Tupac Shakur was an American rapper and actor who performed under the stage name 2Pac. He became famous following the release of his album Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. Tupac was heavily involved in the infamous East Side-West Side hip-hop rivalry in the 1990s, which many say led to his death in a drive-by shooting in 1996.
Tupac was born in June 1971 to parents who had been active members of the Black Panther Party in New York City. He grew up with a number of family members who had been or went to jail for assorted offenses, including his godfather, stepfather, and uncle, who were implicated in numerous murders and robberies. Tupac became involved with performance art at the age of 12, when he was cast in a production of A Raisin in the Sun at the Apollo Theater. After moving to Baltimore in 1986, Tupac attended the Baltimore School of the Arts, where he studied jazz, poetry, and acting.
While in high school, Tupac began rapping and quickly gained a reputation as the best rapper in his class. He also developed a close friendship with Jada Pinkett, who would later marry another actor and rapper–Will Smith. Tupac also became affiliated with Baltimore’s Young Communist League during this time. In 1988, the family moved to California, where Tupac graduated from Tamalpais High School and made connections that eventually landed him a job as roadie and backup dancer for the hip-hop group Digital Underground.
Tupac performed in Digital Underground tracks and gained some amount of notoriety by extension, but it was after he left the group to pursue a solo career that Tupac rose to true fame. After his debut album 2Pacalypse Now met with mixed success and widespread controversy over its lyrical content, Tupac’s second album Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. led to his first breakout singles “I Get Around” and “Keep Ya Head Up.”
In 1994, Tupac formed the group Thug Life and recorded one album with them, Thug Life Volume 1, which is widely considered to be his finest work. The same year, he was also assaulted by three men who he believed to be working for rival artists Sean Combs and Biggie Smalls. A day later, Tupac was convicted of sexual abuse and was imprisoned, though he was eventually released on bail. 1996 saw Tupac release his fourth album, All Eyez On Me, which was certified platinum five times over only two months after its release.
On September 7, 1996, Tupac was shot during a drive-by shooting and suffered gunshot wounds to his upper body, leg, and hand. He died in the hospital six days later. The shooters were never apprehended and their identities (and motives) remain a mystery, though popular theories include Biggie Smalls and the Southside Crip gang. Since his death, Tupac has become a martyr figure worldwide and a legend in the hip-hop industry.
1991: 2Pacalypse Now
1993: Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.
1994: Thug Life: Volume 1 (with Thug Life)
1995: Me Against the World
1996: All Eyez on Me
1996: The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory
1997: R U Still Down? (Remember Me)
1999: Still I Rise (with Outlawz)
2001: Until the End of Time
2002: Better Dayz
2004: Loyal to the Game
2006: Pac’s Life
Featured image via rap-n-blues.com