Tupac Amaru Shakur aka “2PAC,” who played a key role in the development of hip-hop music, sold over 75 million records, acted in several movies, created many a firestorm and most importantly positioned himself as a voice of social and racial justice, was shot and killed at the age of 25 in a Las Vegas drive-by shooting.
2Pac, Pac, or Makaveli, is a widely respected rap icon, not just in the music industry but in the “world of creatives” for his poetic deliverance of words, wisdom, and outlook on life.
The rawness of his lyrics and the way he rapped resonated with an entire generation and, to this day, his music deeply touches and speaks to people around the world.
Pac became a victim of the world of gangster rap and a tragic symbol, as he was assassinated when he had so much more to share with the world, just like so many others who left us too soon.
Tupac has established himself as one of the definitive rappers of the 90’s era. He started off as a second-string rapper and dancer for Digital Underground and went on to produce and release his debut album “2Pacalypse Now” in 1991.
He quickly became the buzz around town, and soon entered Hollywood with his acclaimed performance as loose and trigger-happy Bishop in the hit movie “Juice,” in 1992.
He rose to stardom within a year but, unfortunately, also started having run-ins with the law. Still, his music career progressed, rivaling Snoop Dogg in 1994 as the most controversial figure in the rap industry due to his serving jail time.
His outlaw antics paved the way for his album “Me Against The World” in 1995. It topped the charts at number one but it also opened him up to heightened contact with the nefarious characters of the streets and the unwritten rules of gang life.
Shakur did have a sensitive side, however, and this is apparent in his lyrics and singles like “Dear Mama.”
Following a prison sentence, Suge Knight, CEO of Death Row Records, bailed Tupac out after nine months in exchange for a three-record deal with him. Tupac released the double-album “All Eyez On Me” in early 1996 and the record, as well as its hit single ‘California Love, ‘ confirmed his unparalleled superstar status.
Unfortunately, the gangster-rapper lifestyle portrayed in his music soon consumed Tupac and endangered his own life.
At the peak of his career, he fought verbally with fellow rapper Notorious B.I.G, and other New York rap affiliates like MOBB DEEP and tensions were also brewing between Pac and his label Death Row Records as well.
The rivalry between East Coast and West Coast hip-hop intensified, and on September 7, 1996, after attending a boxing match at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas and participating in the assault of a well-affiliated gang member, Tupac was shot multiple times in a drive-by. He died in a hospital a few days later on September 13th.
The man born Lesane Parish Crooks in New York City was reborn into a figurehead for the revolution of the oppressed and downtrodden young black males in ghettos across America. His mother fortuitously later gave him the name Tupac Amaru Shakur, after the last Incan revolutionary emperor who defied the Spanish conquistadors.
From the outset, it must be noted that Shakur’s mother and father figure were political revolutionaries. Afeni Shakur birthed her son while incarcerated on Rikers Island for allegedly trying to bomb skyscrapers in New York City. His stepfather, Mutulu Shakur, is still incarcerated from a 60-year sentence stemming from the effects of the FBIs COINTELPRO operation on black revolutionary organizations.
The struggle is intertwined in everything Tupac did, from acting to his now-iconic music. His music is laced with pain. It can be labeled as the major contributor to his often contradictory persona on wax. However, he was just a young man growing extremely rapidly.
Shakur only lived to see four of his now 26 albums released; an amazing accomplishment for someone who only gave the world 25 years old life. As we reflect on his commitment to telling the stories of the disenfranchised in both beautiful and guttural detail, never forget he was born from pain and suffering.
We can only hypothesize that he was sent to effect positive change in the world with his gifts. Even though we have to grapple with the unknown circumstances that took his life, we were left with a virtual soundtrack to instantaneously transport us back to when he had the ability to record his manifestos.