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Tupac Shakur (1971-1996)

Eight years after his death, acclaimed rapper, Tupac Shakur, continues to loom large as a source of influence and inspiration in the music industry.

Remarkably, new Tupac albums continue to be released after his death, serving credit to Tupac’s prolific writing and recording materials.  The new Tupac CD, 2Pac Legacy, will be the seventh album of lost material released since his shooting death in September of 1996.  Tupac had released just four solo albums during his lifetime.  Spokespeople for both Interscope Records and Tupac’s mother, Afeni Shakur, confirmed that future releases are on the horizon featuring a new batch of the rapper’s previously unreleased verses put to beats by some of today’s big hip-hop producers, including Eminem.

The rapid rise and fall of Tupac remains one of the most enigmatic stories in rap musical history.  Born into poverty in New York City to Afeni Shakur in 1971, Tupac had always been associated with the Black Panthers, whom his mother was associated with.  This undoubtedly provided the basis of his perspective on black unity and pride, and racial equality, which shines through on his albums.

Tupac bounced around along the East, in New York City and Baltimore, before moving to Marin County, California when he was 17.  Here, Tupac made friends who helped spark his interest in rap music.  He made friends with Ray Luv, and together they started a rap group called Strictly Dope. Their neighborhood shows brought Tupac enough acclaim to land an audition with Shock G. of Digital Underground.  In 1990 Shakur joined Digital Underground although it wasn’t until he became a solo artist, when he became more recognized.

In late 1991, a 20-year old Shakur rose to stardom with his acclaimed album 2Pacalypse Now, which showcased his individual talent.  Tupac drew critical acclaim for his ability to mix tracks with powerful individual messages exemplifying respect for single black mothers such as Brenda’s got a Baby and Single Black Mutha.  Many of the songs dealt with the issues of racism and life in the ghetto. 

He followed his debut record with 1993’s Strictly For My Niggaz, 1994’s Thug Life: Volume 1, and 1995’s Me Against The WorldMe Against The World, was released while Tupac was in prison –Shakur has the distinction of being the only artist with an album at #1 on the charts while serving a prison sentence.  Shakur was serving a prison sentence for sexually abusing a woman, a charge he vehemently denied.  Following his release from prison, Tupac recorded All Eyez on Me in 1996.  This album was Tupac’s most economically and critically successful release, as the album went multi-platinum (selling over 9-million copies), and hailed as one of the greatest rap albums ever recorded.       

On top of being an accomplished musician, Tupac Shakur, had entered the world of acting, and was drawing attention to his remarkable dramatic talents.  His filmography includes the acclaimed movie Juice (1992), Poetic Justice (1993), Above The Rim (1994) and GridLocked (1997). 

Tupac was known not only for his musical talents, but on his activities out of the recording stage and off the stage.  Poignantly outspoken, egotistical, and a violent streak were all characteristics of his personality.  He had earlier run-ins with police, with whom he expressed a fiery hatred for, when he was younger.  His stepfather had been a drug dealer, and on the FBI’s top 10 most wanted list – and was arrested in 1998 for armed robbery.  Tupac had altercations with the police in 1991, when he was beaten after protesting an arrest.  In  1993, Shakur got into a fight with two off-duty police officers whom he perceived as harassing a black motorist on the side of the road in Atlanta.  Both officers were uncritically shot and Tupac faced serious charges until it was discovered that both officers were intoxicated during the incident and were using weapons stolen out of an evidence locker. The charges against Shakur were dismissed.  In early 1995, Tupac was charged with sexually abusing a fan and sentence to prison, despite vehemently denying any wrong-doing.       

But perhaps most famous, was Tupac’s rivalry with New York’s rapper, Notorious B.I.G., and his Bad Boy Crew.  Shortly before his 1995 verdict on his pending sexual assault case, Shakur was shot and robbed in New York.  Tupac blamed Biggie for the incident and vowed to get revenge.  1n 1996, Shakur was fatally shot in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada.  He died in the University of Nevada Hospital six days later from the four gunshot wounds.  It was reputed that this was act from his rival East Coast rappers (namely Notorious B.I.G.).  The Notorious B.I.G. would be murdered a month later.