Tupac Amaru Shakur (born Lesane Parish Crooks, June 16, 1971 - September 13, 1996), also known by his stage names 2Pac (or simply Pac) and Makaveli, was an American rapper. In addition to his status as a top-selling recording artist, Shakur was a promising actor, a poet and a social activist. Most of Shakur's songs are about growing up amid violence and hardship in ghettos, racism, problems in society and conflicts with other rappers. Shakur's work is known for advocating political, economic, social and racial equality. Shakur was initially a roadie and backup dancer for the alternative hip hop group Digital Underground, before forming his own group Thug Life then going solo.note
Shakur became the target of lawsuits and experienced other legal problems. He was later shot five times and robbed in the lobby of a recording studio in New York City. Following the event, Shakur grew suspicious that other figures in the rap industry had prior knowledge of the incident and did not warn him; the controversy helped spark the East Coast-West Coast hip hop rivalry. Shakur was later convicted for rape, but he insisted all relations were consensual.
After serving eleven months of his sentence he was released from prison on an appeal financed by Marion "Suge" Knight, the CEO of Death Row Records. In exchange for Suge's assistance, Shakur agreed to release three albums under the Death Row label. The first of such was All Eyez on Me, Shakur's first double album (as well as the only double album released during his lifetime) as well as one of the earliest double albums in hip-hop.
In addition to his music, Shakur was also one of the first rappers to have a successful acting career. What separates him from the others (and what many people didn't realize), is that he actually went to school for acting and would have seriously pursued it had he not gotten into music. As a child, he played Travis in A Raisin in the Sun during a run at the Apollo Theater. As an adult, his best-known movies include Poetic Justice with Janet Jackson and Above The Rim.
On the night of September 7, 1996, Shakur was shot four times in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. He died six days later of respiratory failure and cardiac arrest at the University Medical Center. For a few years, Tupac was just as prolific in death as in life. Rabid fans and conspiracy theorists have speculated that he staged his murder to escape his enemies, though this urban myth has largely died down. In 1997, Afeni Shakur, Tupac's mother, founded Amaru Entertainment, to handle her son's posthumous releases, and inherited the rights to most of his prior studio albums.
Shakur has sold over 75 million albums worldwide. A wealth of posthumous material continues to be released as of 2010, but cynical listeners have always seen it as a way of cashing in on his legacy, especially since most of the songs were remixed with current musical trends and artists, which sometimes clash with Shakur's style. Nonetheless, he was one of the defining musicians of The '90s.
In 2017, after seven years of Development Hell, a Biopic about Shakur's life was released, entited All Eyez on Me. In 2019, it was revealed that all of Tupac's masters were destroyed in a fire at a Universal Studios lot 11 years earlier, along with nearly 200,000 other master tapes from other artists.
Songs of note:
- "Only God Can Judge Me"
- "Shorty Wanna Be A Thug"
- Keep Ya Head Up
- I Get Around
- Pour Out A Little Liquor (with Thug Life)
- Dear Mama
- California Love
- Ghetto Gospel
- How Do U Want It
- To Live & Die In LA (as Makaveli)
- So Many Tears
- Me Against the World
- Brenda's Got a Baby
- All Eyez On Me
- Hit 'Em Up
- I Don't Give a Fuck
- Do For Love
- I Wonder If Heaven Got A Ghetto
- Hail Mary (as Makaveli)
- Definition of a Thug Nigga
- Loyal To The Game
- Toss it Up (as Makaveli)
- How Long Will They Mourn Me? (with Thug Life)
- Me And My Girlfriend
- Thug Luv (with Bone Thugs-n-Harmony)
- "Staring At The World Through My Rear View"
- "Lost Souls"
- "Ghetto Gospel" (with Elton John)
Albums of Note
- 1991 2Pacalypse Now
- 1993 Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z...
- 1994 Thug Life
- 1995 Me Against the World
- 1996 All Eyez on Me
- 1996 The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory (Essentially finished prior to his death and thus not a 'true' posthumous album in the strictest sense.)
- 1997 R U Still Down? (Remember Me), Probably the most popular of the posthumous releases.
- 1998 Greatest Hits (Notable in that it included the original version of California Love (the one released on AEOM was a remix), a new mix of Toss It Up, and four previously unreleased tracks, including the popular Changes)
- 1999 Still I Rise (With the Outlawz)
- 2001 Until the End of Time
- 2002 Better Dayz
- 2004 Loyal to the Game
- 2006 Pac's Life
- If My Homies Call
- Brenda's Got A Baby
- Keep Ya Head Up
- I Get Around
- Dear Mama
- So Many Tears
- All About U
- California Love
- Hail Mary
- Hit 'Em Up
- To Live and Die in LA
- Do For Love
- I Wonder If Heaven's Got A Ghetto
- How Do U Want It (NSFW)
Tropes found in his music include:
- The '90s: One of the most defining artists of the decade. Every last album, from his debut to the final one that was produced before he passed away, blended well with the decade's culture.
- Animated Music Video: "Do For Love" was released after Pac's death, so they had to get creative for the music video. It depicts him in a variety of styles, such as more typical animation, anime, and even claymation.
- Angry Black Man: He fulfills this trope quite often, with "Changes", "Trapped", "Ballad of a Dead Soldier" and "Holla If Ya Hear Me" being good examples.
- Anthropomorphic Personification: "Me and My Girlfriend" is about a man and his gun. It's frequently mistaken for a romantic song.
- The Apunkalypse: The first half of the "California Love" video.
- Attack Backfire: As he pointed out in "Rebel of the Underground", not only did the people who kicked up a fuss over his earlier albums help draw attention to them, they also inadvertently gave him ideas for material to use in future albums.They say they hate me; they wanna hold me down.
I guess they're scared of the rebel; the rebel of the underground!
But I never let it get me.
I just make another record 'bout the punks trying to sweat me!
- Badass Family: Afeni Shakur, Assata Shakur, Mutulu Shakur, Geronimo Pratt, the latter being a highly decorated Vietnam vet.
- Broken Record: The end of "Tradin' War Stories" has him repeat the chorus until fadeout.
- Brooklyn Rage: Despite being considered a West Coast rapper, he was born and grew up in New York.
- Byronic Hero: He was a very troubled and passionate person, to say the very least.
- The Cameo: The music video for "Temptations" had the following: Ice-T, Coolio, Salt-N-Pepa, Jasmine Guy, Jada Pinkett, Marcus Chong, Treach, Bill Bellamy, Yo-Yo, B-Real, Isaac Hayes, Warren G, Adina Howard, Crystal Waters, Shock G, Kenya Moore and Joe Torre.
- Cluster F-Bomb: "Hit 'Em Up" is filled with swear words. In particular, the outro has the F-bomb dropped 28 times alone.
- Conspiracy Theorist: Tupac's The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory album.
- Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!: Pops up from time to time in his work, especially on All Eyez on Me.
- Dead Artists Are Better: In a rather blatant example, Rolling Stone revisited All Eyez on Me in 2004 and gave it five stars, as opposed to the three it received in 1996.
- Deal with the Devil: Invoked by Tupac to his childhood friend Watani Tyehimba, who begged him not to sign with Death Row Records and its notoriously violent CEO Suge Knight. Tupac said he knew what he was getting into, but was caught between a rock and a hard place due to financial troubles.
- Disappeared Dad: Tupac talks about the pain of his fathers absence in Dear Mama.
- Disposable Sex Worker: "Brenda's Got a Baby" is about a 12-year-old girl from the inner-city with an uncaring family who gets involved with and pregnant by her 20-something cousin. (Who abandons her sometime during the pregnancy.) Shortly after she gives birth, her mother throws her out of the house, and she's out on the street. When selling drugs fails, she is driven to prostitution, and killed (presumably by one of her clients.)
- The Diss Track: From the infamous "Hit 'Em Up" to lesser-known disses like "Against All Odds" and "Watch Ya Mouth", many other rappers felt his wraith:
- The Notorious B.I.G. - Tupac felt that his former friend, along with Biggie's manager Sean Combs, were responsible for his shooting in 1994. Even though they denied this, Pac was unconvinced, and aimed "Hit 'Em Up" primarily at them. Biggie mostly ignored the beef, though he did sneak in a few subliminal disses here and there and had a guest spot on an unreleased Busta Rhymes song that dissed Tupac more directly.
- Mobb Deep - The duo featured on Capone N Noreaga's "L.A, L.A" remix, which dissed the West Coast, and 2Pac felt it dissed him, so he took a few potshots at them - most notably on "Hit Em Up", in which he mocked Prodigy's sickle-cell anemia (which many felt went too far). Mobb Deep replied with "Drop a Gem on Em".
- Jay-Z - Jay-Z never dissed 2Pac, but due to being a prominent East Coast rapper who was good friends with Biggie, he still fell into 2Pac's crosshairs. Most infamously, the song "Fuck Friendz" had the line "Ain't no nigga like me / Fuck Jay-Z!", which Nas would later sample on his own Jay-Z diss "Ether". The intro to "Bomb First (My Second Reply)" also mentions Jay as being "of 'Hawaiian Sophie' fame", which was a Jaz-O song that Jay guested on and is infamous for being his first appearance in a music video, which featured him looking very uncool in a Hawaiian shirt and lei. "Hit Em Up" also originally had a line aimed at Jay-Z, but the Outlawz felt that he didn't really have anything to do with the beef and talked Pac into taking it out. On his end, Jay had his own diss aimed at 2Pac, but when Pac died, while Jay did perform it once, he opted not to release it out of respect.
- Chino XL - Chino's style involves dissing pretty much everyone, and his song "Riiiot!" has a line poking fun at the theory that 2Pac was raped in jail. Pac didn't take too kindly to this, and included a quick diss on "Hit Em Up" ("Chino XL, fuck you too!"). Amusingly, the song also dissed Biggie, with a line poking fun at "Biggie's stretch marks". For what it's worth, Chino claimed that he wasn't really dissing Pac with that line, and that the emphasis was on "trying not to get fucked", as Pac was definitely trying not to get raped while in jail. Chino did record a proper diss track, but the two eventually ironed out the misunderstanding and were on good terms at the time of Pac's death.
- Nas - 2Pac felt that one of Nas' lines on "The Message" ("Fake thug, no love, you get the slug, CB4 Gusto) was aimed at him, and took shots at Nas on a few tracks on The 7 Day Theory. Interestingly, 2Pac and Nas had a chat face-to-face where they squashed the beef, and 2Pac promised to remove the disses against Nas from the album, but died before he could.
- All of Junior M.A.F.I.A. - This is really no surprise, what with them basically being Biggie's answer to the Outlawz.
- LL Cool J - 2Pac felt that the song "I Shot Ya" (not to be confused with Biggie's song "Who Shot Ya?") was aimed at him, and approached Keith Murray about it, but they were luckily able to defuse tensions before a beef could really start.
- Even Dr. Dre on his last album, after Dre had left Death Row to form Aftermath. Pac mistakenly thought Dre had abandoned him in prison, when he'd really just realized that Suge Knight was a godawful manager. Obviously Tupac wasn't going to feel the same way about the man who'd just bailed him out of jail due to Knight's notoriously violent threats towards those who oppose him.
- Adding on to the Dr. Dre entry, listen to the original beat of "Toss It Up", which was produced by him. When Dre left Death Row, he took the beat with him and tweaked it with Teddy Riley to create Blackstreet's hit song "No Diggity", which forced Tupac to alter his song's beat, and led to him dissing Dre and Blackstreet in turn.
- Downer Ending: "Ghetto Gospel", thanks to the flashbacks of the day. It doesn't get better knowing how it ended.
- Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: "Dear Mama". "Keep Ya Head Up" also has shades of this, with Tupac proclaiming that men shouldn't hate women because, when you get down to it, all men came from women.
- Fat and Skinny: Him and B.I.G. when they were still friends.
- Fun with Acronyms:
- Nigga: Never Ignorant Getting Goals Accomplished.
- Also "Thug Life"= The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody.
- Gangsta Rap: One of the greats. In case you didn't notice.
- Glorified Sperm Donor: Deconstructed in "Papa's Song".
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Snoop Dogg.
- Hardcore Hip Hop: "Hit 'Em Up" is one of the most infamous examples of the genre.
- Horrorcore: "Hail Mary" has shades of this.
- I Call It "Vera": "Me And My Girlfriend", which is often misinterpreted as a romanticized outlaw tale ala Bonnie and Clyde. However, the "girlfriend" of the title is really his gun. The misinterpretation has been aided in no small part by Jay-Z's version, which turned it into a duet with Beyoncé.
- Iconic Outfit: His bandanna and "Thug Life" stomach tattoo.
- Intercourse with You: The first verse of "How Do U Want It?", The first two verses of "Toss It Up", and both "Whatz Ya Phone #" and "Thug N U Thug N Me" in its entirety.
- Junkie Parent: Tupac mentions his mothers drug abuse in Dear Mama, but despite this she was always there for him.
- In "Brenda's Got a Baby," it's mentioned that Brenda's father was too busy shooting up to pay attention to his 12-year-old daughter, or notice that she was in an extremely inappropriate relationship with her 20-something cousin, or notice that she was pregnant. Her mother wasn't much better, either.
- Justified Criminal: His songs overlap with this a lot and occasionally so did his life. In one notable incident, he avoided charges in Atlanta for shooting two off-duty cops in the asses after seeing them harass a black driver. (The case was dropped due to insufficient evidence)I didn't choose the thug life; the thug life chose me.
- Letters 2 Numbers: In addition to his stage name, he did this quite a bit with his song titles.
- Manly Tears: Rapper Fat Joe claimed that he cried after hearing the song Changes. For the longest time he wanted to hate Pac cause Joe himself was loyal to Biggie. But hearing the said song broke him.
- Minimalism: The beat to "Hail Mary".
- Meaningful Name / Named After Somebody Famous: He was named after José Gabriel Túpac Amaru, the leader of a Peruvian indigenous uprising against the Spanish. This is reflective of his family's Black Panther background.
- Mood Whiplash: His albums tend to be this, from the somber and reflective (Dear Mama), to the angry and defiant (Only God Can Judge Me) to the lighthearted and humorous (All About You).
- Morality Ballad: "Brenda's Got a Baby" is about a 12-year-old girl who becomes pregnant, turns to prostitution just to stay afloat, and is murdered. It's stated that had her family and society at large had just looked after her, this tragedy would not have had to happen.I hear Brenda's got a baby, but Brenda's barely got a brain
A damn shame, the girl can hardly spell her name
"That's not our problem, that's up to Brenda's family!"
Well, let me show you how it affects the whole community.
- Mr. Fanservice: The man was a former dancer, so his ripped and often displayed physique is justified.
- Pep-Talk Song: "Keep Ya Head Up" and "Baby Don't Cry (Keep Ya Head Up II)"
- Platonic Life-Partners: With Jada Pinkett, during his lifetime.
- Political Rap: Especially before his Death Row stuff. His debut album 2Pacalypse Now is quite a bit different than All Eyez on Me in terms of subject matter.
- Profane Last Words: According to the officer that arrived to the scene of Tupac's drive-by shooting, his last words were "fuck you" (to the cop).
- Properly Paranoid: After he got shot the first time...
- Really Gets Around: "I Get Around" lampshades this.
- Also, he had sex with all the women who appear in the video for "How Do U Want It?" within such a short period of time that he wound up in the emergency room for "exhaustion."
- Real Men Wear Pink: He did ballet in school.
- Remix Album:
- Nu-Mixx Klazzics takes songs from All Eyez On Me and gives them new backing tracks and new guest vocals.
- Nu-Mixx Klazzics 2 has a similar concept though it also includes songs from The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory.
- Stage Names: Averted until the formation of the Outlawz, then... hoo boy. The group was originally called Dramacydal; Pac got the idea for the change after reading Machiavelli in prison. Nearly every member of the group took a stage name inspired by a famous dictator: Hussein "Fatal", Napoleon,
Idi AminE.D.I. Mean, KhomeniKomani, Yaki QaddafiKadafi, Big Syke aka Mussolini, CastroKastro... pretty much every one but the one you're thinking of. The real significance of the names was that they were enemies of America.
- The '90s: One of the decade's defining artists and public figures.
- Tempting Fate: Pac taunted the people who shot him that first time.
- True Companions: The Outlaw Immortalz.
- Vocal Dissonance: Downplayed. While Pac's overall build gave off the impression that he was a short and skinny man with a deep, booming voice, he was actually a fairly average height of 5'9'' with a decently buff physique.
- Xtreme Kool Letterz: He did this all the time.
- Warrior Poet: An iconic example.