Tupac Bio

Latest posts by Simoun Redoblado (see all)

Throughout the history of music, there are certain artists who are synonymous with their genres. Rock n’ roll has Elvis, soul has Ray Charles, and pop has Michael Jackson. In the rap industry, one man sits uncontested on the throne: Tupac Shakur.

From his hard-hitting verses to his infamous temperament, Tupac embodied the essence of hip hop—an unapologetic drive to speak the truth and to dominate the competition. Easily the most influential emcee of all time, Tupac is revered by fans and peers alike as the irreplaceable face of rap.

Early Years

He was born Lesane Parish Crooks on June 16, 1971 in East Harlem, New York. At the age of one, his mother Afeni changed his name to Tupac Amaru, invoking the memory of a Peruvian revolutionary executed by Spanish colonizers. As it turned out, this name change foreshadowed a lifelong struggle against forces in authority.

Indeed, Tupac had no way of escaping radical politics. At the time that he was conceived, both his parents were active members of the infamous Black Panther Party.

A month before Tupac was welcomed into the world, Afeni defended herself in court against conspiratorial charges. Speaking with eloquence that prefigured her son’s brilliance with words, Afeni was eventually acquitted of more than 150 charges.

When Tupac was five years old, his father Billy Garland ceased all communications with Afeni. Though she went on to have relations with another man (Mutulu Shakur, with whom she had a daughter Sekiya), it was no long-term commitment, either.

As such, for a huge chunk of his formative years, Tupac grew up with no father figure (though, for what it’s worth, he had an older stepbrother named Maurice “Mopreme Shakur” Harding). This hole in Tupac’s life underscores his dedication to his single mother, for whom he lovingly wrote the all-time classic “Dear Mama.”

During the 1980s, two geographical moves would shape Tupac’s sensibility, as well as the style that he would employ in the rap game. In 1984, a hard-pressed Afeni moved her family to Baltimore.

After enrolling in two different schools for eighth and ninth grade, Tupac ended up at the Baltimore School for the Arts. In this public institution, he dabbled in ballet, poetry and drama, holding a special place in his heart for the works of Shakespeare. It was also in this school that he started a lifelong friendship with a drug dealer named Jada Pinkett, who would eventually rise above her situation and put together a successful acting career.

Then, in 1988, Afeni decided to send Tupac to live with a family friend in Marin City, California. However, the West Coast neighborhood was no better than the environment they left behind; Afeni and Tupac both caved into the crack epidemic that was sweeping through the United States during that time frame.

Despite these circumstances, Tupac started to find his footing as a performer in various genres. As a student of Tamalpais High School, he joined multiple theater productions. A year after moving to California, he began recording music under the name MC New York.

In 1990, thanks to his manager and poetry teacher Leila Steinberg, Tupac signed with the hip hop group Digital Underground. Starting off as a backup dancer and member of the road crew, Tupac went on to contribute a verse to their 1991 single “Same Song”—his first official appearance as a recording artist.

Tupac’s big break came when Atron Gregory, manager of Digital Underground, helped him land a deal with Interscope Records. On November 12, 1991, Tupac made his debut as a solo artist with the album 2Pacalypse Now. Fuelled by raging issues such as racial discrimination, police harassment, and teenage pregnancy, 2Pacalypse Now distinguished Tupac as a socially conscious artist whose perspective would not be silenced.

Setting a precedent for Tupac’s career, the album drew both commercial success and scathing criticism. Though 2Pacalypse Now earned a gold certification, it was also the recipient of Vice President Dan Quayle’s vitriol: “There is absolutely no reason for a record like this to be published. It has no place in our society.”

Into the Limelight


Despite criticism from a high-ranking government official, Tupac remained undeterred in his objective to provide a voice for the socially marginalized. In February 1993, he released “Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.” Debuting at no. 24 on the Billboard 200, Tupac’s second album amplified his political and social views.

In songs such as “Holler If Ya Hear Me” and “Keep Ya Head Up,” he succinctly reflects the struggles of African Americans victimized by a society that appears to care little for their welfare. On “Souljah’s Revenge,” he even sneaks in a shot at his prominent critic: “What the **** does Quayle know/What young black males need?” As a testament to Tupac’s rising popularity at the time, “Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.” went on to be certified platinum.

In the same year that “Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.” dropped, Tupac first crossed paths with a New York rapper who happened to visit Los Angeles. Christopher “Biggie Smalls” Wallace became fast friends with Tupac, with whom he shared a handful of recordings, along with impromptu performances during live events.

Biggie even asked Tupac to manage his music career, to which Tupac replied, “Nah, stay with Puff [Sean Combs]. He will make you a star.”

However, all friendly relations between Tupac and Biggie went up in smoke after a near-fatal incident on November 30, 1994. That night, in the lobby of a New York recording studio, Tupac was beaten, robbed, and shot five times. In an April 1995 interview published in Vibe, Tupac claimed that Biggie and Puffy (who happened to be in the same recording studio that evening in 1994) either set up or had prior knowledge of the attack on him.

In Tupac’s mind, Biggie’s February 1995 single “Who Shot Ya?” was intended as a mockery of the shooting incident—something that Biggie vehemently denied. To this day, there is no conclusive proof of Biggie’s involvement in the shooting incident.

Around the time of the shooting, Tupac was dealing with charges of sexual assault. He was eventually convicted and sentenced to a 4 1/2-year prison term. As such, the rapper was behind bars when his third album, the aptly titled “Me Against the World,” was released.

Powered by his unparalleled introspection, “Me Against the World” showed the world a rather more reflective and vulnerable side of Tupac. Tracks like “Lord Knows,” “It Ain’t Easy,” and “So Many Tears” were filled with anguish and desperation that sharply contrasted his tough gangster persona. The album went on to receive double platinum certification, while two of its singles (the title track and “Dear Mama”) were nominated for Grammy Awards in 1996.

Death Row Records


Tupac was still incarcerated when he made his next big decision concerning his music career. Upon the suggestion of West Coast icon Snoop Dogg, Suge Knight—founder of Death Row Records—made arrangements for Tupac to be released from prison. There was a catch, though: in exchange for Suge’s favor, Tupac had to sign with Death Row. The rapper agreed to these terms, and in October 1995, Knight posted a $1.3 million dollar bail to set Tupac free.

Just four months after being released from prison, Tupac released his fourth album (All Eyez on Me) under the imprint of his new studio. In terms of content and stylistic choices, All Eyez on Me differed significantly from Tupac‘s earlier works.

Though strains of his social activism remained in some of the songs, the album spotlights Tupac’s fun-loving, braggadocious side—one that appeared to celebrate his newfound freedom. Three of its four singles (“California Love,” “How Do U Want It,” and the Snoop Dogg-assisted “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted”) are upbeat themes meant to set concert halls and dance floors ablaze.

The wildly successful All Eyez on Me was the hip hop industry’s first ever double album; and, among all the albums that Tupac worked on in his lifetime, was his only project that was certified diamond.

In August 1996, Tupac completed the recording and production of The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory. This 12-track album is a unique feat of artistry, in that it took Tupac and his team just seven days to finish this project (hence the subtitle). Tupac recorded his vocals in three days, and the songs were mixed for another four.

Compared to the raucous vibes of All Eyez on MeThe Don Killuminati exudes a darker and more enraged vibe. In particular, Tupac takes aim at East Coast hip hop personalities (such as Nas, Puff Daddy, and his friend-turned-nemesis Biggie Smalls) with ruthless insults.

As it turned out, the songs on The Don Killuminati were some of Tupac’s last recordings before his untimely death. After Tupac completed the project in swift fashion, he had just four weeks to live.

Unsolved Murder

2pac sakur

On September 7, 1996, Tupac attended the Mike Tyson vs. Bruce Seldon fight at MGM Grand Las Vegas. After the fight, he and his entourage encountered Orlando “Baby Lane” Anderson, supposedly affiliated with the rival Southside Compton Crips, in the hotel lobby. Tupac and his cohorts proceeded to beat down Anderson—who was by his lonesome—in retaliation for Anderson’s menacing behavior a few months prior.

Later that night, Tupac got into Suge Knight’s black BMW sedan to go to Club 662, a Vegas nightclub owned by Knight. At around 11:15 PM, the BMW was at a stoplight when a white Cadillac pulled up to its passenger side.

Someone inside the Cadillac then fired shots into the BMW, hitting Tupac four times. Knight, meanwhile, was struck in the head by bullet shards. Barely clinging to life, Tupac was brought to the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada. After six days on life support, Tupac took his last breath on September 13.

To this day, the murder case of Tupac Shakur remains unsolved. Blame has been pinned on his long-time rivals Biggie Smalls and Puff Daddy, while Suge Knight has also been suspected of setting up Tupac’s death (as the rapper was rumored to be contemplating a departure from Death Row).

Decades after Tupac’s passing, the Internet remains abuzz with supposed sightings of the rapper in places like Cuba, Somalia, Malaysia, and all over the United States. Though none of these sightings have ever been validated, they illustrate how worldwide fascination with Tupac’s life and career endures.


Tupac legacy

Though many rappers before him had narrated vivid stories grounded in social realities, Tupac told tales with incomparable emotion and unbending honesty. A poet as well as an activist, Tupac harnessed authentic imagery, impressive rhymes, and straightforward one-liners to deliver his message.

By doing so, he elevated the craft of hip hop to a poignant platform for voicing out advocacies that truly matter. In a genre that has long been hounded by pretentious performers, Tupac is the best example of an artist meaning what he says and saying what he means.

This is not to say, however, that Tupac’s music focused exclusively on his social and political perspectives. Throughout his rap career, he wrote songs that fit just about every occasion—parties, reunions, rallies, and even funerals.

Tupac’s rich discography invokes every emotion experienced by humans, from outrage to ecstasy and everything in between. All told, Tupac is the quintessential hip hop artist—that is, he set the standard for delivering powerful messages in the most entertaining manner possible.

Why is Tupac Shakur Influential?

Tupac Sakur

As the hip hop industry reached heights of unprecedented success in the 1990s, Tupac’s music left an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of hip hop heads. Everything about Tupac—his way with words, his fashion choices, and even his mean streak—became a template for subsequent generations of emcees. Because Tupac was so committed to his “Thug Life” identity, he became the barometer for competitive drive and endurance in the rap game.

A huge factor contributing to Tupac’s unfaltering influence is his tremendous body of work. Though All Eyez on Me turned out to be the final album released in his lifetime, he had already finished six albums’ worth of songs before his passing in 1996.

Aside from The Don Killuminati, Tupac’s posthumously released albums include R U Still Down? (1997), Until the End of Time (2001), Better Dayz (2002), Loyal to the Game (2004), and Pac’s Life (2006). It’s easy to see, then, why Tupac’s voice never seemed to be silenced long after his death.


Question: Which artists has Tupac collaborated with?

Answer: In 1993, Tupac teamed up with his stepbrother Mopreme Shakur and three other rappers (Tyrus “Big Syke” Himes, Diron “Macadoshis” Rivers, and Walter “Rated R” Burns) to form the group Thug Life. The following year, they released their one and only album Thug Life: Volume 1, which went on to be certified gold.

After Tupac was released from prison in 1995, he established the group Outlawz. He and the other original five members adopted stage names inspired by political figures throughout the course of history. Tupac himself went by the name Makaveli, evoking the memory of The Prince author Niccolò Machiavelli.

The other members were named Yaki Kadafi, Napoleon, Hussein Fatal, Mussolini, and Kastro. Over the years, new members joined the fold, including Mopreme Shakur. Outlawz has released nine studio albums, with the latest being 2021’s “One Nation;” while their most memorable output remains to be their guest verses on Tupac’s 1996 song Hail Mary.
Other hip hop acts who have made music with Tupac include Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Scarface, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, and Richie Rich. And—surprise, surprise—before their enmity ensued, Tupac actually recorded a couple of songs with The Notorious B.I.G.!

Question: Which films did Tupac appear in?

Answer: Tupac’s first exposure on the big screen came in 1991, when his group Digital Underground made a cameo appearance in the Dan Aykroyd comedy Nothing but Trouble. He then made several heads turn with his performance as the troubled Ronald Bishop in 1992’s Juice.
Then, in 1993, Tupac was cast in the lead role of the romantic film Poetic Justice, with Janet Jackson as his leading lady. Nearly two decades later, an up-and-coming rapper by the name of Kendrick Lamar would pay tribute to his idol Tupac by adopting “Poetic Justice” as the title of his 2012 collaboration with Drake.
Tupac’s other film credits include 1994’s Above the Rim, as well as the posthumously released Bullet (1996), Gridlock’d (1997), and Gang Related (1997).

Bottom Line

In the perennial discussion of “Top 5, dead or alive” among rap lovers, Tupac’s name will always come up. While other devotees debate the placement of The Notorious B.I.G., Eminem, or Jay-Z on the podium, Tupac is widely considered to be the occupant of the throne. For his dedication to the stark realities of human emotion and society, as well as his poetic and musical brilliance, Tupac Shakur can rightfully be called the true king of hip hop.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top