Tupac Shakur was born on June 16th, 1971 in New York to former Black Panther Party members Afeni Shakur & Billy Garland. Garland would leave Afeni to raise Tupac and his younger half-sister Sekyiwa Shakur on her own when Tupac was only five years old. Tupac was named after Tupac Amaru II, a rebellious Peruvian leader who was eventually sentenced to death by his captors. Afeni would struggle to raise Tupac and his sister as they bounced from New York to Baltimore and then to the Bay in Marin City, California. Afeni's drug addiction would ultimately fuel their impoverished childhood, yet Tupac still loved his mom for being a strong woman. This would prove to be his foundation for becoming one of the most influential and powerful voices Hip-Hop has ever heard.
Even amiss the struggle of his family life he was still able to gain acceptance to the prestigious Baltimore School of Arts. Nonetheless, even at the age of 17 one can see from this interview that Tupac's intelligence and ability to think deeply and articulate himself illustrated how incredibly wise beyond his years he was. In this video, Tupac details that going to School of the Arts prepared him for the real world in how to deal with white people and how they acted towards him. Accordingly, he would be thrusted out into the real world as his family would move to Marin City, California before he could graduate. The next couple of years of his life he would be hustling on the streets which would lead him to meet "Shock-G" the leader of the Oakland based group, "Digital Underground". They decided to take Tupac on tour with them as their roadie and while on the tour Tupac would have the opportunity to work on some of his earliest music as an MC. The rap world would first catch the whirlwind of Tupac's skills in Digital Underground's "This Is An EP Release" on the track called, "Same Song" (1991). Later that same year Tupac would be primed to release his debut album, "2pacalypse Now" which housed the singles "Brenda's Got A Baby" and "If My Homie Calls". The album was a detailed and genuine commentary on political and social issues in America such as racism and police brutality. Even though his debut would not be as polished as his later efforts, the album would still be a certified gold selling album with sales topping 500,000 units in the early days of its release.
Tupac's early commercial success from his freshman effort would prime him to showcase his acting skills in Ernest Dickerson's Hip-Hop classic film, "Juice". His stellar performance in that film lead him to more opportunities such as starring in John Singleton's film "Poetic Justice". The beginning of 1993 would see the release of Tupac's second album, "Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.". This album is considered to be more polished than his first effort and rightfully so this would be his breakout album as it solidified Tupac as a platinum selling artist. The hit singles, "Keep Ya Head Up" and "I Get Around" would highlight Tupac's best trait in being a genuine person with his music for showing both sides of his true self. His fans would recognize this authentic trait and would adore him for this for the rest of his career. Just as Tupac's musical and acting careers had started to take off, his troubles with the law going forward would prove to be both a blessing and a curse.
Shortly after landing a role in 1993's film, "Above the Rim" he would be arrested for assaulting director Allan Hughes on the set of filming, "Menace II Society". Hughes goes into detail about this incident as well as how vastly intelligent and multi-talented Tupac was in this interview. He would be sentenced to a couple of weeks in jail in 1994 for this incident. Even though the charges would be dismissed, Tupac would also be charged with the shooting of two off-duty officers in Atlanta in 1993. In horrific fashion, he would later be charged and convicted of sexual assault in 1994. The day after the verdict was announced he would be shot outside of the recording studio in New York when he was about to do a recording session with The Notorious B.I.G. He was sentenced to 4 and a half years in prison on February 7th, 1995. Angry at the world around him, Tupac would be eager to get out of jail at any cost to release his frustrations through his music. Whilst in jail, his third album "Me Against The World" was released, which also housed the hit single and one of the best rap songs to ever be recorded, "Dear Mama" (1995). The track illuminated his take on the turbulent relationship with his drug-addicted mother and really showed how much he loved his mom. The song also showed us the vulnerably beautiful and arguably best side of Tupac. In the midst of him blaming the incident of being shot in New York on Biggie, he would have a chance to take over the rap game once again as Death Row CEO Suge Knight bailed Tupac out of jail on a 1.4 million dollar bond. Its reported that Tupac told Suge that if he bailed him out of jail then he would "take Death Row to heights it's never seen before". As a man of his word, Tupac would do just that.
Tupac would keep his promise with the release of his fourth album and arguably one of the greatest double-disc Hip-Hop albums ever recorded, "All Eyez On Me" (1996). The album would debut at number one on Billboards Top 100 list and would sell an astonishing 5 million records by the fall of that same year. It would solidify Tupac as a Hip-Hop Great forever with hit singles such as "California Love" and "How Do You Want It". It even showcased the classic West-Coast production of living legend DJ Quik on the cut, "Heartz of Men". In June of that same year, Tupac would release arguably one of the greatest diss records ever against Biggie in the song "Hit Em Up". Unfortunately, Tupac would never have the chance to mend the beef with him and Biggie as Tupac would be murdered on September 7th, 1996 in Las Vegas from a drive-by shooting. No suspects were ever charged or convicted of this horrific crime. In this MTV Special that aired after Tupac passed away, it shows Tupac stating that if he were to die for any reason that he would be fine with it because he had three albums of music ready to be released. It's rumored that Tupac was always constantly working and it's because he had so much to say to the world and he believed he could change it. But he always felt like his time on Earth was limited. His catalog of music was so large that 6 albums have been released posthumously in his name.
Regardless of all the controversy in Tupac's life, it cannot be denied that he was wise beyond his years and that he always believed he could change the world because his thought patterns were so different than most with the power to do so. Please check out this VIBE Magazine interview where he details how he believes he could've changed the world along with some last thoughts caught on video just months before he was murdered. We encourage you to check out some of his music below as Tupac's spirit will forever live on!
Rest In Power Pac!