While he was most famous for his rap career, but was also a gifted actor, poet and a thoughtful while outspoken advocate for the poor and the overlooked in America. During his life, he produced an immense amount of artistic work, which included albums, major Hollywood feature films, and published works. He was most prolific in the music industry, selling over 75 million albums. Tupac’s unapologetic lyrics were relevant, important, and reflective of the hard lives led by many. His music earned attention and respect through a poetic style that embraced street vocabulary while being innovative and he is still considered by many to be one of the biggest influences on modern hip hop.
Tupac’s career has earned him 6 Grammy nominations and three MTV Video Music Award nominations. Shakur was honoured by the American Music Awards as the Favourite Hiphop Artist in 1997.
Born on June 16 1971 in New York City, Shakur’s parents were both members of the Black Panther Party whose militant style and provocative ideologies for civil rights would come to influence Tuapc’s music. At an early age, Tuapc’s love for performance and the arts began to show, as he began acting at age 13 and later enrolled in the Baltimore School of the Arts before dropping out at 17. Shakur broke into the music business with rap group Digital Underground as a back-up dancer and roadie. Eventually Shakur released his first solo album in ’91, 2pacalypse Now. Now sporting the stage name 2pac, Shakur’s music career began to grow as his second album, Strickly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z included 2 top 20 pop chart tracks: I Get Around and Keep Ya Head Up.
Shakur’s legal battles began after he established his rap career. In the early nineties Shakur faced a wrongful death suit which settled out of court, accusations of assaulting police officers where charges were ultimately dropped, and even an incident where Shakur sustained 5 gunshot wounds from unknown assailants. In 1995 Tupac was sentenced one-and-a-half to four-and-a-half years in prison for sexual assault. However, not even prison could slow the success of Shakur’s career.
While incarcerated Tupac’s latest album, Me Against the World, was number one in the pop charts and would later go double platinum. Shakur become the first artist to reach number one in the pop chart while serving a prison sentence. Making the most of his time in jail, Tupac became an passionate reader. Among his favourites were the works of Niccolò Machiavelli, an italian Renaissance writer whose works were in part the foundation for western political science. Shakur’s appreciation of his work inspired the nickname: Makaveli.
After serving only 8 months of his sentence, Tupac was out on parole thanks to a 1.4 million dollar bond paid by Suge Knight, CEO of Death Row records. Now signed on Death Row records, Shakur went on to create All Eyez on Me, which featured hits How Do You Want It and California Love.
Tupac’s life was cut short in September of 1996 when Shakur became the victim of a drive-by shooting while his car waited on a red light. Inspite surviving the surgery that followed, Shakur was pronounced dead almost a week after the attack.
Even today, Tupac’s musical influence is wide-spread from the library of congress where his song Dear Mama was added in 2010 to the national registry, to artists like 11 time Grammy winner Eminem who in an interview with MTV said:
“He made you feel like you knew him. I think that honestly, Tupac was the greatest songwriter that ever lived. He made it seem so easy. The emotion was there, and feeling, and everything he was trying to describe. You saw a picture that he was trying to paint.”
Tupac leaves a legacy of honestly and passion in his songs. Respected by many, Tupac has become an inspiration for artists and a standard in rap music.