Tupac Shakur Biography

Shortly after 25-year-old gangsta rapper Tupac Shakur was shot multiple times on September 7, 1996, Sgt. Chuck Cassell of the Las Vegas Metro Police Department's gang unit commented, "In my opinion, it was a black gang-related and probably a Blood-Crips thing. Look at [Shakur's] tattoos and album covers-that's not the Jackson 5 ... it looks like a case of live by the sword, die by the sword." Shakur's death six days later marked the inevitably violent conclusion to an all-too brief life filled with contradictions and almost unlimited promise. Tupac Shakur was born into revolution. His mother, Afeni, was 22 when she joined the New York Black Panther party in September 1968. With then husband Lumumba Abdul Shakur and 19 other New York Panthers, Afeni was arrested in April 1969 and charged with multiple felonies including conspiracy to bomb public places in New York City. While out on bail she began dating two men: Billy Garland, a fellow- member of the Panthers, and "Legs," a local low-level gangster. Afeni's bail was revoked in February 1971 and the now-pregnant revolution - ary was placed in the Women's House of Detention in Greenwich Village to await trial along with the other "New York Panther 21." In May 1971, the Panthers were acquitted of all charges. Afeni gave birth to a young son of undetermined parentage on June 16, 1971 in New York University Hospital. Named Tupac Amaru ("shining serpent") after an Inca chief, and surnamed Shakur (Arabic for "thankful to God"), the future rap star (with mother Afeni and younger half-sister Sekyiwa) spent the first 12 years of his life shuttled between homeless shelters and the residences of friends and relatives in the Bronx and Harlem. Billy Garland, generally believed to be Tupac's biological father, saw his son occasionally until the boy turned five. The two would not be reunited until 1992 after Garland recognized Tupac in the poster for the film, Juice. In 1983, Legs began living with the Shakur family and quickly got Afeni addicted to crack. The woman spent much of the 1980s dealing with her addiction while attempting to raise two young children. Tupac, longing for the stabilizing influence of a man in the family, assumed the drug dealer was his father and later bragged the "thug" in him came from Legs. The man was imprisoned for credit card fraud in the mid–1980s and died of a crack-induced heart attack. In September 1983, Afeni enrolled her 12-year-old son in the 127th Street Ensemble, a Harlem theatre group. Tupac earned a role in the play, A Raisin in the Sun, and the experience instinctively taught the youngster that a world existed outside the ghetto that he was talented enough to one day enter. In September 1986, the Shakur family moved to Baltimore, an experience that fundamentally changed Tupac's life. The 15 year old was accepted into the Baltimore School for the Arts where he flourished in an intellectual and creative environment that gave free vent to his creativity. Tupac excelled in ballet, acting, and began writing poetry and rapping. In later life, the rapper pointed to his time at the school as his salvation just as he identified being forced to leave this nurturing environment as the beginning of his trouble with the law. Tupac was 17 when his family moved to Marin City, California in June 1988. Instead of being exposed to the arts, he argued with his mother, dropped out of Talmapais High School, left home, and was on the streets peddling crack and crashing with friends. Although living the "thug life," Tupac continued to write poetry about the things he knew best-hustling and the feelings of misery and desperation which are a day-to-day fact of ghetto life. In 1989, Tupac's professional music career began when he was introduced to Shock- G (Greg Jacobs), leader of the Bay Area rap group Digital Underground. The next year, he toured with the group as a combination roadie and secondary rapper-dancer and debuted on the 1990 DU collection, This Is an EP Release, and the album, Sons of the P (1991). While on tour, Tupac worked on his own material and was devastated to learn his mother was once again abusing crack cocaine. On November 12, 1991, Shakur released his debut album on Interscope, 2Pacalypse Now, containing the hit single "Brenda's Got a Baby." At 20, 2Pac was already an angry young man and the album's uncompromising lyrics about ghetto life soon came to the attention of moral watchdogs like Vice President Dan Quayle, who singled out the album during a re-election year as an example of the breakdown of family values in the recording industry. Interscope ignored Quayle's demand that the album be removed from store shelves. On the heels of 2Pac's gold album, his movie debut, Juice, was released on January 17, 1992. Directed by Ernest Dickerson, the film attempted to dis - play violent hip-hop culture and featured the rapper as the gangsta "Bishop." As 2Pac's public profile increased so did his numerous brushes with the law that in the world of gangsta rap translated directly into "street cred." In November 1991, he filed a $10 million suit against Oakland police for allegedly roughing him up following an arrest for jaywalking. The following April, 2Pac again made headlines when the attorney for 19-year-old Ronald Hay Howard, claimed his client was incited to kill a Texas State Trooper after listening to the violent lyrics in 2Pacalypse Now. The troop - er's widow filed a multimillion dollar suit against the rapper, Interscope, and then-parent company Time Warner claiming the lyrics influenced the killer. 2Pac's claim to notoriety, however, stemmed directly from the tragedy that occurred on August 22, 1992 in Marin City, California, during a 50th anniversary celebration of the city's ghetto area, the Jungle. An altercation between 2Pac's crew and old acquaintances resulted in an exchange of gunfire that left a six-year-old boy dead. The fatal bullet was traced back to a gun owned by the rapper's half-brother, Maurice "Mopreme" Harding, who was arrested, but later released due to lack of evidence. No charges were filed in the incident, but a civil suit filed by the dead boy's family against 2Pac and Interscope was settled out of court for an estimated $500,000. 2Pac's second album, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z., released on February 1, 1993, went platinum largely on the strength of the single and video for "Keep Ya Head Up," his tribute to black women. Chided by relatives for being "pretty" as a child, the adult 2Pac was at 5' 8", 150 pounds a charismatic figure whose good looks, intelligence, and sensitivity many women found irresistible. However, the gangsta rapper continued to demonstrate a disturbingly violent aspect to his personality. In March 1993, 2Pac was arrested in Hollywood for fighting a limo driver who accused him of doing drugs in the car. The charges were dropped. On April 5, 1993, he was arrested in Lansing, Michigan, for swinging a baseball bat at a local rapper. He served ten days in jail, but was out in time for the July 23, 1993, release of his second film, director John Singleton's Poetic Justice starring Janet Jackson. The movie bombed, and is memorable only for the controversy caused during its production when the pop diva demanded 2Pac take an HIV test prior to the filming of their kissing scenes. On November 18, 1993, 2Pac and three of his crew were arrested in New York City and charged with the sodomy and sexual abuse of a 19-yearold woman he had picked up four days earlier at Nell's, a jumping nightspot in downtown's Chelsea district. Released on bond, 2Pac was in the studio working on tracks for his third album, when an earlier beat-down of director Allan Hughes precipitated by the filmmaker's dropping of the rapper from his film, Menace II Society, netted him 15 days in an L.A. jail beginning on March 10, 1994. Meanwhile, the negative pub - licity generated by his arrest on sex charges forced director John Singleton to bow to pressure from Columbia Pictures to drop the rapper from his next film, Higher Learning. Less than two weeks later, 2Pac's third film was released, Above the Rim, in which he played the role of "Birdie," a troubled drug dealer. Shortly after midnight on November 30, 1994, one day after a jury began deliberations in his sexual abuse trial, the 23-year-old rapper was shot five times while attempting to resist a robbery in the lobby of the building housing Quad Recording Studios in downtown Manhattan. 2Pac, in the company of his manager Freddie Moore and friend Randy "Big Stretch" Walker (see entry Big Stretch), refused the gunmen's demands to give up his jewelry and in the ensuing scuffle the rapper was shot in the hand, head, and groin. Moore was also wounded, but Big Stretch Walker was unhurt in the attack. The gunmen escaped with 2Pac's large diamond ring and gold chains valued at $45,000. 2Pac, despite a police report finding the crime was random, believed he had been the target of a planned attack engineered by people he refused to identify to police. The rapper underwent emergency surgery at Bellevue Hospital and, fearful the hired gunmen would finish the job, checked out of the facility against medical advice three hours later. 2Pac narrowly missed being killed and lost a testicle in the attack. Days later, 2Pac was not in the courtroom as he and another defendant, were found guilty on three counts of sexual abuse, i.e. they had groped and touched the woman without her consent. At his sentencing on February 7, 1995, the rapper wept and apologized to the woman and to the youth of America "for falsely representing them." He was sentenced to a maximum prison term of four years of which he had to serve only 18 months before being considered for parole. In the penitentiary, he renounced the "Thug Life" stating that others must now carry the torch for the gangsta lifestyle. Me Against the World, released on April 1, 1995, while 2Pac was in prison, presented the rapper at his most introspective and many critics cite the album which contained the hit single, "Dear Mama," as the foundation of his cult-like veneration in the hip-hop community. The LP went double platinum in seven months fueled by the street cred generated by his numerous prosecutions. As the album topped the charts, 2Pac unexpectedly married his longtime girlfriend Keisha Morris in a ceremony in New York's Clinton Correctional Facility (the marriage was annulled shortly after he signed with Death Row Records). Not long afterward, the rapper was confined to his cell for two months after guards smelled marijuana and he failed a drug test. In a prison interview, 2Pac broke his silence about who he believed was behind the near fatal ambush in the lobby of the Quad Recording Studios fingering Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs, CEO of Bad Boy Entertainment, and his top rapper Notorious B.I.G. entry), and Andre Harrell, CEO of Uptown Records, all present upstairs in the recording studio when the robbery occurred. Also implicated by 2Pac was his close friend and fellow-rapper, Randy (Big Stretch) Walker, who was unharmed in the attack. All the men vehemently denied any involvement in the incident. During 2Pac's incarceration in the New York state correctional system, his attorneys worked tirelessly to secure his freedom on bond pending appeal of his sex abuse conviction. On October 12, 1995, eight months into his sentence, 2Pac was released from the Clinton State Prison in Dannemora after Marion "Suge" Knight, the 30-year-old CEO of L.A.–based Death Row Records, posted a $1.4 million bond. By the evening of the same day, the rapper had flown to L.A., signed a contract with Death Row (home of Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg), and began recording his next album, All Eyez on Me. Backed by the premier standing of Death Row Records within the world of gangsta rap, 2Pac's allegations against the East Coast faction of the industry (Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs" and the Notorious B.I.G.) were voiced in inflammatory interviews, rap songs, and music videos. The escalating accusations and counter-accusations fly - ing between the two armed camps fanned the flames of the so-called "East Coast–West Coast" rap war that would leave a trail of bodies in its wake. Among the first to die was 2Pac's former friend, Randy (Big Stretch) Walker. On No vem - ber 30, 1995, one year and five minutes to the day of the attack on 2Pac, Big Stretch was gunned down in a drive-by execution in Queens. As of 2007, a suspect in prison on another murder has since been implicated in Walker's death. If the man's story is proven true at trial, the rapper's murder was a remarkably coincidental case of mistaken identity that would clear 2Pac of any involvement. At the time of Walker's murder, 2Pac had "no comment." The war of words between 2Pac and rap's East Coast faction escalated in 1996. In his single "Hit 'Em Up," 2Pac raps he slept with the Notorious B.I.G.'s wife, Faith Evans, with whom he worked on his single, "Wonder Why They Call U Bitch." Evans denied the claim. On February 13, 1996, 2Pac released his first Death Row album, All Eyez on Me, which debuted at Number 1 on the Billboard Top 200 chart and went quintuple platinum. Rap's first double CD of all original material, the 23 songs ("California Love," "How Do U Want It," "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted") were a declaration of the gangsta lifestyle which 2Pac had repudiated from his prison cell in early 1995. As MTV kept the East Coast–West Coast feud on the front burner with heavy rotation play of videos featur - ing 2Pac (with Snoop Dogg) and the Notorious B.I.G. in a dueling war of words, behind the scenes tensions were rising between the two camps. On March 29, 1996, an angry exchange of words between Bad Boy and Death Row personnel led to drawn guns after the Soul Train award show in Los Angeles. At the MTV Video Music Awards show at New York City's Radio City Music Hall on September 4, 1996, 2Pac and his entourage scuffled backstage with six other men. Three days after the incident, September 7, 1996, 2Pac and "Suge" Knight, 31, were ringside at the Mike Tyson–Bruce Selden heavyweight fight at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. The fight lasted 109 seconds with "Iron Mike" destroying the hapless Selden. Around 8:39 P.M. as 2Pac was leaving the event with his Death Row entourage, he got into an argument with Orlando "Lando" Anderson, a 22-year-old known member of the Crips L.A. street gang, which quickly escalated into a fight. An MGM Grand security camera captured images of 2Pac and his bodyguards knocking Anderson to the floor and kicking him. The altercation was broken up by casino security and 2Pac and Knight left the facility at around 8:55 P.M. After a brief stop at the Luxor Hotel for an unknown reason, 2Pac and Knight drove to the home of the Death Row Records executive in southeast Las Vegas to change clothes. Ironically given 2Pac's recent past, he was scheduled to attend a highly publicized anti-gang youth event sponsored by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department at Club 662, a nightspot owned by Knight located at 1700 E. Flamingo Road. On a telephone key pad, the club's name "662" spells out "MOB," reputedly standing for "Members of Bloods," a street gang to which "Suge" Knight was allegedly affiliated. Knight, with 2Pac in the passenger seat next to him, was at the lead of a ten car convoy of Death Row employees and friends en route to the club when he stopped his black BMW 750 at a red light on East Flamingo Road in front of the Maxim Hotel about 11:15 P.M. According to witnesses, a white, four-door late model Cadillac with California plates containing four people pulled up to the passenger side of the BMW. One man pulled a Glock and sprayed the car with an estimated 13 shots. 2Pac, uncustomarily not wearing a bulletproof vest, was struck twice in the chest, and once in the hand and leg. Bullet fragments grazed the top of Knight's head. The Cadillac sped off as Knight instinctively Uturned against oncoming traffic away from the scene of the attack. Police, responding to the sound of gunshots, stopped Knight's bullet-riddled car at the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Harmon Avenue. An ambulance transported Knight and the badly wounded rapper to the University of Nevada Medical Center where he was listed in critical condition. Knight, sustaining only a minor head wound, was treated and immed - iately released. Over the next couple of days, the 25-year-old underwent two operations, one of which removed his lung, to stop the internal bleeding. In a bid to relieve the pressure on his struggling constitution, doctors induced a medical coma and placed 2Pac on a respirator. Four days after the attempt on 2Pac's life, a suspected member of the Southside Crips street gang was shot to death in his car in Los Angeles reportedly as payback. On September 13, 1996, six days after the deadly attack, 2Pac passed away at approximately 4:03 P.M. from what doctors listed as respiratory failure and cardiopulmonary arrest. In accordance with his family's wishes, the rapper's body was cremated and private services were conducted the next day in Las Vegas. In early November 1997, Yafeu "Yak" Fula, known as Kadafi in 2Pac's backup group The Outlawz, was shot executionstyle in a housing project in Irvington, New Jersey, and died in a hospital in Orange. At the time of 2Pac's shooting, the 19-year-old was in a car behind the rapper's and was the only witness to tell police he could possibly identify the gunman. 2Pac's album, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, was released eight weeks after his death under his pseudonym of Makaveli. Amid claims of crass exploitation, the Death Row production sold 600,000 copies in its first week. Also posthumously released in 1997 were three motion pictures the rapper had completed at the time of his death: Bullet, Gridlock'd, and Gang Related. The Notorious B.I.G. was shot to death in an eerily similar drive-by shooting in Los Angeles on March 9, 1997, roughly six months after 2Pac's murder. Speculation continues as to whether the hit on Biggie was in retaliation for 2Pac's murder. To date, no arrests have been made in either homicide while both martyred men have since achieved iconic status in the world of gangsta rap.

Tags: USA, Rapper, 1970-1979