The Hip Hop world has always had its scandals, feuds, and its share of beef. Some of the most famous interpersonal feuds have shaped the way the industry has evolved over the years, and some of them have gotten serious to the point of death. While the genres of rap and hip hop have always gotten their roots in real life and have dealt with the contemporary social issues of their time, few names have been as influential as that of Tupac Shakur. From his beginnings to his music career to his life and death, the name Tupac is a household name, and his death is as much of a mystery as it is a tragedy.
Who Was Tupac Shakur?
Tupac Amaru Shakur was born Lesane Parish Crooks in June of 1971 but was known best as 2Pac, his stage name. He was an artist, rapper, songwriter, and actor who is considered to be one of the most influential rap artists of all time. Certainly his work has shaped so much of the modern rap genre. He was born in Harlem in New York City, but at seventeen he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area for a few years before permanently relocating to Los Angeles in 1993 in order to pursue his musical career in more depth and in earnest. He is actually one of the best-selling music artists of all time and has sold over 75 million records since he began producing music in the early 1990s.
His mother struggled to raise him as a single mom, and Tupac did not see his father until he was 23 years old. Even though his mother struggled so much to raise him, she did instill a sense of pride in her son and renamed him after the last Incan ruler who was executed in 1781 in Peru. She, “wanted him to have the name of revolutionary, indigenous people in the world…part of world culture and not just from a neighborhood.”
His Early Life
In 1984, Shakur and his family relocated to Baltimore, Maryland, and his early career took off, but not in music: in acting. He studied at the Baltimore School for the Arts where he took up acting and poetry, as well as jazz and ballet. He was truly building himself as a well-rounded artist with roots in so many different directions. He first began performing his own music after writing his first bars in high school. His early influences were very diverse and included musicians like Kate Bush, Culture Club, and U2.
He was described as a very charismatic young man with a very infectious laugh; he was outgoing and attracted a lot of attention not just because of his talent but because of his personality.
There is no doubt that due to the difficulty of his early and the influences he had growing up that his music was markedly impacted by the experiences he had. Living in tough neighborhoods and being in and out of homeless shelters as a young child shaped his mind and sharpened his words into the perspective he would later provide to millions and millions of listeners who were desperately craving a different look at life and a validation that only music could offer for the feelings that they so often struggled with. The beauty of Tupac’s legacy can be wrapped up in the fact that throughout his musical career, he never lost sight of the truth of life and the realities that can cause so many people to struggle on a daily basis in communities all over the world. He never forgot what his mother tried to instill in him with a sense of being part of a larger world culture instead of just being from a little neighborhood in Harlem.
His Musical Career and Genius
In 1991, Tupac Shakur began writing and recording his first song and landed a record deal with INterscope Records. He released his debut album, 2Pacalypse Now, shortly thereafter. He also released four more albums during the course of his life and has had seven albums released posthumously. His releases came in 1991, 1993, 1995, 1996, and 1996, with The Don Killuminati: The Day 7 Theory being his last studio album released during his lifetime under a second stage name, Makavelli.
He was awarded the American Music Award for Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Artist in 1997 after being nominated and failing to win in 1994. He was also nominated for six separate Grammys, including a few posthumously, but never won. He also failed to win any of the MTV Video Music Awards he was nominated for, but none of these failures to win do anything to mar his legacy or diminish the impact he has had over the years.
The musical genius of Tupac combined with the heartbreak surrounding his death teach powerful lessons about his lifestyle. Many people wonder if the song “Hit ‘em Up” which was only released a few months before his death had any impact on his eventual murder because of the amount of diss bars and callouts he included in the song. Overall, there seems to be a lot of drama and speculation without any real answers.
The Murder of Tupac Shakur
While there has been no official legally recognized killer of Tupac Shakur, there is overwhelming evidence to support the theory that it could have been Tupac’s own decisions and actions that led to his untimely death. During a September, 1996 outing to see Mike Tyson, Tupac engaged in an altercation with a rival gang member in response to one of his own bodyguards being attacked some days prior. The melee lasted around thirty seconds, but the rival gang member, a Crip by the name of Orlando “Baby Lane” Anderson, was beaten quite heavily.
Later that evening, while Suge Knight and Tupac were driving around downtown Las Vegas, allegedly that same Crip and a few of his friends came looking for payback. They pulled up alongside Tupac and Suge’s white Cadillac and opened fire, mortally injuring Tupac. Neither the Las Vegas or Los Angeles Police Departments ever viewed Anderson as an official suspect, even though several eyewitness testimonies since that time have placed him in the car with the weapon that eventually caused Tupac’s death. But, according to The Undefeated, several Internet conspiracies, memes, and other online communities have cast doubt upon this account of the events, and legend has surrounded Tupac’s murder just like so many other accounts from the Hip Hop and rap communities.
He died of his wounds six days after being shot in the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada.
Tupac’s legacy is immense. RapTV places one of his songs, California Love, as one of the top twenty best rap songs of all time. His voice, his perspective, and his experiences all contributed to the idea that he is truly one of the most influential rap performers ever known. And while his death may officially be a mystery that never resulted in any official legal resolution, the mystery does reveal some pretty shocking facts.