On June 16, 1971 Tupac Amaru Shakur was born in Brooklyn New York to a single mother, Afeni Shakur. In Cathy Scott’s article from the magazine George, she talks about Shakur starting to use poetry to escape the many troubles of New York’s tough streets (Scott 106). After time, he started changing his poems into songs. He had many things to talk about in his writings and songs. He moved all around as a child and had problems coming to the reality that he had no father.
Shakur had many dreams for himself, including becoming an actor. Ronin Ro quoted him in his biography of Shakur, “The reason why I could get into acting was because it takes nothing to get out of who I am and go into somebody else.” He got his first role at the age of 12 after his mom enrolled him in the 127th Street Ensemble (Ro). Shakur played the roll of Travis in the play A Raisin in the Sun.
When he started rapping at the age of fifteen he portrayed himself as a tough guy using the name MC New York (Ro). Soon after this he enrolled in the Baltimore School for the Arts. This was when he realized he really wanted to be an artist (Ro).
Shakur started in the music industry in the late eighties when he teamed up with other Oakland-based rappers to start the group Digital Underground (Ro). This lasted until 1992 when he split from Digital Underground and released his first solo album. (Ro). In the same year he starred in his first movie, Juice (Ro). At this point, his career was starting to take off. The following year he came out with his second album along with another movie titled Political Justice, also staring Janet Jackson.
Shakur’s life was beginning to have run-ins with the law. In November of 1994 Shakur was shot five times while being robbed of jewelry valued at $40,000 (Ro). One of these shots hit him in his head, but the next day he checked himself out of the hospital against doctor’s orders. The same day he was found guilty of sexual assault. Shakur was convinced that rappers Biggie Smalls and Sean “Puffy” Combs were involved in the shooting, since it happened in the lobby of a building in which Shakur was entering to meet with Smalls and Combs. This started the East Coast and West Coast rivalry. Police closed the case after Shakur gave little cooperation.
While in jail for sexual assault charges, Suge Knight, head of Death Row Records arranged parole for the rapper and posted Shakur’s bond of $1.4 million. For this Shakur signed onto Knight’s controversial, but very successful label. Shakur’s first album with Death Row was a double disk and it sold nearly three million copies. This was the final album released by Shakur while alive.
On September 7, 1996 Shakur was gunned down after leaving a Tyson boxing fight in Las Vegas. He suffered four shots to the chest and was hospitalized. He died on September 13, 1996 at the age of 25. Shakur’s murderer was never found. Only one witness came forward although Shakur was traveling with an entourage of over fifty people. This witness said he could identify the shooter but was murdered two months after Shakur’s death, before doing so. This left police with no clues and the case went unsolved.
Almost six months to the day after Shakur’s shooting, his rival Biggie Smalls was shot seven times in the chest and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital. He was murdered the same way that Shakur was. A car pulled up next to him in the passenger seat and the driver of the car shot him. Small’s death also went unsolved. Smalls and Shakur had been best friends at one time, but the business had ruined their friendship and as said before, the East Coast and West Coast rivalry started because of these two. At the time before their deaths they were the two biggest rap artists in the business and still are major influences today.
While Shakur was alive, he produced five albums and stared in six movies along with being an accomplished poet. Since the time of his death, 13 Shakur albums have been released, including his most recent: “Until the End of Time”, which became number one on the charts and sold 427,000 copies after the first week. All but one of these albums included all unreleased tracks. A compilation of all of his poetry was published since his death called The Rose that Grew from Concrete. Many people believe that because of his work that has been released since his death, he may still be alive today. His mother won all of the rights to his estate, which included what is said to be over 700 unreleased songs.
It is remarkable that Shakur accomplished what he did during his life, but what is more remarkable is the impact he still has in the rap industry today. He is regarded as the best rap artist that ever lived by people in the music industry and by fans. He was truly a brilliant artist and it is very apparent in his music. Shakur always told things how he saw them, leaving nothing unsaid.
Shakur had predicted that he would die by the sword before the age of 30 (Ro). He predicted his own death many times in his songs and on the cover of his album Makaveli was a picture of himself nailed to a cross with a crown of thorns on his head like Jesus. The day Shakur died, his music video for “I ain’t Mad at Cha” debuted on MTV for the first time. In this video, Shakur is pictured as a ghostly figure as if he had died and come back to tell his friend he was not mad at him for the things he did. This started the conspiracy theories that Shakur had staged his own death. There was good evidence to this, since Shakur had adopted the name of Makaveli for his latest album at the time that was released just after his death. Makaveli was an Italian war strategist who faked his own death to fool enemies (Scott 106).
Shakur died at a very young age of 25. We can only imagine what else he could have given us if only his life would not have ended so tragically. He had become well known in two different aspects of the entertainment business including both music and films. He had accomplished his childhood dream of becoming an actor and had gotten good reviews from critics and directors of the films he starred in.
While researching for this paper I found many interviews with Shakur. In an audio interview I found on Napster, Shakur was asked the question by a reporter: “Is there a point yet where you’re deciding where you’re going to go because you simply have a career in two worlds? I am wondering how difficult it is to keep that going.”
Shakur responded to this saying:
“Its difficult, but I don’t want to quit. I don’t want to separate either. I want to keep them part of one talent, that’s just to survive, you know. So if I can do movies, if I can do television, whatever I can do…if I can be a plumber to advance myself to get where I want to go that’s what I’m going to do, so that’s all this movie was and hopefully the future will have a lot more bigger and better things for me to do.”
Shakur received much controversy about his music. He was taken to court on two different cases with wrongful death suits. In the interview he addressed these issues saying, “I’m honored if my music can move anybody, either way really. That’s like play writing, but what bothered me was that the vice president was on television saying my record needs to be snatched of the shelves.” He understood that people listened to what he was saying in his songs, but he did not care whether they liked it at all. If people were listening to his music in the first place, he had succeeded as a musician in his own mind.
Shakur was not just a rapper, actor and poet. He was an artist. He understood that people were out to get him but he just kept on doing the things that he wanted to and that he felt were right. He held nothing back in his songs and was not afraid to tackle any type of role in movies. Since a child he had a dream of one day growing out of the poverty he grew up in and to become somebody who could change others’ lives. That is what a true artist is.
The most amazing thing about Shakur is not so much what he did while he was alive, but what he has done since his death. He knew his life could end early for the things he said and did. People say that music lives forever and he knew this to be true so he worked as hard as he could while he was living. Because of this hard work he left behind over 700 unreleased tracks. Since his death he has had eight albums reach the Billboard 200 and five of them went platinum and reached the top 10 on the charts. He has had several albums put out since his death that reached multiple platinum status. He has made a lasting impression on people who listen to his music and by doing that he was successful at what he did and still is to this day. Although he was murdered he will live on through his music for generations and generations to come.