In much the same fashion that Kurt Cobain defined the alternative rock music scene, Tupac Shakur defined the hip-hop scene as we know it today. What made Tupac (also known as 2pac) so special was his enormous talent, his on-screen friendly looks, and the sense that he was ‘real’ and talked the talk, while walking the walk. Since his death, there’s been a deluge of speculation on who and why, and even if, but unfortunately still no concrete answers exist for any of these questions.
Born June 16, 1971, Tupac Amaru Shakur, who was named after Tupac Amaru, the Inca Indian that was sentenced to death by the Spaniards, was originally a newborn from Brooklyn, New York. He later was transplanted and grew most of his childhood moving from inner-city town to town. The son of Black Panther political activists Afeni Shakur and Billy Garland (who was Tupac’s ‘deadbeat dad’ and recently lost a judgment to be included in his estate), Tupac was moved from Harlem, Baltimore, and Oakland.
The constant moving caused Tupac to try to fit into his new communities by joining gangs, and his lengthy rap-sheet was created even before his prolific entry into music and film, where he was arrested eight times before even turning 20. Tupac’s first big break came when he joined the group Digital Underground as a dancer and roadie. During that time, Tupac spent much of it composing his own poetry and lyrics to launch his own career, and in 1991 he signed with Interscope and a year later released his first album, 2Pacalypse Now, which immediately landed him into gangsta rap stardom.
Also that year he starred in Juice with Omar Epps and Samuel L. Jackson. It was the beginning and too early of an ending to a bright acting career which he also landed other urban and African American oriented films such as Poetic Justice (1993), Above the Rim (1994), Bullet (1996), and Gridlock’d (1996). His main notoriety though was through music, and he followed up his successful debut with Strictly 4 My N. I. G. G. A. Z. in 1993, which also was a crossover pop success. In 1995 he released Me Against the World and his last living album release came with All Eyez on Me in 1996.
Shakur’s post-celebrity run-ins with the law were almost as frequent as when he was growing up. In 1992 he was arrested when a stray bullet killed a 6 year old child during a scuffle between Shakur and two others, though later charges against Shakur were dropped. In 1993 Tupac was arrested for allegedly shooting 2 off-duty Butts County Atlanta police officers who were harassing a black motorist, but the charges were again dropped. Ironically, one of the Butts County officers was shot in the ass, and in 1998 Deputy Scott Whitwell won a $210,000 lawsuit for the incident.
Then, that same year, Tupac was accused of sexual abuse against a 19 year old woman in a New York City luxury hotel. Shakur’s legal troubles continued in 1994 when he punched out Menace II Society codirector Allen Hughes and served a 15 day jail sentence for his actions. The sexual charge came to haunt Shakur in that 1994 as he was convicted and sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison, and to add insult to injury, Shakur was shot 5 times and robbed of his jewelry the same day, a mugging that Shakur later claimed came from the Notorious B. I. G. s responsible for hiring those who shot him and it intensified the East Coast vs West Coast gangsta animosity.
After going to serve his sentence, Tupac’s Me Against the World and its hit Dear Moma was released, and later his soon to be new Death Row Records Label and its CEO Marion “Suge” Knight posted $1. 4 million in bail to get Tupac out of prison. Immediately he flew off to LA to record his fourth album and in an apparent attempt to further enrage Biggie Smalls, said he had slept with the rapper’s wife, Faith Evans (which she denied).
He also dated actress Jada Pinkett and was briefly married to Keisha Morris, though it ended in annulment. Tupac added more fuel to the Bad Boy vs. Death Row feud when he released videos 2 of Americaz Most Wanted (with Snoop) and later Hit ‘Em Up, both of which assassinated the character of Bad Boy, Biggie, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Mobb Deep, and others on the label. He returned to New York in 1996 just three days before he was shot and got in a fight at the MTV Video Awards.
His troubles in Las Vegas would turn out to be his last, as after attending a heavyweight boxing match between Mike Tyson and Bruce Seldon, Shakur and Knight got in a scuffle outside of the MGM Grand Hotel with Orlando Anderson (who was later murdered himself). Many speculate what happened afterwards was revenge for what had just happened, as a white Cadillac with four people inside pulled alongside the car Suge was driving at an intersection and one person opened fire.
Tupac was shot 4 times, Suge escaped with minor injuries. Six days later, Tupac, in a medical coma, was pronounced dead. His body was later cremated. What followed Tupac’s death were and continue to be a string of lawsuits. His mother won the rights from Death Row Records to the unreleased music that Tupac created and it is said there is enough material to do 10 albums. The lawyers for the late Orlando Anderson sued Tupac for $78,000 while Tupac’s mother Afeni filed a wrongful death suit against Anderson.
There was no love between Afeni and Tupac’s record label either, as she not only sued and won the rights to her son’s music, but she claims Death Row failed to pay royalties due to Tupac and that when he died he only had about $150,000 to his name and sued the label for over $20 million. The label countered that Tupac owed them $7. 1 million at the time of his death for cars, houses, and jewelry.
In 1997, anti-rap crusader C. Delores Tucker filed a $16. illion lawsuit against Tupac after she suffered “great humiliation, mental pain, and suffering” when Shakur made unkind references to her on his 1996 album All Eyez on Me. Tupac’s estate won a case in 1998 against a woman paralyzed after being shot at a Tupac concert in 1993 where she alleged that he “whipped the crowd into a hysterical frenzy causing a riot-like atmosphere. ” Another ’98 case came from a jeweler which Shakur had custom ordered jewelry from before his death, and after his death R&S Antiques had nobody to pay for the jewelry, thus prompting a $93,000 lawsuit.