Twenty years today, Tupac Shakur died of gun shot wounds at University Medical Center of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas. Only 25, the rapper and actor was fatally shot in a drive-by shooting on September 7, 1996. He lasted six days before succumbing on Sept. 13, 1996.
One of the most gifted rappers, he accomplished so much at a young age. From his upbringing in East Harlem under mother Afeni Shakur who was a Black Panther along with his father Billy Garland, Tupac’s interest in the performance arts resulted in him trying his hand at acting during the second part of his high school career. The family relocated to Baltimore where Shakur attended the Baltimore School For The Arts. There, he studied acting, poetry and jazz.
As a teenager, Tupac began showing off his mic skills by rapping. His undeniable talent helped him win rap contests. Soon, a 17-year old Shakur relocated to California with his family attending another high school in which he participated in several productions. Eventually, he would catch on as a roadie with Digital Underground, fronted by the one and only Humpty Dumpty.
It was there where he began to display his sick flow, performing a verse on “Same Song” which was prominently featured in the movie Nothing But Trouble, featuring Dan Akroyd, John Candy, Chevy Chase and Demi Moore. He also was part of the cool music video that debuted on MTV which showed clips of the funny 1991 comedy which honestly, is one of the most overlooked for its time.
Following that cameo, it was time for 2Pac to move on. He released his debut album 2Pacalypse Now in mid-November, 1991. The best song in my opinion is Brenda’s Got A Baby which describes a 12-year old girl who becomes pregnant and has a baby even though her family didn’t know. Unable to support it, she throws the baby in the trash. It’s actually based off a true story where a 12-year old got pregnant from her cousin. Disturbing and sad.
The album also prominently features “Trapped.” A song about police brutality and harassment based on personal experience. Regrettably, this still is happening 20 years later. It’s why you have the Black Lives Matter movement with African-Americans protesting the mistreatment and racial profiling by cops. Unfortunately, there have been several tragedies such as Eric Garner which happened out in Stapleton in Staten Island. I know exactly the location. He was choked to death by an officer for selling loose cigarettes on the street. Someone videoed the footage which was incriminating. Remarkably, the officer Daniel Pantaleo who used an illegal stranglehold which killed Garner wasn’t indicted by grand jury at Richmond County court house. The city reached a $5.9 million settlement with Garner’s family last year.
What I admire most about 2Pac is how real he is. Unless you believe the conspiracy theories that say he’s alive (I wish), his legend grows. He always stayed true to his roots and rapped about real issues. Whether it be the memorable “Changes” on what’s wrong with society which still applies today or “Tradin’ War Stories” about thug life on the streets or “Dear Mama” which basically is a dedication to recently passed Mom Afeni, who died on May 3 at 69, Shakur’s stories are the sad truth on life for a majority of urban black males in the ghetto.
Never a stranger to controversy, Tupac was assaulted by Oakland police for jay walking. He was awarded a $43,000 settlement after suing the Oakland police department for $10 million. He served 15 days in jail for assaulting the director of Menace II Society. Something he bragged about. His worst alleged crime was first degree sexual abuse of a woman who he had relations with a couple of days earlier in 1993. She accused him and his entourage of raping her in a hotel room. He denied the charges but wound up serving nine months of a one and a half to four and a half year sentence.
Suge Knight posted a $1.4 million bond, bailing Shakur out pending an appeal. He agreed to release three albums on Knight’s rap label Death Row Records. He still had to serve another 120 days due to violating terms of his bail. Of course, 2Pac managed to release a successful double album All Eyez On Me. It featured big hit “California Love” which featured Dr. Dre. There are two different versions. Each of which are unique. Other popular songs include “How Do U Want It,” “I Ain’t Mad at Cha,” “All Eyez On Me,” and “Picture Me Rollin'” Who could forget the memorable video of “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted” featuring 2Pac and Snoop Dogg mocking a court room.
Personal favorites are “Life Goes On” and “Skandalouz.” I really love Life Goes On because the lyrics are so real. They hit home personally because I lost a friend six years ago. A sunshine star.
The amazing aspect about 2Pac is he produced so many great tracks in such a short amount of time. I consider him the Jimi Hendrix of rap. In a five-year period, he killed it. From fun classics such as “Old School” about when rap and hip hop started out to “I Get Around,” about one night stands with sexy women to “Pain” from hit film Above The Rim which he starred in, the man did it all. His debut in the memorable 1992 movie Juice featuring a young Omar Epps remains epic. At the time in high school, we had a hot box. I must’ve come home and watched it 100 times. Ditto Oliver Stone controversial hit JFK.
Nobody could use poetry and emotion to tell a story like 2Pac. He also was gonna hit it big as an actor. Also featured opposite Janet Jackson in Poetic Justice and teaming up with Tim Roth in the truthful film Gridlock’d about how hard it is for addicts to get proper help to detox due to the ridiculous nature of healthcare, Shakur could convincingly play characters and make you relate to them. Though I’ll always love the crazy Bishop in Juice with that final scene with GQ played by Epps memorable. Who could forget the school scene where he warns GQ that he’s the one ya ‘ll need to be worried about. Cause he is crazy. And he don’t give a bleep!
He also starred with Roth in Bullet. A screwed up movie about drugs and gang wars which result in both characters getting murdered. Gang Related had him and Jim Belushi in the role of crooked cops covering up a crime they committed.
No matter what he did or said which usually was controversial or memorable, he lived a complete life. It makes me wonder how he did all that by age 25. The end came after going to see close friend Mike Tyson fight in Vegas. Of course, he rode back with the dangerous Knight and was gunned down in the passenger seat. Irony of ironies because the same happened to former friend and East coast rival Biggie Smalls a year later in California during a tour. The West coast vs East coast rivalry came about after 2Pac was shot while trying to visit BIG in his studio. He blamed producer Puff Daddy for the hit. It became an ugly rivalry with Pac going after Biggie by claiming he bleeped his bitch. A reference to wife Faith Evans. The mother of his two kids.
There are too many countless tracks to list. Other memorable ones include “Me Against The World,” “To Live & Die In LA,” “Pour Out A Little Liquor,” “Do For Love,” “How Long Will They Mourn Me,” “Keep Your Head Up,” “Better Dayz,” and “Until The End of Time.”
Honestly, find another rapper who did as much as Tupac Shakur in such a brief span. You won’t. You know what I always say. Legends Never Die.
RIP 2PAC June 16, 1971-September 13, 1996
September 13, 1996-September 13, 2016
20 Year Anniversary