On June 17, 1971 Tupac Amaru Shakur was born in East Harlem public hospital New York. His mother Afeni Shakur spent part of her pregnancy with Tupac in New York Women’s Correctional Facility due to the many charges brought against her and twenty other Black Panther members, one of which included a conspiracy to bomb many public buildings in New York (Powell 22). The case against her dragged on for twenty-five months. While on bail she courted “… two men-Legs, a straight up gangster who did whatever necessary to make money and Billy a member of the Black Panther party” Powell 22).
Afeni says that “Tupac Amaru is the name of an Inca chief meaning ‘Shinning serpent, while Shakur is Arabic meaning ‘Thankful to god'”(qtd in Shakur 22). Afeni states that this name was the only one fitting enough for her ‘miracle baby’. By this she means that she thought that it was a miracle that she not only got to keep him but the fact that he survived while inside her. She states that while in prison she had to fight for an extra egg and a glass of milk each day (some of the basic nutrients needed to deliver a strong healthy baby).
In 1986 Tupac and Afeni move to Baltimore where Tupac enrolled himself into the Baltimore school For The Performing Arts (Marriott NYT). It is here that Tupac first finds his sense of identity. Tupac states in Vibe magazine that since he and his mother did so much moving around, he was never really able to find friends that he had ties to, he states that he felt like he never really fit in anywhere because he was from everywhere. It is in Baltimore that Tupac is finally exposed to white people.
He says that it is at his school that he finally got to interact with white people nd “‘… they were not half bad’, that not all of them ‘were out to fuck a nigga over'”(Powell 23). It is at the Baltimore school where he first learns to write his first raps, under the name MC New York. At the end of his sophomore year his mother moved again, this time all the way to Marin City California. Tupac says that he still has not gotten over the fact that he had to move.
Afeni leaving numerous messages back on the east coast trying to inform Legs of her recent move, so he will know where to find her when he gets out of prison dies shortly after he is eleased due to a heart attack caused by over dosing on crack cocaine. Tupac was never able to say good-bye to the only father that he ever knew. Marine City is across the bay from Oakland. Nicknamed “… the jungle because niggas there like to kick up dust” (Powell 27).
Afeni states that Marin City is essentially one giant housing complex. She states when he got to the west coast Tupac was taught the streets, or more so he started to learn the hard lessons of manhood that she couldn’t teach him (Powell 27). It is in 1988 that Tupac drops out of high school stating, “I just ouldn’t fit in” and starts selling drugs for a near by neighborhood gang (qtd in Times March 10). Tupac says that he could cook, sew and clean house, but he just didn’t feel hard.
His mother did everything that she could do, but Afeni couldn’t give him what he yearned for most, to be tuff (Pareles March 30). Tupac credits the loss of his manly figures throughout his life to his strong yearning to be accepted by the gangsters and feared by average citizen. Shortly after Tupac drops out of high school he moved in with a neighbor. Tupac would have to sell drugs to be able to stay in the house. Tupac states, “I was in the streets before but only as my mothers son”(Times Sept. 3).
Tupac felt that he was old enough to make it on his own. Tupac says that his mother was always moving and he remembers promising himself that when he got old enough he would move out and find his own roots, a place for him to call home. Tupac further shows his anger towards the life given to him by saying, “niggas that wasn’t shit… use to dis [make fun of] me, but I didn’t have no money and that’s what used to fuck me up”(Powell 27). While in Marin
City Tupac tried to be friends with everyone, and became the running joke in the area. Tupac states that he was never taken seriously, that he “got love but it was the kind that you would give a dog or a neighborhood crack fiend not the type that you would give to someone you respected or feared”(Powell 27). He states that they liked him because he was at the bottom and they knew that he was going to stay there. Nevertheless Tupac says that he would rather be patronized but accepted than not be accepted at all.
In August of 1988 Tupac’s new stepfather was sentenced to 60 years in rison without parole for his involvement in an armed car robbery, further fueling Tupac’s need to be accepted in the black male community. In 1990 Tupac joins Digital Underground as a roadie/dancer/rapper. This is Tupac’s fist big break in the music industry. Later on in 1991 Tupac achieves individual recognition in his first album entitled “2pacalypse now”, it highlighted Tupac’s passionate political and thug life side.
Songs like “Trapped while politically on point” stirred up much controversy when it depicted an Oakland police officer being shot at the end of the video. This particular song caught the attention of Dan Quayle who expressed his outrage and started a short-lived campaign against Hollywood and its beliefs but mainly focusing on hip-hop and its violent lyrics (Terry CSM). Tupac in return released a C. D. ingle entitled “Letter to the president” this song entailed provocative lyrics asking why the president was allowing black babies to die from malnutrition but willing to imprison black males for selling narcotics to make money for his family.
Other songs like “Brenda’s got a baby” brought attention to the emotional nd heartfelt side of the rising star with the lyrics depicting a young 14 year old girl being kidnapped and raped on her way home from school by four local gang members. Brenda’s got a baby” focused on Tupac’s thoughts to what is happening in his surroundings and how his conscience is starting to affect his need to be accepted by gangsters. In 1991 Tupac got his first real taste of trouble when he was stopped for Jaywalking in down town Oakland. According to Pac (Tupac) the police officers didn’t take a liking to his name so they said some unfavorable things. Pac in return responded, and the result was him being arrested and brutalized.
This incident led to him filing a 10 million dollar lawsuit against the city of Oakland and later dropping the charges due to an out of court settlement for an undisclosed amount to the public (Shakur interview). Tupac gained national fame when he played the role of Rollan Bishop; a violent, insecure, short tempered, psychotic individual in the Block Buster movie “Juice”. Initially director Ernest Dickerson had invited Digital Undergrounds Money B to audition for the movie.
Tupac went along for the ide; once there he read the part cold turkey and was hired to play Rollan Bishop, which left many wondering if he was acting or just being himself. Tupac states that acting came exceptionally easy to him because every time he had to move he had to take on the role of someone that he wasn’t in order to try and fit in. He says it is an attribute that every one should have in order to survive in the real world.
Tupac says, “acting is the same damn thing as lying one is just excepted by white people and if they want to pay me to lie and not get in trouble for it than fuck ya I’ll do that, t aint shit its just accepted by whites”(Hirschberg 14 Jan. ). As Tupac’s popularity began to soar so did his troubles. In the summer of 1992 while attending Merits cities fiftieth anniversary Tupac and his entourage had a confrontation with some old acquaintances, during the ensuing fight a gun was drawn, a shot was fired and a six-year-old boy lay dead as an innocent bystander.
Tupac’s brother Mercedes who at the time raped for the group “Tony Tony Tony” and later for “Thug Life” was arrested and charged. Mercedes was eventually let go due to lack of evidence. Tupac later found himself embroiled in more controversy when a Texas officer was shot and killed by a young teenage boy. The widow of the slain officer filed a multi million-dollar civil lawsuit against Tupac claiming that it was his lyrics that influenced the young perpetrator to kill (Terry CSM).
The charges were later dropped and Tupac issued a public statement saying, “If we really are saying rap is an art form, then we got to be more responsible for our lyrics. If you see everybody dying because of what you saying, it don’t matter that you didn’t make them die, it just matters that ou didn’t save them”(qtd in Shakur 46). Tupac said this statement was given because, “I know the shit that happens because of my music isn’t legally my fault but shit I still feel bad about it”(Powell 46).
If that wasn’t enough later in 1992 while Tupac was visiting the set of Fox Television show “In Living Color” Tupac had an altercation with a limo driver; the result was him being arrested and charged with assault, eventually the charges were dropped. Seemingly wherever that Tupac went troubled followed. Tupac then found himself being charged with assault fter he and a group of friends beat up the film directors known as the Huges brothers with a variety of weapons arranging from baseball bats to lead pipes.
This incident seemed from him being fired from the movie “Menace II Society” which was later caste to Coolio (a fellow west coast rapper). Later in October of 1993 Tupac was arrested and charged for shooting two off duty police officers in Atlanta Georgia. Just as that drama was beginning to be sorted out he was arrested in New York the following month and accuse of sexually assaulting a fan in his hotel room. In the ackground of all that controversy Tupac managed to release another album entitled “Strictly for my N. I. G. G. A. Z” which featured the smash hits “I get around” and the emotional tribute to women “Keep your head up”.
During this time Tupac was featured in two more movies, the first one was entitled “Poetic Justice” co-staring Janet Jackson, where he stirred things up once again by refusing to honor Ms. Jackson’s request to take an AIDS test. The other movie that featured Tupac came out in the spring of 1993 was entitled “Above the Rim”.
Just like he did in the movie “Juice” Tupac adorned the ole of a gangster (Shakur interview) On November 30 1994 while waiting in the lobby of a Time Square studio Tupac became the victim of a robbery, he resisted and was shot 5 times, left for dead by his once best friend Biggy Smalls (Armond 14 Sept. ). While Tupac was in the hospital Tupac was visited by a man who claimed to be his father. Tupac says, … I look up [and] there was this nigga that looked just like me [Billy].
And he was my father… e still didn’t take no blood test but the nigga looked just like me and the other niggas dead [Legs] so now I feel that I’m past the father stage. Tupac shocked the world not only by surviving the onslaught but also by leaving the hospital only a few days later. Tupac was in New York filming a video as well as awaiting the fait of his trial for the sexual assault charges he was indicted for the year before. He would eventually be sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison. He would also accuse former rap partner Notorious B. I. G as the person that set him up to be shot.
It was these accusations that intensified the supposed east coast west coast rivalry within hip-hop. Now just before Tupac began serving his sentence on sexual ssault charges he released his third album “Me Against the World”. It was on this album that the world heard Tupac’s tribute to his mother entitled “Dear Momma” which depicted his love towards her through her graces and her faults. He raps about his anger towards her drug use but he still appreciates her for everything that she did for him and his brother and sister.
After serving a little more than seven months in the New York Correctional Facility Tupac was released on 1. 3 million dollars bail posted by Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight, home of Snoop Dog and The Dog Pound pon Tupac’s request for an appeal. In order for Suge Knight to pay for Tupac’s bail Tupac had to sign into a promissory contract saying that he will make 5 albums for Death Row. He quickly maid noise with the release of his hit song “California Love” a track featuring himself and Dr. Dre. While awaiting his appeal Tupac released a double album entitled all eyes on me.
It featured all sorts of artists ranging from R&B groups such as Jodasi to bay area locals Drew Down and Richey Rich. “All Eyes on ME” sold a reported 5 million copies and made more than 92 million dollars for record label Death Row. It seemed that Tupac was trying to conclude his contract with Death Row as quickly as possible. Ironically while out in bail Tupac had managed to again embroil himself in controversy.
He was arrested twice for parole violations and accused of causing a disturbance at the soul train music awards. Reports show that he confronted Notorious B. I. G back stage about the attempted robbery that happened in November of 1994. On September 7 1996 Tupac and CEO of Death Row Suge Knight had an altercation with a local Las Vegas gang over a ‘turf’ related dispute. Later that night Tupac and Suge left the Mike Tyson Bruce Sheldon fight in Suge’s car followed by a mixture of bodyguards and friends in four other cars.
A white Cadillac with 4 people inside pulled along the right side Suge’s black B. M. W at an intersection along East Flamingo Road. A gunman stepped out and opened fire shooting eighteen bullets towards the car with two semi-automatic handguns. Tupac was shot three times in the chest and once in his abdomen while Suge escaped with minor injuries from shrapnel to his right shoulder. Tupac was brought to University Medical Center. On Friday September 13 1996 Tupac died after six days in critical condition due to respiratory failure and cardio pulmonary arrest.
He had undergone 2 surgeries, on Sunday September 15th. In the most recent surgery his right lung was removed. Tupac was pronounced dead at 4:03 pm. His body was cremated less than 36 hours after Tupac died. Just before Tupac died he issued a statement in Vibe saying, “… why isn’t it hip-hop when I do it? Everybody else can have beef within the music, talk about differences and its ok. Its music, its hip-hop, it’s ground breaking. When I do it it’s war… ll I’m doing is saying that I’m tired of you talking about where you are from (Powell 73).
Tupac also issued a public apology to his long time friend Christopher Wallace a. k. a Biggy Smalls in the song “I aint mad at ya” off of his multi-platinum album “All Eyes on Me” saying that he no longer blames Biggy for the shooting in New York back in 1994. Biggy never accepted his apology (Jones July). When Tupac died he had no money to his name. Although he is arguably the most successful rapper the world has seen with over 12 million copies of his albums sold worldwide and reportedly over 150 million dollars made or Death Row none of the money was his.
Sadly Tupac was shot and killed only weeks before his fifth album was released which would have completed his contract with Death Row. While Tupac was given everything that he would ever need and then some he was not content because he knew that as long that he was popular he would have anything that he needed but he was also practical and knew that he was not going to stay popular forever and wanted to start his own record company entitled “Thug Life” which would have enabled Tupac to save money for his future and more so control his destiny.
Tupac believed that he could be more successful if he were able to work for himself and rap about what he believed in. plus he just wanted to be able to be free and do what he wanted (Powell 113). Tupac died like he lived fast and hard. Tupac was a brilliant man in the way of music but what he lacked was that knowledge that only a man could give him. The knowledge about the streets; if you mess with someone they are going to mess with you. Tupac’s ego was just too big. He wasn’t on the west coast he was in Nevada, he messed with gang members, and they messed with him. He just got hurt in the process.