The Life, Times and Death of a Legend: Tupac Shakur

The Iconic MC and Poet!

The Iconic MC and Poet!

Tupac Shakur is one of the most successful, admired, prolific and controversial entertainers of all time.  From his humble beginnings as a backup dancer for Digital Underground to his brash and violent lyrical content as a member of Death Row Records to his murder in 1996, 2Pac was an intelligent and charismatic entertainer who often stole the spotlight.

Shakur was born on June 16, 1971, in the East Harlem section of Manhattan in New York City. He was named after Túpac Amaru,a Peruvian revolutionary who led an indigenous uprising against Spain and was subsequently executed. His mother, Afeni Shakur, and his father, Billy Garland, were active members of the Black Panther Party in New York in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The infant boy was born a month after his mother was acquitted of more than 150 charges of “Conspiracy against the United States government and New York landmarks” in the New York “Panther 21” court case.  Shakur’s godfather was “Geronimo” Pratt.  His stepfathers, Mutulu Shakur, on the FBI’s Most Wanted List for four years beginning in 1982 for helping his sister escape a New Jersey penitentiary.

TUPAC Music Poster

TUPAC Music Poster

Tupac began acting in school productions, eventually attending the BaltimoreSchool for the Arts, where he studied acting, poetry, jazz, and ballet.  Shakur’s professional entertainment career began in the early 1990s, when he debuted his rapping skills in a vocal turn in Digital Underground’s “Same Song” from the soundtrack to the 1991 film Nothing but Trouble and also appeared with the group in the film of the same name.  After his lyrical debut on “Same Song”, 2Pac appeared on Digital Underground’s album Sons of the P.  He shortly after he made his solo debut with 2Pacalypse Now.  Though the album did not again major critical and commercial acclaim, it has been pointed to as an inspiration by many major hip hop artists such as  Nas, Eminem, Game, and Talib Kweli.

The album generated significant controversy. Dan Quayle criticized it after a Texas youth’s defense attorney claimed he was influenced by 2Pacalypse Now and its strong theme of police brutality before shooting a state trooper. Quayle said, “There’s no reason for a record like this to be released. It has no place in our society.” The record was important in showcasing 2Pac’s political conviction and his focus on lyrical prowess.  The record was the first glimpse inside of Shakur’s deep, political convictions and strong lyrical prowess.  In October 1991, Tupac filed a $10 million civil suit against the Oakland Police Department, alleging they brutally beat him for jaywalking.  Less than a year later, in August of 1992, a confrontation occured after Shakur performed at an outdoor festival in MarinCity, a Colt Mustang accidentally discharged after being dropped, while it was being picked up.  The bullet struck and killed Qa’id Walker-Teal, a 6-year-old, at a playground some 100 yards away.  In 1995, a wrongful death suit was brought against Shakur by Qa’id’s mother. Ballistics tests proved the bullet that killed the boy was not from Shakur’s or any members of his entourage’s gun. Shakur’s attorney stated that the festival was a “nasty situation,” and his client was saddened by the death of the young boy. Shakur’s record company settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed amount, reportedly between $300,000 and $500,000.

In 1993, 2pac released is sophomores studio effort, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.  The album faired better than its predecessor, peaking at #22 on the Billboard charts and selling more than 1.3 million copies as of 2004.  In October 1993, in Atlanta, two brothers and off-duty police officers, Mark and Scott Whitwell, were with their wives celebrating Mrs. Whitwell’s recent passing of the state bar examination. As they crossed the street, a car with Shakur inside passed by them or “almost struck them.” The Whitwells began an altercation with the driver, Shakur and the other passengers, which was joined by a second passing car. Shakur shot one officer in the buttocks, and the other in the leg, back, or abdomen, according to varying news reports. There were no other injuries. Mark Whitwell was charged with firing at Shakur’s car and later lying to the police during the investigation; Shakur was charged with the shooting; the prosecutors decided to drop all charges against all parties.  A month later, Shakur and others were charged with sexually assaulting a woman in a hotel room.  Tupac denied all charges.  According to Shakur, he had prior consensual sex with the accuser and this sexual act in question was consensual as well.  The complainant claimed sexual assault after her second visit to Shakur’s hotel room; she alleged that Shakur and his entourage raped her. In the ensuing trial, Shakur was convicted of sexual abuse. In sentencing Shakur to 1½–4½ years in prison, the judge described the crime as “an act of brutal violence against a helpless woman.” After serving part of his sentence, Shakur was released on bail pending appeal. On April 5, 1996, a judge sentenced him to serve 120 days in jail for violating terms of his release on bail.

This pattern of legal troubles followed Shakur throughout is life and career.  In 1994, 2Pac released his next studio album, Thug Life: Volume 1.  The same, the day before the verdict for his sexual abuse charges were to be announced, Shakur was shot five times and robbed by two masked assailants in army fatigues after entering the lobby of Quad Recording Studios in Manhattan.  Shakur had received five bullet wounds; twice in the head, twice in the groin and once through the arm and thigh.  He checked out of the hospital against doctor’s orders, three hours after surgery. In the day that followed, Shakur entered the courthouse in a wheelchair and was found guilty of three counts of molestation, but innocent of six others, including sodomy. On February 6, 1995, he was sentenced to one-and-a-half to four-and-a-half years in prison on a sexual assault charge.

Shakur began serving his prison sentence at Clinton Correctional Facility on February 14, 1995. Shortly afterward, he released his multi-platinum album Me Against the World. Shakur became the first artist to have an album at number one on the Billboard 200 while serving a prison sentence. Me Against the World made its debut on the Billboard 200 and stayed at the top of the charts for four weeks. The album sold 240,000 copies in its first week, setting a record for highest first week sales for a solo male rap artist at the time.  In October 1995, Shakur’s case was on appeal but due to all of his legal fees he could not raise the $1.4 million bail. After serving eleven months of his one-and-a-half year to four-and-a-half year sentence, Shakur was released from the Clinton Correctional Facility due in large part to the help and influence of Suge Knight, the CEO of Death Row Records, who posted a $1.4 million bail pending appeal of the conviction in exchange for Shakur to release three albums under the Death Row label.

In 1996, 2Pac released two albums under Death Row Records.  First, All Eyes on Me was released on February 13.  The album is widely considered on of Shakur’s best effort as well as one of the greatest rap albums of the 1990’s and all time.  It was certified 5x Platinum just two months after its release.  Makaveli the Don – Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, commonly shortened to The 7 Day Theory, is the fifth and final studio album by Tupac Shakur, under the new stage name Makaveli, finished before his death and his first studio album to be posthumously released.The album was completely finished in a total of seven days during the month of August 1996. The lyrics were written and recorded in only three days and mixing took an additional four days. These are among the very last songs he recorded before his fatal shooting on September 7, 1996. In 2005, ranked Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory at #9 on their greatest hip hop albums of all time list and, in 2006, recognized it as a classic. The emotion and anger showcased on the album has been admired by a large part of the hip-hop community, including other rappers.

On September 7, 1996, Shakur went to the Mike Tyson–Bruce Seldon fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada. After leaving the fight, one of Suge Knight’s associates spotted 21-year-old Orlando “Baby Lane” Anderson, an alleged member of the Southside Crips, in the MGM Grand lobby. Earlier that year, Anderson and a group of Crips had robbed a member of Death Row’s entourage in a Foot Locker store. Knight’s associate told Shakur, who attacked Anderson. Shakur’s entourage, as well as Knight and his followers, assisted in assaulting Anderson. The fight was captured on the hotel’s video surveillance. After the brawl, Shakur went with Knight to go to Death Row-owned Club 662 (now known as restaurant/club Seven). He rode in Knight’s 1996 black BMW 750iL sedan as part of a larger convoy, including many in Shakur’s entourage.

At around 11:00–11:05 pm, they were stopped on Las Vegas Blvd. by Metro bicycle police for playing the car stereo too loudly and not having license plates. The plates were found in the trunk of Knight’s car; the party was released without being fined a few minutes later. At about 11:10 pm, while they were stopped at a red light at Flamingo Road near the intersection of Koval Lane, a vehicle occupied by two women pulled up on their left. Shakur, who was standing up through the sunroof, exchanged words with the two women, and invited them to go to Club 662. At approximately 11:15 pm, a white, four-door, late-model Cadillac with an unknown number of occupants pulled up to the sedan’s right side, rolled down a window, and rapidly fired gunshots at Shakur. He was hit in the chest, pelvis, and his right hand and thigh. One of the rounds went into Shakur’s right lung. Knight was hit in the head by a bullet fragment.  The bodyguard, Frank Alexander, stated that when he was about to ride along with the rapper in Knight’s car, Shakur asked him to drive the car of Shakur’s fiancée Kidada Jones instead, in case they needed additional vehicles from Club 662 back to the hotel.

The case of the murder of Tupac Shakur is unsolved to this day.

Since his death, Tupac Shakur’s legend has just seemed to grow.  He has released a vast amount of material posthumously, and still remains as ine of the most talked anout, quoted, influential, inspiring and beloved artist in rap, hip-hop and music and entertainment in general.  The movies that he has starred, including Poetic Justice and Above the Rim, continue to do well in DVD sales and rentals, despite close to twp decades passing since their releases.  Shakur was even honored at 2012’s Coachella Festival by having a lifelike hologram perform some of his material.

He will be greatly and will always hold a special and important place in the hearts of fans and entertainers worldwide.

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