known world-wide. Rappers today always make references to him. About.com named him the most influential rapper. The Guinness Book of World Records recognized him as the highest selling rapper, he was inducted in the Hip Hop Hall of Fame in 2002, he has made it has Number 1 MC on MTV in 2003, fans have voted him as the greatest rapper of all time in the Vibe magazine poll in 2004. And he is also in the Definitive 200 list of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He is known as the King of Rap by many. His mother has founded the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation, and the foundation has opened the Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts. He’s been in several movies, many documentaries and movies have been released about him after his death such as Tupac: Resurrection, many books have been written about his life, and five and counting albums have been made with his music, and recorded works, after his death. The Legacy of Tupac Amaru Shakur lives on today, through his fans worldwide