Selling more than 75 million records world-wide in his all-too-short career, the legend that is Tupac Shakur continues to live on today. 2Pac became the unlikely martyr of gangsta rap when he died on September 13, 2006, six days after being shot during a drive-by shooting.
2pac’s young life and career began in relatively normal fashion. He did well in school, stayed out of trouble and was interested in acting, music and entertainment. Before he could graduate from high school, Shakur’s family moved to Marin City, CA, when he was 17 years old. Over the next few years, 2pac lived on the streets and began hustling. Eventually, he met Shock-G, the leader of Digital Underground. The Oakland-based crew decided to hire him as a dancer and roadie, and as he toured with the group, he worked on his own material.
At the onset of his career, it didn’t appear that he would emerge as one of the definitive rappers of the ’90s — he started out as a second-string rapper and dancer for Digital Underground, joining only after they had already landed their biggest hit. 2Pac made his first recorded appearance on the group’s spring 1991 record, This Is an EP Release, and he also appeared on their second album, Sons of the P. The following year, he released his own debut, 2Pacalypse Now. The album became a word-of-mouth hit, as “Brenda’s Got a Baby” reached the R&B Top 30 and the record went gold.
His escalating outlaw reputation helped his 1995 album Me Against the World enter the charts at number one, and it also opened him up to charges of exploitation. Signing with Death Row Records in late 1995, 2Pac released the double-album All Eyez on Me in the spring of 1996, and the record, as well as its hit single “California Love,” confirmed his superstar status.
Although Shakur was selling records and earning praise for his music and acting, he began having serious altercations with the law (prior to becoming a recording artist, he had no police record). He was arrested in 1992 after he was involved in a fight that culminated with a stray bullet killing a six-year-old bystander; the charges were later dismissed. 2Pac was filming Menace II Society in the summer of 1993 when he assaulted director Allen Hughes; he was sentenced to 15 days in jail in early 1994.
2pac was shot just after seeing the Mike Tyson-Bruce Seldon fight at the MGM Grand. As he was leaving the hotel, 2Pac got into a fight with an unnamed young black man. It has been suggested that this was the cause of the drive-by shooting, and it has also been suggested that Knight’s ties to the mob and to gangs were the reason; another theory is that the Notorious B.I.G. arranged the shooting as retaliation for 2Pac’s comments that he slept with Biggie’s wife, Faith Evans. Either way, Shakur was shot four times and was admitted to University of Nevada Medical Center. He died six days later.
The music of 2pac continues to live on today. He is remembered as a true innovator, who would stop at nothing to get his views heard and his message across.