Lesane Parish Crooks
June 16, 1971
New York City, U.S.
|Died||September 13, 1996 (aged 25)|
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
|Cause of death||Drive-by homicide (gunshot wounds)|
|Resting place||Cremated, ashes given to family|
|Education||Tamalpais High School|
(m. 1995; div. 1996)
|Relatives||Mutulu Shakur (step-father)|
Assata Shakur (step-aunt)
Mopreme Shakur (step-brother)
|Origin||Marin County, California, U.S.|
Tupac Amaru Shakur (/ / TOO-pahk shə-KOOR; born Lesane Parish Crooks, June 16, 1971 – September 13, 1996), better known by his stage name 2Pac and, later, by his alias Makaveli, was an American rapper and actor. He is widely considered one of the most influential rappers of all time. Much of Shakur's music has been noted for addressing contemporary social issues that plagued inner cities, and he is considered a symbol of activism against inequality.
Shakur was born in Manhattan, New York City, but relocated to Baltimore, Maryland in 1984 and then the San Francisco Bay Area in 1988. He moved to Los Angeles in 1993 to further pursue his music career. By the time he released his debut album 2Pacalypse Now in 1991, he had become a central figure in West Coast hip hop, introducing social issues to 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).
In 1995, Shakur served eight months in prison on sexual assault charges, but was released after agreeing to sign with Marion "Suge" Knight's label Death Row Records in exchange for Knight posting his bail. Following his release, Shakur became heavily involved in the growing East Coast–West Coast hip hop rivalry. His double-disc album All Eyez on Me (1996), abandoning introspective lyrics for volatile gangsta rap, was certified Diamond by the RIAA. On September 7, 1996, Shakur was shot four times by an unknown assailant in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada; he died six days later and the gunman was never captured. Shakur's friend-turned-rival, the Notorious B.I.G., was at first considered a suspect due to the pair's public feud, but was also murdered in another drive-by shooting six months later in March 1997 while visiting Los Angeles, California. Five more albums have been released since Shakur's death, all of which have been certified Platinum in the United States.
Shakur is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, having sold over 75 million records worldwide. In 2002, he was inducted into the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame. In 2017, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Rolling Stone named Shakur in its list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. Outside music, Shakur also found considerable success as an actor, with his starring roles as Bishop in Juice (1992), Lucky in Poetic Justice (1993) where he starred alongside Janet Jackson, Ezekiel in Gridlock'd (1997), and Jake in Gang Related (1997), all of which garnered praise from critics.
Shakur was born on June 16, 1971, in the East Harlem section of Manhattan in 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."
Shakur 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.
Other family members who were involved in the Black Panthers' Black Liberation Army were convicted of serious crimes and imprisoned, including Shakur'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.
Shakur's godfather, Elmer "Geronimo" Pratt, a high-ranking Black Panther, was convicted of murdering a school teacher during a 1968 robbery. His sentence was overturned when it was revealed that the prosecution had hidden evidence that he was in a meeting 400 mi (640 km) away at the time of the murders.
In 1984, Shakur'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, Shakur 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, Shakur 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.
Shakur began recording using the stage name MC New York in 1989. That year, he began attending the poetry classes of Leila Steinberg, and she soon became his manager. Steinberg organized a concert for Shakur and his rap group Strictly Dope. Steinberg managed to get Shakur signed by Atron Gregory, manager of the rap group Digital Underground. In 1990, Gregory placed him with the Underground as a roadie and backup dancer.
In 1988, Randy "Stretch" Walker, along with his brother, dubbed Majesty, and a friend debuted with an EP as rap group and production team, Live Squad, in the Queens borough of New York City. Shakur's early days with Digital Underground made his acquaintance with Stretch, who featured on a track of the Digital Underground's 1991 album Sons of the P. Becoming fast friends, Shakur and Stretch recorded and performed together often.
In January 1991 Shakur debuted Under the stage name 2Pac on Digital Underground, under a new record label, Interscope Records, on the group's January 1991 single "Same Song", the song was featured on the soundtrack of the 1991 film Nothing but Trouble, starring Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Chevy Chase, and Demi Moore. The song leaded the group's January 1991 EP titled This Is an EP Release, while Shakur appeared in the music video.
Stretch as well as Live Squad contributed tracks on Shakur's first two albums, 2Pacalypse Now (November 1991), Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z... (February 1993), and on Shakur's side group Thug Life's only album of September 1994.
The end of Shakur's and Stretch's friendship in late 1994 surprised the New York rap scene. The next Shakur album, released in March 1995, lacks Stretch, and Shakur's album after that, released in February 1996, has lines suggesting Stretch's impending death for betrayal. No objective evidence would publicly emerge to tangibly incriminate Stretch in the gun attack on Shakur, while with Stretch and two others, at about 12:30 am on November 30, 1994. In any case, after a Live Squad production session for the second album of Queens rapper Nas, Stretch's vehicle was chased while receiving fatal gunfire at about 12:30 am on November 30, 1995.
Shakur's debut album, 2Pacalypse Now—alluding to the 1979 film Apocalypse Now—arriving in November 1991, would bear three singles. Some prominent rappers—like Nas, Eminem, Game, and Talib Kweli—cite it as an inspiration. Aside from "If My Homie Calls", the singles "Trapped" and "Brenda's Got a Baby" poetically depict individual struggles under socioeconomic disadvantage.
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. The album addresses urban Black concerns said to remain relevant to the present day.
Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z...
Shakur'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. An overall more hardcore album, it emphasizes Tupac's sociopolitical views, and has a metallic production quality. It features Ice Cube, the famed primary creator of N.W.A's "Fuck tha Police", 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 Digital Underground's Shock G and Money-B, which would render Shakur'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", an anthem for women empowerment. This album would be certified Platinum, with a million copies sold. As of 2004, among Shakur albums, including of posthumous and compilation albums, the Strictly album would be 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, which is certified Gold. It carries the single "Pour Out a Little Liquor", produced by Johnny "J" Jackson, who would also produce much of Shakur's album All Eyez on Me. Usually, Thug Life performed live without Tupac. The track also appears 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 single, "Out on Bail", which was never released, at the 1994 Source Awards.
Me Against the World
Shakur's third album, arriving in March 1995 as Me Against the World, is now hailed as his magnum opus, and commonly ranks among the greatest, most influential rap albums. The album sold 240,000 copies in its first week, setting a then record for highest first-week sales for a solo male rapper. The lead single, "Dear Mama", 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, "So Many Tears", 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, Shakur won for best rap album. In 2001, it ranked 4th among his total albums in sales, with about 3 million copies sold in the US.
Death Row signs Shakur
Ruthless Records was formed during 1986 in Compton, California, had prioritized rap, and its group N.W.A had led Gangsta rap to Platinum sales, but N.W.A's lyrics, outrageously violent and misogynist, precluded mainstream breakthrough. On the other hand, also specializing in rap, Profile Records, in New York City, had a mainstream, pop breakthrough, Run-DMC's "Walk This Way", in 1986. In April 1991, N.W.A disbanded via Dr. Dre's departure to, with Suge Knight, launch Death Row Records, in Los Angeles. With its very first two albums, Death Row became the first record label both to prioritize rap and to regularly release mainstream, pop hits with it.
Released by Death Row in late 1992, Dre's The Chronic—its "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang" ubiquitous on pop radio and "Let Me Ride" winning a Grammy—was trailed in late 1993 by Snoop's Doggystyle. Gangsta rap, no less, these albums and more propelled the West Coast, for the first time, ahead of New York to rap's center stage. But meanwhile, in 1993, Andre Harrell of Uptown Records, in New York, fired his star A&R man, Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs, later "P. Diddy". Puffy, while leaving behind his standout projects Jodeci and Mary J. Blige—two R&B acts—took to his own, new record label, Bad Boy Records, the promising gangsta rapper Biggie Smalls, soon also known as the Notorious B.I.G. His debut album, released in late 1994 as Ready to Die, promptly returned rap's spotlight to New York.
In 1995 Tupac was imprisoned, impoverished, and his mother was about to lose her house, Shakur had his wife Keisha Morris get word to Marion "Suge" Knight, in Los Angeles, boss of Death Row Records. Reportedly, Shakur'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 Shakur, 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 aimed a gun at Big Jake who was fatally shot while entering Suge's car.
The attorneys of Puff and his bodyguard both denied any involvement by their clients, while Puff's lawyer 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 Shakur 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 Shakur B-side "Hit 'Em Up". In this venomous 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.
While imprisoned February to October 1995, Shakur 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 Shakur's behalf, his wife Keisha Morris communicated to Suge Knight of Death Row Records that Shakur, in dire straits financially, needed help, his mother about to lose her house. In August, after sending $15,000 for her, Suge began visiting Shakur in prison. In one of his letters to Nina Bhadreshwar, recently hired to edit a planned magazine, Death Row Uncut, Shakur discusses plans to start a "new chapter". Eventually, music journalist Kevin Powell would say that Shakur, once released, became more aggressive, and "seemed like a completely transformed person".
All Eyez on Me
Shakur's fourth album, All Eyez on Me, arrived on February 13, 1996. Of two discs, it basically was rap's first double album—meeting two of the three albums due in Shakur's contract with Death Row—and bore five singles while perhaps marking the peak of 1990s rap. The album shows Shakur rapping about the gangsta lifestyle, leaving behind his previous political messages. With standout production, the album has more party tracks and often a triumphant tone. As Shakur'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, Shakur won Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Artist. The album was certified 9× Multi-Platinum in June 1998, and 10× in July 2014.
At the time of his death, a fifth and final solo album was already finished, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, under the stage name Makaveli. It had been recorded in one week in August 1996 and released that year. 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. According to George "Papa G" Pryce, Death Row Records' then director of public relations, the album was meant to be "underground", and was not intended for release before the artist was murdered. 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.
Later posthumous albums are archival productions, these albums are:
- R U Still Down? (1997),
- Greatest Hits (1998),
- Still I Rise (1999),
- Until the End of Time (2001),
- Better Dayz (2002),
- Loyal to the Game (2004),
- Pac's Life (2006).
Shakur's first film appearance was in the 1991 film Nothing but Trouble, a cameo by the Digital Underground. In 1992, he starred in Juice, where he plays the fictional Roland Bishop, a militant and haunting individual. Rolling Stone's Peter Travers calls him "the film's most magnetic figure".
Then, in 1993, Shakur starred alongside Janet Jackson in John Singleton's romance film, Poetic Justice. Shakur then played another gangster, the fictional Birdie, in Above the Rim. Soon after Shakur's death, three more films starring him were released, Bullet (1996), Gridlock'd (1997), and Gang Related (1997).
Director Allen Hughes had cast Shakur as Sharif in the 1993 film Menace II Society, but replaced him once Shakur assaulted him on set due to a discrepancy with the script. Nonetheless, in 2013, Hughes appraises that Shakur would have outshone the other actors "because he was bigger than the movie". For the lead role in the eventual 2001 film Baby Boy, a role played by Tyrese Gibson, director John Singleton originally had Shakur in mind. Ultimately, the set design includes in the protagonist's bedroom a Shakur mural, and the film's score includes the Shakur song "Hail Mary".
In Shakur's adulthood he continued befriending individuals of diverse backgrounds.
Biggie and Junior M.A.F.I.A.
During 1993 and 1994, the Biggie Smalls guest verses on several singles, often R&B, like Mary J. Blige's "What's the 411? Remix", set high expectations for his debut album. The perfectionism of Puffy, still forming his Bad Boy label, extended its recording to 18 months. In 1993, visiting Los Angeles, Biggie asked a local drug dealer for an introduction to Shakur, who then welcomed Biggie and friends to Shakur's house and treated them to recreational activities. The pair would socialize when Shakur went to New York, or Biggie to Los Angeles.
During this period, at his own live shows, Shakur would call Biggie onto stage to rap with him and Stretch. Together, they recorded the songs "Runnin' from tha Police" and "House of Pain". Reportedly, Biggie asked Shakur to manage him, whereupon Shakur advised him that Puffy would make him a star. Yet in the meantime, Shakur's lifestyle was comparatively lavish, whereas Biggie appeared to continue wearing the same pair of boots for perhaps a year. Shakur welcomed Biggie to join his side group Thug Life. Biggie would instead form his own side group, the Junior M.A.F.I.A., with his Brooklyn friends Lil' Cease and Lil' Kim, on Bad Boy.
Despite the "weird" timing of Stretch's shooting death, a theory implicates gunman Ronald "Tenad" Washington both here and in the 2002 murder of Run-DMC's Jam Master Jay via, as the unverified theory speculates, Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff punishing the rap mentor for recording 50 Cent despite Supreme's prohibition after this young rapper's 1999 song "Ghetto Qu'ran" had mentioned activities of the Queens drug gang Supreme Team. Supreme was a friend, rather, of Irv Gotti, cofounder of Murder Inc Records, whose rapper Ja Rule would vie among New York rappers after the March 1997 shooting death of Biggie, visiting Los Angeles.
By some accounts, the role Birdie, played by Shakur in the 1994 film Above the Rim, had been modeled on a New York underworld tough, Jacques "Haitian Jack" Agnant, a manager and promoter of rappers. Reportedly, Shakur met him at a Queens nightclub, where, noticing him amid women and champagne, Shakur asked for an introduction. Reportedly, Biggie advised Shakur to avoid him, but Shakur disregarded the warning.
In November 1993, in his Manhattan hotel room, Shakur received a woman's return visit. Soon, she alleged sexual assault by him and three other men there: his road manager Charles Fuller, aged 24, one Ricardo Brown, aged 30, and a "Nigel", later understood as Haitian Jack. In November 1994, Jack's case was split off and closed via misdemeanor plea without incarceration. In 2007, for shooting at someone, he would be deported. Yet in November 1994, A. J. Benza, in the New York Daily News, reported Shakur's new disdain for Jack.
Through Haitian Jack, Shakur met James "Jimmy Henchman" Rosemond. Another underworld figure formidable, Jimmy Henchman doubled as music manager. Bryce Wilson's Groove Theory was an early client. The Game as well as Gucci Mane were later clients. In 1994, a client lesser known, and signed to Uptown Records, was rapper Little Shawn, friend of Biggie and Lil' Cease. Eventually, Jack and Henchman would reportedly fall out, allegedly shooting at each other in Miami. And for his major drug trafficking, Henchman would be sent to prison on a life sentence. But in the early 1990s, Jack and Henchman reputedly shared interests, including a specialty of robbing and extorting music artists.
Shakur's friends would range from Mike Tyson and Chuck D to Jim Carrey and Alanis Morissette, who in April 1996 said that she and Shakur were planning to open a restaurant together.
Shakur briefly dated Madonna in 1994. On April 29, 1995, Shakur married his then girlfriend Keisha Morris, a pre-law student. The marriage was annulled ten months later. In a 1993 interview published in The Source, Shakur berated record producer Quincy Jones for his interracial marriage to actress Peggy Lipton. Their daughter Rashida Jones responded with an irate open letter. Years later, Shakur apologized to her sister Kidada Jones, whom he was dating at the time of his death in 1996.
Criminal and civil cases
1991 Oakland Police Department lawsuit
Shooting of Qa'id Walker-Teal
On August 22, 1992, in Marin City, Shakur performed outdoors at a festival. For about an hour after the performance, he signed autographs and posed for photos. A conflict broke out and Shakur allegedly drew a legally carried Colt Mustang but dropped it on the ground. Shakur claimed that someone with him then picked it up when it accidentally discharged. About 100 yards (90 meters) away in a schoolyard, Qa'id Walker-Teal, a boy aged 6 on his bicycle, was fatally shot in the forehead. Police matched the bullet to a .38-caliber pistol registered to Shakur. His stepbrother Maurice Harding was arrested, but no charges were filed. Lack of witnesses stymied prosecution. In 1995, Qa'id's mother filed a wrongful death suit against Shakur, which was settled for about $300,000 to $500,000.
On April 5, 1993, charged with felonious assault, Shakur allegedly threw a microphone and swung a baseball bat at rapper Chauncey Wynn, of the group M.A.D., at a concert at Michigan State University. On September 14, 1994, Shakur pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, twenty of them suspended, and ordered to 35 hours of community service.
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".
Shooting in Atlanta
In October 1993, in Atlanta, Mark Whitwell and Scott Whitwell, two brothers who were both off-duty police officers, were out celebrating with their wives after one of them had passed the state's bar examination. Drunk, the officers were crossing the street when a passing car carrying Shakur allegedly almost struck them. The Whitwells 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.
Shakur is assaulted and shot (1994)
On November 30, 1994, while in New York recording verses for a mixtape of Ron G, Shakur was repeatedly distracted by his beeper. Music manager Jimmy Henchman, reportedly offered Shakur $7,000 to stop by Quad Studios, in Times Square, that night to record a verse for his client Little Shawn. Shakur was unsure, but agreed to the session as he needed the cash to offset legal costs. He arrived with Stretch and one or two others. In the lobby, three men robbed and beat him at gunpoint; Shakur resisted and was shot. Shakur speculated that the shooting had been a set-up.
Three hours after surgery, against doctor's advice, Shakur checked out of Bellevue Hospital Center. The next day, in a Manhattan courtroom bandaged in a wheelchair, he received the jury's verdict in his ongoing criminal trial for a November 1993 sexual assault in his hotel room. Convicted of three counts of sexual assault, he was acquitted of six other charges, including sodomy and gun charges.
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 1994 robbery and shooting. Vibe alerted the names of the accused. The accusations were significant to the East-West Coast rivalry in hip-hop, the accusation was because Sean Combs and Christopher Wallace were at Quad Studios at the time and in 1995, months later, Combs and Wallace releasing song "Who Shot Ya?", whereas the song made no direct reference or naming of Shakur, Shakur took it as a mockery of his shooting and thought they could be responsible, so he released a (direct) diss song called "Hit 'Em Up", where he targeted Wallace, Combs, their record label, Junior M.A.F.I.A., and at the end of "Hit 'Em Up", he mentions rivals Mobb Deep and Chino XL.
In March 2008, Chuck Philips, in the Los Angeles Times, reported on the 1994 ambush and shooting. The newspaper later 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.
Sexual assault conviction
In November 1993, Shakur and three other men were charged in New York with sexually assaulting a woman in Shakur's hotel room. The woman, Ayanna Jackson, alleged that after consensual oral sex in his hotel room, she returned the next day, when Shakur and the other men gang-raped her. 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.
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. 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 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".
In 2011, via the Freedom of Information Act, the FBI released documents related to its investigation which described an extortion scheme by the Jewish Defense League that included making death threats against Shakur and other rappers, but did not indicate a direct connection to his murder.
Legacy and remembrance
AllMusic's Stephen Thomas Erlewine described Shakur as "the unlikely martyr of gangsta rap", with Shakur paying the ultimate price of a criminal lifestyle. Shakur was described as one of the top two American rappers in the 1990s, along with Snoop Dogg. The online rap magazine AllHipHop held a 2007 roundtable at which New York rappers Cormega, citing tour experience with New York rap duo Mobb Deep, imparted a broad assessment: "Biggie ran New York. 'Pac ran America." In 2010, writing Rolling Stone magazine's entry on Shakur at No. 86 among the "100 greatest artists", New York rapper 50 Cent appraised, "Every rapper who grew up in the Nineties owes something to Tupac. He didn't sound like anyone who came before him." Dotdash, formerly About.com, while ranking him fifth among the greatest rappers, nonetheless notes, "Tupac Shakur is the most influential hip-hop artist of all time. Even in death, 2Pac remains a transcendental rap figure." Yet to some, he was a "father figure" who, said rapper YG, "makes you want to be better—at every level."
According to music journalist Chuck Philips, 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." Philips writes, "The slaying silenced one of modern music's most eloquent voices—a ghetto poet whose tales of urban alienation captivated young people of all races and backgrounds." Via numerous fans perceiving him, despite the questionable of his conduct, as a martyr, "the downsizing of martyrdom cheapens its use", Michael Eric Dyson concedes. But Dyson adds, "Some, or even most, of that criticism can be conceded without doing damage to Tupac's martyrdom in the eyes of those disappointed by more traditional martyrs." More simply, his writings, published after his death, inspired rapper YG to return to school and get his GED. In 2020, California Senator and Democratic vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris called Shakur the "best rapper alive", a mistake that she explained because "West Coast girls think 2Pac lives on".
In 2006, Shakur's close friend and classmate Jada Pinkett Smith donated $1 million to their high school alma mater, the Baltimore School for the Arts, and named the new theater in his honor. In 2021, Pinkett Smith honored Shakur's 50th birthday by releasing a never before seen poem she had received from the late rapper.
In 1997, Shakur's mother founded the Shakur Family Foundation. Later renamed the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation, or TASF, it launched with a stated mission to "provide training and support for students who aspire to enhance their creative talents." The TASF sponsors essay contests, charity events, a performing arts day camp for teenagers, and undergraduate scholarships. In June 2005, the TASF opened the Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts, or TASCA, in Stone Mountain, Georgia. Afeni also narrates the documentary Tupac: Resurrection, released in November 2003, and nominated for Best Documentary at the 2005 Academy Awards. Meanwhile, with Forbes ranking Shakur at 10th among top-earning dead celebrities in 2002, Afeni Shakur launched Makaveli Branded Clothing in 2003.
In 1997, the University of California, Berkeley, offered a course led by a student titled "History 98: Poetry and History of Tupac Shakur". In April 2003, Harvard University cosponsored the symposium "All Eyez on Me: Tupac Shakur and the Search for the Modern Folk Hero." The papers presented cover his ranging influence from entertainment to sociology. Calling him a "Thug Nigga Intellectual", an "organic intellectual", English scholar Mark Anthony Neal assessed his death as leaving a "leadership void amongst hip-hop artists", as this "walking contradiction" helps, Neal explained, "make being an intellectual accessible to ordinary people." Tracing Shakur's mythical status, Murray Forman discussed him as "O.G.", or "Ostensibly Gone", with fans, using digital mediums, "resurrecting Tupac as an ethereal life force." Music scholar Emmett Price, calling him a "Black folk hero", traced his persona to Black American folklore's tricksters, which, after abolition, evolved into the urban "bad-man". Yet in Shakur's "terrible sense of urgency", Price identified instead a quest to "unify mind, body, and spirit."
In 2005, Death Row released on DVD, Tupac: Live at the House of Blues, his final recorded live performance, an event on July 4, 1996. In August 2006, Tupac Shakur Legacy, an "interactive biography" by Jamal Joseph, arrived with previously unpublished family photographs, intimate stories, and over 20 detachable copies of his handwritten song lyrics, contracts, scripts, poetry, and other papers. In 2006, the Shakur album Pac's Life was released and, like the previous, was among the recording industry's most popular releases. In 2008, his estate made about $15 million.
In 2014, BET explains that "his confounding mixture of ladies' man, thug, revolutionary and poet has forever altered our perception of what a rapper should look like, sound like and act like. In 50 Cent, Ja Rule, Lil Wayne, newcomers like Freddie Gibbs and even his friend-turned-rival Biggie, it's easy to see that Pac is the most copied MC of all time. There are murals bearing his likeness in New York, Brazil, Sierra Leone, Bulgaria and countless other places; he even has statues in Atlanta and Germany. Quite simply, no other rapper has captured the world's attention the way Tupac did and still does."
On April 15, 2012, at the Coachella Music Festival, rappers Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre joined a Shakur hologram,and, as a partly virtual trio, performed the Shakur songs "Hail Mary" and "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted". There were talks of a tour, but Dre refused. Meanwhile, the Greatest Hits album, released in 1998, and which in 2000 had left the pop albums chart, the Billboard 200, returned to the chart and reached No. 129, while also other Shakur albums and singles drew sales gains. And in early 2015, the Grammy Museum opened an exhibition dedicated to Shakur.
Film and stage
In 2014, the play Holler If Ya Hear Me, based on Shakur's lyrics, played on Broadway, but, among Broadway's worst-selling musicals in recent years, ran only six weeks. In development since 2013, a Shakur biopic, All Eyez on Me, began filming in Atlanta in December 2015, and was released on June 16, 2017, in concept Shakur's 46th birthday, albeit to generally negative reviews. In August 2019, a docuseries directed by Allen Hughes, Outlaw: The Saga of Afeni and Tupac Shakur, was announced.
Awards and honors
In 2003, MTV's viewers voted Shakur the greatest MC. In 2005, on Vibe magazine's online message boards, a user asked others for the "Top 10 Best of All Time". Vibe staff, then, "sorting out, averaging and spending a lot of energy", found, "Tupac coming in at first". In 2006, MTV staff placed him second. In 2012, The Source magazine ranked him fifth among all-time lyricists. In 2010, Rolling Stone placed him at No. 86 among the "100 Greatest Artists".
In 2007, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's "Definitive 200" albums—choices irking some otherwise—placed All Eyez on Me at No. 90 and Me Against the World at No. 170. In 2009, drawing praise, the Vatican added "Changes", a 1998 posthumous track, to its online playlist. On June 23, 2010, the Library of Congress sent "Dear Mama" to the National Recording Registry, the third rap song, after a Grandmaster Flash and a Public Enemy, ever to arrive there.
In 2002, Shakur was inducted into the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame. Two years later, cable television's music network VH1 held its first ever Hip Hop Honors, where the honorees were Shakur, Run-DMC, DJ Hollywood, Kool Herc, KRS-One, Public Enemy, Rock Steady Crew, and the Sugarhill Gang. On December 30, 2016, in his first year of eligibility, Shakur was nominated, and on the following April 7 was among five inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
- Studio albums
- 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)
- Collaboration albums
- 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)||Episode: "Tom Arnold/Tupac Shakur"|
|1996||Bullet||Tank||Released one month after Shakur's death|
|1997||Gridlock'd||Ezekiel "Spoon" Whitmore||Released four months after Shakur's death|
|1997||Gang Related||Detective Jake Rodriguez||Shakur's last performance in a film|
|2001||Baby Boy||Himself||Archive footage|
|2003||Tupac: Resurrection||Himself||Archive footage|
|2015||Straight Outta Compton||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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