Tupac Shakur (also known by his stage name of 2Pac) was legendary rap and hip-hop musician. He was born in New York City in 1971 to Billy Garland and Afeni Shakur, both activists of a revolutionary black nationalist organization named “Black Panthers”. His name, Tupac Amaru Shakur, means “shining serpent”. His mother was in jail when she was expecting Tupac, but she was later acquitted of all charges. His father was largely absent from his life. He grew up in the Bronx and Harlem, where he faced the grim realities of gang life, violence, drugs and sexual abuse at an early age. He joined a theater company by the name of 127th Street Ensemble, where he learned to act.
He also attended the Baltimore School for the Arts where he learned ballet and other forms of dance. As a teenager, he moved with his family to the West Coast where he joined the hip-hop and rap group Digital Underground. He recorded two albums with them, that is, “This is an E.P.” and “Sons of the P” before leaving the group to go solo. In 1991, he was signed by the label “Interscope Records” and shortly released his debut album “Tupacalypse Now”. Although, it did not make it to the Top 10 charts, it definitely helped him to make his presence felt. In fact, this album has been quoted by many famous rappers to be their inspiration, including Eminem and Nas. The album had a very real, underground feel to it and included the hit single “Brenda’s Got a Baby”.
His second studio album was released in February 1993 and titled “Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.”. The album debuted at number 24 on the Billboard 200 and the deep, meaningful and sometimes excessively profane lyrics were both the subject of praise, as well as controversy. Tupac spoke of his political and social views in his songs, and described the thug life he used to live. The album was commercially successful, and achieved Platinum status. Tupac also formed the group “Thug Life” with some of his friends. The group released one album called “Thug Life: Volume 1” which achieved Gold status. Tupac’s third album, “Me Against The World” became a huge hit and is regarded by some critics as his best work. It sold more than 3.5 million copies in the U.S. and won the award for best rap album at the 1996 Soul Train Music Awards.
Tupac’s fourth studio album, titled “All Eyez on Me” was released in February 1996 by Death Row Records and Interscope Records. This was his best selling album, achieving 9X Platinum status. This was his second album to reach No. 1 on both the Billboard 200 and the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts, and won the 1997 Soul Train “R&B/Soul or Rap Album of the Year Award” as well as the Award for Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Artist at the American Music Awards. His final studio album was called “The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory” and released posthumously under Tupac’s new stage name “Makaveli”. The writing, recording and production of the album took 7 days to complete. In addition to his music career, Tupac appeared in several films such as “Nothing but Trouble”, “Juice”, “Poetic Justice”, “Above the Rim”, “Bullet”, “Gridlock’d” and Gang “Related”.
Tupac was involved in countless legal brawls. East Coast–West Coast hip hop rivalry, becoming involved in conflicts with other rappers, producers and record-label staff members, most notably The Notorious B.I.G. and the label Bad Boy Records. In November 1994, Tupac was himself attacked and shot 5 times at Quad Recording Studios in Manhattan. He underwent surgery and discharged himself three hours later to appear in court for a previous case. The court decided that he was guilty of first degree sexual abuse and sentenced to between 1.5 and 4.5 years in prison. He served his sentence at Clinton Correctional Facility in February 1995, and was in prison when his album “Me Against the World” reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 charts. He was bailed out after 9 months by Suge Knight, the CEO of Death Row Records. On September 7, 1996, Tupac was shot and fatally wounded by a member of a violent gang from California. He died 5 days later and amongst the suspects was Notorious B.I.G., who denied any knowledge of the shooting. Tupac was 25 years old at the time of his death. No arrests were made in the matter due to lack of evidence but in September 2011, Dexter Isaac admitted to the shooting.
Tupac was very well read and enjoyed the works of Niccolò Machiavelli, Sun Tzu, J. D. Salinger, Hermann Hesse, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, and Khalil Gibran, to name a few. His music shows the influence of these authors and his work in turn influenced countless others rappers. He has been included in several all time greatest lists such as Rolling Stone magazine’s named him No. 86 on the “100 Immortal Artists of All Time” list and 69th on the VH1 100 Greatest Artists of All-Time list. Several of his works were released posthumously and also went on to become best sellers. Tupac has album sales in excess of 75 million which make him one of the best-selling music artists of all time. Even almost two decades after his death, he remains one of the most influential and talked about rappers.