"And they say it's the white man I should fear, but it's my own kind doing all the killing here."
To Be 2Pac
Most MCs are regarded as fads, popular one moment and then forgotten the next. Not many have reached or will reach the kind of fame - and notoriety - of 2Pac. Tupac Amaru Shakur, more popularly known by his numbered nickname, is easily one of the top-selling MCs of all time. From MC Hammer to 50 Cent, countless artists have been credited his work as a major influence for their own art.
2Pac was born in East Harlem, New York in 1971. Even at the time, the area was known for its violence and poverty. Many fans see 2Pac's youth in such an environment as a source for much of his material.
Behind the Music
At the age of 12, Shakur got into the 127th Street Ensemble, a famous Harlem-based acting troupe. He began to take up multiple art forms when he started his junior year of high school at the Baltimore School of the Arts, after his family moved from New York.
2Pac's Top 10
- California LoveDownload
- Hit'em UpDownload
- Dear Mama Download
- Changes Download
- Life Goers On Download
- Do For Love Download
- Keep Ya Head Up Download
- I Get Around Download
- All Eyez on Me Download
- I Aint Mad At Cha Download
BSA was where Shakur began to turn into 2Pac. It was there that he began rapping, with one of his friends acting as his beatbox. He won many of the rapping competitions in the area, and was regarded by many of his friends as the best MC in school. Even after his family relocated to California, he explored other fields such as in Leila Steinberg's poetry classes at Tamalpais High School.
Rap stepped into the foreground when Steinberg set up a concert for Shakur and his then group Strictly Dope. Atron Gregory, an agent, discovered him there and signed him up as part of the entourage for Digital Underground, a startup hip-hop group, in 1990.
His membership in Digital Underground was a landmark in Shakur's career. The group's 1991 sophomore album This is an EP Release featured a 2Pac debuting his rhymes on Same Song, one of the release's most popular singles. The music video for Same Song was to be the first of his many MTV appearances.
From Underground to Groundbreaking
Just 4 months later, Shakur already had his debut solo album 2Pacalypse Now under Atlantic Records and his new name. There was a public outcry over the explicit content of the album, and not a single one made it to a Top 10 list. Undaunted, 2Pac went on to release a second album, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. His sophomore effort gave him his first two solo hits, I Get Around and Keep Ya Head Up.
Shakur, by then already popular as 2Pac, generated much media buzz for his numerous run-ins with the law. Between 1991 and 1995, he charged and was charged with various cases ranging from assault to sodomy. He eventually landed behind bars in February 1995, but was released on bail with the help of his friend Suge Knight.
2 Cool for the Cooler
2Pac continued to work even behind bars.. His third album, 1995's Me Against the World, was released shortly after he got into the slammer. The album flew straight to the top spot in most charts; the hype from 2Pac's imprisonment was seen as a big factor in its success. Because of that album, 2Pac gained the title of the first artist to have an album debut at #1 on the Billboard charts - all while being behind bars.
He also went into other forms of art, such as with Live 2 Tell, a screenplay about a boy who grew to become a drug lord. He also said that he used his time in the cooler to read books ranging from Machiavelli to Sun Tzu.
All Eyes - and Ears - Back on Him
Once he was a free man again, 2Pac went straight back to recording. Just 4 months after the authorities released him, he was the one who did the releasing - of his fourth album, All Eyez on Me. While Me Against the World was mostly an introspective, All Eyez on Me talked about the thug mentality and gangster lifestyle that 2Pac believed in.
It was also during this time under the Death Row Records label that he produced tracks by the hundreds, many of which were eventually released after his death. At this time, there was already some trouble brewing between two sides, 2Pac and Knight against Biggie Smalls and Sean "Diddy" Combs. This grew into an all-out East-versus-West war, which would persist all the way to 2Pac's death.
Two months before his death, he released The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory under the new nickname Makaveli, inspired by the writings of Niccolo Machiavelli that he read in prison. He wrote, recorded and finished the entire album - from tracks to cover - in exactly 7 days, hence the title. Don Killuminati would also be the first of many of 2Pac's many albums to be released after his death.
After watching a boxing match at the Las Vegas MGM Grand on September 7, 1996, 2Pac and Knight were in Knight's car riding toward Club 662, a Death Row property. At about 11:15 that evening, a white Cadillac drove up to the right side of Knight's BMW and fired a dozen shots at 2Pac, who was in the passenger seat.
Knight and the fatally wounded 2Pac were rushed to University Medical Center where the rapper was hooked up to life support. Doctors eventually expected a full recovery, but severe internal hemorrhaging spelled the end of 2Pac at 4:03PM, just six days after one of the most publicized attacks in history.
Did you know that 2Pac...
- ...was an actor several times in his youth? He played Travis in the Lorraine Hansberry play A Raisin in the Sun, along with roles in several in-school Shakespeare productions.
- ...took up poetry, jazz and ballet? He played the Mouse King in one of the local productions of The Nutcracker.
- ...was a close friend of Jada Pinkett-Smith? Jada and The Tears in Cupid's Eyes were two poems in his book The Rose That Grew from Concrete, both for Smith.
- ...his first gig in Digital Underground was as backup dancer and roadie? It took some time before he got to perform as a guest emcee.