Though he died in 1996, Tupac continues to loom large as an important figure in hip-hop. You need to look no further than the continuing onslaught of books, documentaries, tributes and posthumous album releases to see his impact. In fact, Tupac has released more music after his death than when he was alive. Theories still abound around his unsolved murder, and debates rage among hardcore fans as to whether or not Tupac is still alive. Why Tupac? Perhaps its the combination of personal magnetism, talent, and the tragedy of unfulfilled potential.
Through his outspoken nature and dedication to a "thug life," Tupac wasn't just a pop idol -- he represented a lifestyle. To many others, he is the tragic embodiment of black youth. As Minister Conrad Muhammad puts it, "To lose a young man like Tupac Shakur will brilliance and talent, at 25 years old, is indicative of what black males in this society are facing. We are not living long enough to realize our full potential. Malcolm X, in his young years, was a gangbanger, a drug dealer. Tupac would have evolved naturally, but black men are dying before they get their chance to grow."
"My man 'Pac, he didn't have a criminal record until he made a record. Once you get into the light, a lot of stuff comes on to you. One thing I can say, he was one of the realest niggas that lived. He said whatever was on his mind; he never bit his tongue for nuthin'."br> -- Treach (Naughty By Nature
"When I saw Juice, Tupac's performance jumped out at me like a tiger. Here was an actor who could portray the ultimate crazy nigga. A brother who could embody the freedom that an "I dont give a fuck" mentality gives a black man. I thought this was some serious acting. Maybe I was wrong. During the filming of Poetic Justice, 'Pac both rebelled and accepted my attitude towards him as a director/advisor. This was our dance in life and work. We'd argue, then make up. Tupac spoke from a position that cannot be totally appreciated unless you understood the pathos of being a nigga, a displaced African soul, full of power, pain, and passion, with no focus or direction for all that energy except his art."
"To me he's like the James Dean of our times. Basically, a rebel without a cause. And the industry and the media are partially responsible for whatever goes down: in accenting the negative aspects of a black celebrity. It's the soup-up, gas-up treatment. They soup him up, they're not there on the downside. People thing that this man's life was entertainment. One of our best talents is gone over some bullshit. I'm fuckin' pissed. I ain't putting up tears. Tears ain't gonna do a damn thing. Interscope will go on to sell 10 million copies of this album. Make a scholarship fund out of their share of the money. That's what I call making things happen." -- Chuck D
Tupac Shakur Bio
Tupac Shakur was born Lesane Parish Crooks in Brooklyn, New York City on June 16, 1971 to Afeni Shakur, a member of the Black Panthers.
Impoverished during most of his childhood, Tupac moved around to homeless shelters and various places around New York City. As a result, he retained few friends and relied on writing poetry and diary entries to keep himself busy.
In 1984 Tupac moved to Baltimore, Maryland. For his sophomore year of high school Tupac was accepted to the Baltimore School for the Arts. Even at this age, Shakur was outspoken on the subject of racial equality. He was an avid reader, delving into books about eastern religions, and even entire encyclopedia sets. Shielding his love of literature from his peers, he gained the respect of Baltimore kids by acting like a tough guy. Shakur composed his first rap in Baltimore under the name "MC New York". The song was about gun control and was inspired by the killing of one of his close friends.
Two years later, a drug-addicted Afeni was having significant trouble finding work. Tupac later claimed it was because of her Black Panther history, but it was probably more a result of her drug use. She uprooted the family again and brought Tupac and his half-sister Sekyiwa to live with a family friend in Marin City, California.
Shakur soon moved in with a neighbor and started selling drugs and hustling on the street, but he also became interesred in rap music. With Ray Luv and DJ Dize, he started a rap group called Strictly Dope. Their recordings were later released in 2001 under the name Tupac Shakur: The Lost Tapes. Their neighborhood performances brought Tupac enough acclaim to land an audition with Shock G of Digital Underground.
In 1990, Shakur joined as a roadie and dancer for Digital Underground. His early lyrics were unremarkable, and he was viewed ambivalently for his tendency to act like a diva and for his occasionally violent personality.
He starred in Juice in 1991, to much critical acclaim. He was hailed by Rolling Stone's Peter Travers as "The film's most magnetic figure." Shakur went on to star in Poetic Justice, Above the Rim, Gridlock'd, Bullet, and Gang Related.
Interscope records agreed to distribute his first album, 2Pacalypse Now, in 1991. 2Pacalypse Now quickly attracted public criticism, especially after a young man who killed a Texas Trooper claimed he was inspired by the album. Former Vice President Dan Quayle, as part of his zealous push for morals, publicly denounced the album as having "no place in our society.” His second CD, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z..., was heavily produced by Shock G, and spurred two number one hits: the emotional Keep Ya Head Up and the playful I Get Around. Shock G would go on to produce the Shakur hits So Many Tears and Temptations.
Along with Shakur's rise to fame came a series of altercations with the law that further complicated his public image. In Oakland in October of 1991, Tupac was stopped by two officers for allegedly jaywalking. When he told the police "fuck y'all," he was choked, beaten, and had his head smashed on the pavement. He subsequently raised a ten million dollar lawsuit against the Oakland police department, which was eventually settled for $42,000.
In October 1993, Shakur came upon two off-duty police officers harassing a black motorist on the side of the road in Atlanta. Shakur got into a fight with them and shot both officers (one in the leg, one in the buttocks). He faced serious charges until it was discovered that both officers were intoxicated during the incident and were using weapons stolen out of an evidence locker. The charges against Shakur were dismissed.
In 1994, he formed the group Thug Life with a few of his friends, and released Thug Life: Volume 1 on Interscope in 1994 with moderate success. The group's lyrical strength undoubtedly lay primarily with Tupac, as the group has had little success after his death.
In December, Tupac Shakur was charged with sexually abusing a woman in his hotel room. On February 7, 1995, Shakur was sentenced to four and a half years in prison for "forcibly touching the buttocks", though he vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
Shortly before his verdict was announced, Shakur was shot five times outside a music studio in New York in an apparent robbery attempt. After the robbery, Tupac publicly accused Biggie Smalls, Puff Daddy, and Andre Harrell of having a hand in his attempted murder. In addition to his enemies at Bad Boy Records, Shakur suspected his former friend Stretch (real name Randy Walker) of being involved in the robbery. On November 30, 1995, exactly one year after the shooting of Shakur in New York, Walker was gunned down and killed in Queens, New York.
Shakur began serving his prison sentence later that February. Soon after, his multi-platinum album, Me Against the World, was released. Shakur has the distinction of being the only artist with an album at number one on the charts while serving a prison sentence. From jail, he married his long-time girlfriend, Keisha Morris. He also had time to pursue reading, delving into the works of Niccolò Machiavelli, and even wrote a screenplay titled Live 2 Tell while incarcerated.
While Shakur was in jail, he was incensed by Biggie and Puffy's derogatory remarks about him in Vibe Magazine. After all his legal troubles, Tupac claimed he "wanted to get out the [rap] game", but Biggie's remarks spurred him to come back. As part of the ongoing feud between Shakur and his former friend Biggie, Pac bragged about having slept with Biggie's estranged wife, Faith Evans, in "Hit 'Em Up." After Biggie's death six months after Shakur's, Faith and Puffy released a hit single in memory of Biggie called "I'll Be Missing You."
In October, after almost eight months in prison, Shakur was released on parole largely due to the help of Suge Knight, the head of Death Row Records. Suge posted a $1.4 million bail for Shakur, and in exchange Shakur was obliged to release three albums under Death Row. The singer was unrepentant and grew even more embittered against the authorities, which showed in his music.
Immediately after his release from prison, Shakur began work on his next album. In 1996, he released his fourth solo album, All Eyez on Me. It was the first double-disc of original material in hip-hop history. It went on to sell more than nine million copies and is considered by many to be among the best albums in the genre.
He continued his prolific recordings, despite the impending troubles at Death Row as Dr. Dre left his post as house producer and Suge Knight became more involved in illegal activites.
Shakur's last album created while alive was The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory. Released two months after his death, this album was portentous and dark, and it predicted his own death in many songs. The entire album is said to have been created in only seven days, and one of the more popular songs off this album, "Hail Mary", was reportedly made in only thirty minutes. The album has sold over five million copies.
Shakur was fatally shot in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada on September 7, 1996 after attending the boxing match between Mike Tyson and Bruce Seldon. He died in the University of Nevada Hospital six days later from the four gunshot wounds. The previous robbery led Shakur to seek protection, and he employed bodyguards after getting out of jail in October 1995. He was known to always wear a bulletproof vest in public. Why he did not on the fateful night remains a mystery.
There are theories that Biggie Smalls hired the Crips to kill Tupac, while others believe that he was set up by Suge night. The case remains unsolved to this day.
Shakur indicated that he had lofty future plans, including getting out of the rap scene by releasing high-quality, deep albums only once every five years or so. Pac also desired to give back more to the community. He ran an earlier project called "The Underground Railroad" that aimed to keep youths off drugs by getting them involved in music. Though he did not live to realize these dreams, his mother Afeni is currently attempting to carry on his work by raising money for a Center for the Arts.
More about Tupac on Wikipedia
"If you want to mourn, do it for your own personal loss. Dont mourn for 'Pac, remember him for his art and dont be sad for his death. 'Pac lived a short, fast, concentrated, an intense life. He lived a 70 year life in 25 years. He went out the way he wanted: in the glitter of the fast life, hit record on the charts, new movie in the can, and money in the pocket. All 'Pac wanted was to hear himself on the radio and see himself on the movie screen. He did all that --- and more."
"Sometimes the lure of violent culture is so magnetic that even when one overcomes it with material success, it continues to call. Tupac just couldnt break the cycle."
"Tupac Shakur grew up in Oakland, too. Whatever you think of him, you don't feel he was contained by rules. With rock, you feel there are codes of conduct and codes of cool but with Tupac he just came right out with it. I admire that. Music needs that. And that's what I wanted for Green Day." -- Billy Joe Armstrong, Green Day frontman. April 2005
Written By Tupac:
Tupac on the Bay Area:
I know how the Bay is. The Bay is the type of place where if you ain't there they're gonna talk about you. I wanted them to know that I love you, I feel you and I'm gonna represent for you. I know I gotta a certain amount of acclaim so I bring the Bay with me... I know E-40 is what I was when I was with Digital Underground. He is the Bay right now ..him and 4Tay. So I get them on my album to represent the Bay. It shows we still have love and we're still all good. By us being representatives we bring the Bay where ever we go.. " -- Tupac. April 19, 1996. KMEL Radio
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