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Finally, whilst composing this biogrpahy, no disrespect was intended to either Tupac Shakur, Afeni Shakur, or any of his family and his Estate.
Tupac Amaru Shakur, aka 2pac, aka Makaveli, was originally born Lesane Parish Crooks. He was born in New York City, USA, on 16th June 1971 to two political activists, and members of ‘The Black Panther Party’. His mother Afeni Shakur, was pregnant with Tupac whilst in jail on bombing charges, and is said to have not known who Tupac’s father was at that time. Tupac saw a man named ‘Legs’ as his father during his early years, who was also the man that introduced his mom, Afeni, to crack. While still a very small child, his mother changed his name to Tupac Amaru Shakur, after an Inca Indian revolutionary: ‘Tupac Amaru’, meaning ‘Shining Serpent’, ‘Shakur’ means ‘Thankful To God’, in Arabic. From childhood, it is known that everyone called Tupac the ‘Black Prince’. When he was aged two, his sister, Sekyiwa Shakur, was born. This child’s father, Mutulu Shakur, was also a Black Panther activist who, a few months before her birth, had been sentenced to sixty years for a fatal amoured-car robbery, which took place in 1981. With Mutulu away, the family experienced hard times. No matter where they moved-the Bronx, Harlem, homeless shelters- Tupac was distressed. “I remember crying all the time. My major thing growing up was I couldn’t fit in. Because I was from everywhere. I didn’t have no buddies that I grew up with.”
Because of this instability at such a young age, Tupac grew up a troublesome child, he referred to it as “I have to play the hand I was dealt.” When Tupac was 10 he and Afeni moved to Baltimore in the hope of giving him a chance in life by enrolling him at the ‘Baltimore School Of Arts’. Tupac excelled in every performance as his true talent showed, despite his troubled past. People could see Tupac had true talent as he wrote his fist rap under the alias ‘MC New York’ in June 1986. Despite this talent and happiness Tupac was showing Afeni again moved, this time away from the Eastside of America, to Marine City, in California, which is on the Westside of America. As many of you will know, the ‘sides’ or ‘coasts’ of America would become an important factor in Tupacs life, and death. The ‘East vs Westside’ feud / beef between rappers and gangsters was already going on, but with Tupac’s contributions, it would esculate out of control, resulting in in bloodshed. Tupac said after leaving the school in Baltimore, “leaving that school affected me so much, I see that as the point where I got of track.” Shortly after moving Tupac moves in with a neighbour and begins to slang drugs.
Tupac’s childhood is one of which I would definately never refer to as a ‘normal’ upbringing, Tupac was forever in the struggle, even through all of his earliest memories. Even today many people don’t see him as an influential young black male, because of the influence these bad experiences gave Tupac, nor do they see he went through everything and more, to get where he did, to do what he wanted to do – teach and reach his people. So anyone who tries to diss Tupac Shakur as a man does not know him at all, they do not know the man inside the gangster exterior. It is because of his lifestyle, childhood, the environment around him, and the things he saw, that made him what he was. I strongly believe that Tupac had two sides too him – that he was a divided soul!
If people knew him, meet him, or listened to his music they would know that there was another side of him that was vastly different from the Tupac who embraced the gangster lifestyle which he proclaimed as “the way of Death Row,” his music label. In 1991 when Tupac was on his first tour with Digital Underground he talked of his “hopes and dreams of using his talents to turn bad to good and become a pro-black revolutionary ” He spoke with the wild enthusiasm of a youth who wanted to accomplish everything at once, because he had yet to learn that in life only so much is possible. He wasn’t a gangster or a thug, not yet.
Tupac tended to attract a lot attention on stage, because of his gift to make people laugh but listen and learn, and also because of his good looks and good nature, it was hard not to like Tupac. But he was deeply affected by what he was seeing around him and what he had seen as a youngster, and later this would reveal the darker side of Tupac. Later on in his career Tupac tended to show more of his darker side, both in and out of his songs, I believe this was because he thought it was his unavoidable destiny. But he still continued to show his lighter side in many of his songs throughout his career, songs released in life and in his death. Both sides of him influenced so many peoples lives for good, inspiring his people to carry on, and to ‘Keep Ya Head Up’, through the struggle that is life. However his songs also influenced people in bad ways, especially when a murderer blamed Tupac’s debut solo album, ‘2pacalypse Now’ for his own urge to kill. Tupac seemed to constantly struggle with these two sides of his soul, switching the sides of his psyche back and forth between the life of a thug and the way of the “revolutionary.”
In 1990 Tupac joined a rap group called Digital Underground as a rodie/dancer/rapper, and went on tour with them, he was a massive hit and it was clear he was destined for bigger things. However, by this time, Tupac had already been arrested 8 times. Once again showing both sides of his “divided soul.” He was even the subject of two wrongful death cases, one involving a 6 year old who was killed in the gunshots between Tupac’ people and a rival gang. He was dealt another huge blow as he learns that whilst he is on tour, his mother, Afeni, is addicted to crack. Tupac reacted badly to this, and refers to this moment in many of his songs as an awful time in his life. It is believed that Afeni’s partner ‘Legs’ had earlier introuduced Afeni to crack. Yet Tupac still carried on with Digital Underground, every day learning more, and every day pushing more for his own chance to get on his own stage. He was rewarded on the 3rd of January 1991 when Tupac makes his recording debut on Digital Underground’s Same Song. This is an E.P. release. In 1991 Tupac entered his best years, he broke free from the group ‘Digital Undergound‘ and on November 12, 1991, Tupac releases his debut solo album, ‘2PACALYPSE NOW’, the album was an immediate success, with its sales eventually going gold, with the help of its single releases such as ‘Breanda’s gotta Baby’. The album put him on the high-speed way to stardom. However shortly after this release, Tupac was in trouble with the law again, this time Tupac launches a $10 million lawsuit against Oakland police for ‘alleged brutality’ following his arrest for jaywalking. In the same year Tupac made his film debut, starring in Ernest Dickinson’s film ‘JUICE’, which brought Hollywood success, and earnt him praise for his portrayel of his character, ‘Bishop’, for which he is perhaps best remebered for the line, “Im crazy and I dont give a fuck!”
However on the 11th April 1992, Ronald Ray Howard, aged 19, shoots a Texas trooper. Howard’s attorney claims Tupac’s debut album ‘2Pacalypse Now’, incited him to kill, this reflected very badly on Tupac’s gangster lyrics throughout the album, and also him as a person, as his lifestyle comes under closer scrutiny and his many run-ins with the law become publicised. However if anything this only helped Tupac as a rap artist as his audiences believed his gangster lyrics to be truthfull, and not fake, which resulted in many more sales and media hype for 2pac!
In ‘93 Tupac then released his second album ‘STRICTLY 4 MY N.I.G.G.A.Z.’ which went on to go platinum, and Tupac also starred along side Janet Jackson in the movie ‘POETIC JUSTICE’. Because of Tupac’s repuatation with the ladies, Janet Jackson requested he had a HIV test before she would do any kissing scenes with him. Despite his continued success and rising fame, in this same year he was still in trouble with the law, which included a violent attack on a police officer. Due to his “aggressive” and “anti-police” lyrics, the Vice President of the USA then declared that Tupac’s lyrics “promote gang violence and have no place in society.” This only made him more popular as he was getting lots of high profile attention, and was seen as a True Thug, and a true representative of his background and upbringings.
Spring 1993, during the High-School concerts that Sean Puffy Combs’, (aka P.Diddy) held throughout Brooklyn in means of promoting his up-coming rap star The Notorious B.I.G, Pac was to catch a liking towards this fresh new rapper, whom later on, he would help by making openings at his shows. To the end of the year, in December 93, Pac, as well as some other members of his entourage were to be charged on means of sexually abusing a young women in the room of the hotel in which they lounged. By the time the long trial was coming to an end, on November 30 1994, just one night prior to the assigned court meeting, robbers assaulted and shot Tupac several times in the lobby of Quad Recording Studios in Manhattan. The thieves made of with $40,000 worth of his jewellery. Five bullets hit Tupac in the head, groin, arm and thigh; fortunetly he managed to survive through the night and even checked himself out of hospital just 3 hours after surgery to present himself the next morning at the court hearing. Unfortunetly though, he was found guilty on three accounts of molestation and sentenced to one-and-a-half to four-and-a-half years in prison on sexual assault charge. Tupac later accused fellow rap artist ‘The Notorious B.I.G.‘ of involvement of the shooting and for supposedly stealing his lyrics whilst ‘Pac was in jail.
As Tupac faced these new brick walls blocking his dreams, he dropped the epic ‘2pac, ME AGAINST THE WORLD‘, released whilst he was still serving his sentence, which still debuted at No.1 in the USA ‘Billboard Chart’. The album was recorded in a matter of weeks before he was to go to prison, and it was this impending prison sentence which many believe might have contributed to 2Pac’s artistic re-emergence on record, as his material is believed to have become markedly more “confessional,” “reflective,” and “soul-baring” on this album. The album was very successful commercially, reaching the number one spot on the Billboard 200 chart and being certified double platinum. Since it was released while he was in prison, Shakur became the first (and remains the only) artist to ever have a number one album while serving a prison sentence. The album received a five-star rating from Allmusic, with reviewer Steve Huey calling it “[Shakur’s] most thematically consistent, least self-contradicting work,” and stating “it may not be his definitive album, but it just might be his best.” RapCentral.co.uk gives the album a full 5 out of 5 rating, stating the album “is easily [Tupac’s] most personal and touching collection of tracks.” In The Source’s original review of the album, it was stated that though 2Pac’s talents had finally become whole, the album’s tracks would, “for a change, overshadow him.” However in the re-review years later, the remark was acknowledged as an overstatement, with those at the magazine recognizing in hindsight that “it would take quite a backdrop to exceed his tales of run-ins with the law, awarding the album the much coveted 5 mic rating.
Meanwhile Marion ‘Suge’ Knight president of Hip-Hop’s most successful and controversial label, Death Row Records, had arranged parole for Tupac, who had only served 8 months of his sentence, and posted the required $1.4 million bail. The deal was that Tupac signed to Death Row Records when released from jail and recorded 3 albums for the label. Newly signed to Death Row a double CD entitled ‘ALL EYEZ ON ME’ was released by Tupac, the album received supporting and outstandingly good reviews and went over 9 times platinum, selling over 6 million in its first year. The album generated the hit single ‘California Love’ with 2pac featuring rap legend Dr Dre. Tupac had gained worldwide success and was the “biggest influence to the youth since the great N.W.A.” In the same year Tupac received many acting offers and so began to concentrate on his acting career, appearing in films ‘GRIDLOCK’D’ and ‘BULLET’.
However Tupac couldn’t escape his ‘dark side’ and carried on getting in a lot of trouble both with the law and many other people, including his rap peers. Tupac continued the East vs West coast beef, and in May 1996 he and fellow Death Row artist ‘Snoop Doggy Dogg’ released “2 of Amerikaz most Wanted.” In the video, caricatures of Biggie and Puffy are punished for setting up Tupac. Then again on June 4, 1996 Death Row released Tupac’s “Hit ‘Em Up,” a brutal attack against Biggie, Bad Boy, Mobb Deep, Jay-Z, Lil Kim and Puffy. This ‘beef’ was now getting very personal and more serios by the day as it looked more and more likely to end in violence.
Tupac continues to get himself deeper in trouble on September 4, 1996 as Tupac returns to New York for the MTV music awards and gets into a scuffle. Then on September 7, 1996, to reasons still not known to the police, Tupac got into a scuffle at the ‘Mike Tyson vs Bruce Seldon’ fight in Las Vegas, and after leaving with DeathRow CEO Suge Knight, in Suge Knight’s car, Tupac was shot 4 times, by a still unknown assailant in a white cadillac, in a drive-by style shooting. Knight, who has connections with the Bloods, escapes with a minor injury. Shakur is rushed to University Medical Center, where he undergoes surgery, including the removal of his right lung. On September 11, 1996 a Compton man who police say is associated with the LA Crips gang is shot to death while sitting in his car, the first in a series of gang related murders after the Tupac shooting. Police begin investigating these as possible connections to Tupac’s shooting. After 6 days in a critical condition the legendary phenomenon that was 2pac slid out of this world and went on to face his judgement were maybe the “division” of his soul can be resolved. He passed away at 4:03 pm five days after the shooting took place, at the young age of only 25! Yet Tupac seemed to know that because of his lifestyle and the controversy he seemed to cause, that he would die before he was 30 as he expressed this through many of his songs. There are many complications in his death and he often rapped about faking his own death, leading his big fans to believe he was still alive, faking his death to avaid enemies. He had changed his alias to Makaveli, referring to the Italian politician Machiavelli who wrote about cheating death, he also rapped about the death / murder of The Notorious B.I.G., which happened after his death. In a further twist the main suspect in his murder Orlando Anderson was also shot dead, and the only person who said they could and would point out Tupac’s assasin in a line up, Yafeu Fula, aka Kadafi, a member of his group ‘The Outlawz’, was also shot to death. And these, along with many many other suspicious factors which shrouded his death, continued to raise theories of who, why, when, and what happened to Tupac on that night, and the following days he was in hospital. I’ll let u decide if 2pac’s alive when you read all the facts and theories in our ‘2pac Alive Theories’ Section!
Life after Tupac’s death was still shooting him to super-stardom as multi platinum albums and films releases was, and are still been pumped out to this day. It is now known that Tupac recorded around as much as 12 albums worth of tracks, resulting in many many releases after his death, whcih in turn all resulted in millions and millions of record sales for each release.
Tupac’s mother Afeni Shakur filed a lawsuit against Death Row records for the ownership of all her sons material to be passed on to herself, on the grounds that Tupac was making plans to leave Death Row for his own company, and he had served his contract to them. The judge saw fit to grant Afeni the ownership of all her sons unreleased material. Afeni set up ‘Amaru Records’ in order to rework and distribute Tupac’s music. Money raised from his posthumus releases would also go to many good causes, most notibely the ‘TASF’, (Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation), which works towards helping young people from poor area’s, giving them a chance to be safe, play, and learn.
Tupac’s posthumus releases started on November 5, 1996, with his ‘MAKAVELI – The Don Killuminati: 7 day Theory’ album released on Death Row Records, and this album would be the last to be released from that label. The album was again a violent album in some areas, and lighter in others. The album was very successful and eventually went onto go multi platinum, with the album reaching Chart Positions of: #1 in the R&B chart, aswell as #1 in the Pop chart. The next release did not come until a year later than the previous, and was after Tupac’s material was under the ownership of his mother Afeni Shakur. On November 25, 1997 the ‘R U Still Down? (remember me)’ album was released on Amaru/Jive Records, and was certified platinum under two months of its release on December 15, 1997. The album reached chart positions of, #1 R&B, #2 Pop. November 24, 1998, a year after ‘R U STILL DOWN‘, came the double disc album ‘2pac : Greatest Hits‘, released on reocrd labels Amaru/Jive, Interscope and also Deathrow. This album again reached multi platinum level, topped all the charts and again proved that Tupac was becoming even larger in death than in life. The album reached chart positions of, #1 R&B and #1 Pop, and was certified soon after as a massive 9X (times) Platinum. Along with all Tupac’s previous albums it continues to sell very well to this day.
Much to Tupac fans’ delight the massive ‘Greatest Hits’ album was again followed up just over a year later with the release of ‘Still I Rise‘ again on Amaru/Jive, Interscope and Deathrow record labels. The ‘Still I Rise’ album featured Tupac’s group The Oultawz heavily and contained classic tracks such as ‘Baby Dont Cry’, showing the lighter side of Tupac, and ‘Hell 4 A Hustler’ showing a more gangster side. The album was released on December 14, 1999, and reached No.2 in the R&B chart, and No.7 in the Pop chart (USA). The album has since been certified 2X platinum. The next Tupac release, ‘The Rose that Grew from the Concrete’ broke the mould, it was not his vocal recordings but instead a spoken CD of people reading/performing a collection of his poems, the album was released of Amaru Records with Interscope Records on November 21, 2000.
On March 27, 2001, the mould was reformed to its previous state of unreleased Tupac songs, remixed for todays market, with the album ‘Until the End of Time’, released on Amaru, Deathrow and Interscope Records. Its highest chart position was once more #1 R&B, and #1 Pop, and was again soon after certified 2X platinum. The album featured smash-hits such as ‘Until The End of Time’ a remix of the song ‘Broken Wings’, and also ‘Letter 2 My Unborn’.
By this point Tupac fans, including myself, were still finding it hard to believe that after 6+ years after his death we were still hearing new, orignal recordings that were just as good as the last set! Then, once again on November 26, 2002, another release came our way in the form of the 2pac album ‘Better Dayz’. And once again the album exceeded all expectations by reaching chart positions of #1 R&B and #5 Pop. The album has not yet been certified (as of early 2004), so im unable to correctly say how many times the album went platinum or gold! The next album release on 6th October 2003, entitled ‘2pac: Nu-Mixx Klazzics’ was from DeathRow records, who of course lost the rights to Tupacs unreleased work, and so consisted of no previously unreleased material, but modern remixes of previous classic songs such as ‘2 Of Amerikaz Most Wanted’, ‘How Do You Want It’, and ‘Hit Em Up’.
The next official release from Amaru was on 10th November 2003, in the form of a soundtrack entitled ‘Tupac: Ressurection’, soundtrack to the official Tupac documentary, also entitled ‘Tupac: Ressurection’. The album featured some unreleased vocals, some previously ‘leaked’ tracks, remixed by Amaru, (probably as a way of selling already heard material), and some early Tupac tracks from the first stages in his career, such as ‘Same Song’, his debut release with the rap group Digital Undergorund. As with all Tupac products, this soundtrack and documentary were, adn still are, very successful.
On the 16 August 2004 another release from his former home and label, Death Row Records, hit the shelves. Again the CD contained old material, but in a different sense these tracks were also new, as all tracks on the album were LIVE performances of Tupac performing his biggest hits at various tours and venues. The release is entitled ‘2pac – Live On Deathrow’.
A few months later on 13th December 2004 Amaru/Interscope release the next posthumus Tupac album, ‘Loyal To The Game’, again containing nothing but previously unheard lyrics, to the delight of his fans. However the album recieved weak reviews from various sources, mainly due to the fact of the production work by Eminem, who was the producer of around 90% of the tracks on the release. The fact that he, or his team, massively speeded up/slowed down Tupac’s vocals to fit new beats was not acceptable to long time Tupac fans, but that coupled with the fact that they also edited Tupac’s lyrics to give ‘shout outs’ to rappers featuring on the album, who he had never met nor knew of, such as Eminem, Obie Trice, and also G-Unit, who many consider as ‘fake thug rappers’, was just not acceptable. Tupac is heard to say ‘G-Unit in the House’, ‘and ma nigga Obie’, and his fans felt that he would have never featured with these artists as they disrespected what he stood for in his life. In the eyes of loyal Tupac fans it was bad enough that these ‘fake’ and denounced ‘non-gangster’ artists were appearing on a Tupac album, but the fact that his vocals had been changed to fit with Eminem’s beats, and ‘cut and pasted’ to give shout out to the artists on Eminems record label as if he was still with us, was just too much. Various online petitions to get Eminem of the project and for him to stop messing with his lyrics were posted online and sent to Amaru Records, to let them know that people would not be buying this album in the force they have previously.
Despite its weak reviews, the Eminem produced 2pac album ‘Loyal to the Game’ still debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, perhaps proving that Tupac and Eminem fans are loyal to the name, as the album sold over 300,000 copies in its first week. ‘Loyal to the Game’ then fell to No. 13 in the chart with sales of 219,000 copies in its second week. Due to the albums first week sales it was soon certified as gold status.
Due to the Tupac loyalists protests against the Loyal To The Game album, Amaru knew they had to change their approach on the next posthumus release, in order to keep loyal Tupac fans happy, and in order to attract a new generation of Tupac listeners. Tupac’s loyal fans pushed for more “Original” recordings to be used in their true form instead of been remixed, for none of Tupac’s recorded lyrics to be edited, and for artists and producers Tupac would of worked with himslef, to work on the album. But on the flipside, the charts listenrs demanded remixes suitable for the ears of todays market, and in order for the album to be successfull it needed to meet demands of the chart, but also needed the massive sales that come from oldskool 2pac fans.
Amaru decided to try to meet both demands the best they could with November 2006’s release of “PAC’S LIFE“, the sixth posthumously released studio album. It featured more of the artists Tupac worked with during his life, and also artists artists from todays Hip Hop world. Artists like Krayzie Bone of the group Bone Thugs n Harmony, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Big Syke, and The Outlawz, and also the return of Hussein Fatal to a Tupac album met the demands of the Tupac loyalists. And with artists like Chamillionaire, Ashanti, T.I., Ludacris, Young Buck, Papoose and Keisha Cole joining the roster that helped Amaru cater for todays market too. They also pleased loyal Tupac fans by the wise decision to include an original, untouched, and un-edited recording of Tupac’s, in the form of “Soon As I Come Home” featuring Yaki Kadafi of Tupac’s group The Outlawz. The album had chart power, and appealed to the oldskool Tupac fans and this showed in the charts.
The most successful single from the album took the same title of the album, Pac’s Life. It was produced by L.T. Hutton, with guest appearances from R&B singer Ashanti and south side rapper T.I.. The second 2Pac verse was recycled from a song titled “This Life I Lead” which was released as part of the Better Dayz album from 2002. T.I. said during an interview that working on a Tupac song was an honor, as he idolized him while growing up. The single peaked at #4 on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Singles in the December 2, 2006 issue of Billboard magazine. On MTV Australia, “Pac’s Life peaked number 1 spot on the “Hip Hop Countdown”, beating new releases from Jay-Z, Eminem & 50 Cent, and Nas. The track samples Prince “Pop Life”, and the original version (how Tupac recorded it) features the first 2pac verse and then 2pac singing the hook. This original version is only 1:34 long and many have speculated that it might have been cut off when it was initially leaked. The video to the tracks made its world premiere on the BET music network in the United States on November 22, 2006. The video was featured on BET’s Access Granted, where viewers saw the process of filming the video for “Pac’s Life”. Both T.I. and Ashanti were featured on the long awaited Tupac video, which was filmed at the Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts, in Atlanta. The video premiered on MTV on November 28, 2006.
Aswell as these releases during his life and after his death, Tupac appeared on many compilations, mixtapes and soundtracks, including the soundtrack to ‘Above The Rim’ and on fellow artists albums such as DoggPounds ‘2002’ album. And we still have not reached the end of his unreleased original recordings so we can yet look forward to another, and another, and more releases from Tupac on Amaru Records.
FINAL THOUGHT: Love or hate Tupac it’s always sad when one so young and talented who changed the world is killed in such ways, or as he called it “the death of a true thug.” Those who knew him would have known the lighter side of his divided soul, his caring side, which is also expressed through many of his songs. He was a world class poet and speaker, accomplished actor, and sold has now sold more than 70 million records. He gave us so much by the age of just 25, we can only imagine what he would have acheived if he had more time. One thing we can say is that he gave it his all……R.I.P. Tupac Amaru Shakur
“I believe that everything you do bad comes back to you. So everything that I do that’s bad, I’m going to suffer for it. But in my heart, I believe what I’m doing is right. So i feel like I’m going to heaven“
” I aint scared of dying ‘cos there has to be a place better than this in heaven” — “my only fear of death is reincarnation.”
Composed by HitEmUpRobbo of RapCentral/HipHopDOA.com
© 2001-2006 HipHopDOA.com
Last Updated on: 7/Jan/06