|b. Tupac Amaru Shakur, 16 June 1971, Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA, d. 13 September 1996, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA. The controversy-laced gangsta rapper "2Pac" was the son of two Black Panther members, and his mother was actually pregnant with her son while being held in a New York prison. As a teenager Shakur studied at the Baltimore School Of Arts, before he moved to Marin City, California with his family and began hustling on the streets. His first appearance on the hip-hop scene came with a brief spell as part of Digital Underground, but it was with his 1991 debut 2Pacalypse Now that he announced himself as one of rap's newest talents, while gaining censure from various quarters for the album's explicit lyrical content. He gained his first crossover success in July 1993 with "I Get Around". The platinum-selling album which housed it, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. ... offered a rare degree of insight, with glints of wisdom like "Last Wordz" - "United we stand, divided we fall, they can shoot one nigga, but they can't shoot us all". To further his views he ran the Underground Railroad network for troubled teenagers in his native Oakland, California.
In 1994, Shakur collaborated with his older brother Mopreme, Syke, Macadoshis and the Rated R on the short-lived Thug Life project, releasing the morbid and violent Volume 1. By this time his acting career was also burgeoning, following a memorable performance as Bishop in Ernest Dickerson's Juice. After appearing in director John Singleton's movie Poetic Justice, alongside Janet Jackson, he was dropped from the same director's Higher Learning. Shakur took things into his own hands when he was also removed from the set of Allen Hughes' Menace II Society when he attacked the director, for which he received a 15 day jail sentence in February 1994. He did however, make it on to the final cut of the basketball movie Above The Rim. Shakur's run-ins with the police had escalated in line with his profile as a prominent black artist.
He was arrested in 1992 when a fight he was involved in resulted in the accidental death of a six-year-old boy, although the charges were later dismissed. He was accused in October 1993 of involvement in the shooting of two plain clothes policemen (later dismissed), and one count of forceful sodomy of a female fan. He was already on bail for an outstanding battery charge for allegedly striking a woman who asked for his autograph, and had also been arrested in Los Angeles for carrying a concealed weapon and assaulting a driver. Further controversy followed when a tape of 2Pacalypse Now was found in the possession of a man arrested for murder. Shakur was found guilty of the sexual assault in November 1994, but the following day (30 November) was shot and robbed in the lobby of Quad Studios in New York's Times Square. Shakur later accused Biggie Smalls (the Notorious B.I.G.), Andre Harrell and Sean "Puffy" Combs of involvement in the shooting, directly leading to the east coast/west coast feud that would eventually result in the deaths of both the Notorious B.I.G. and Shakur himself.
Following the shooting incident, Shakur was sentenced to four and a half years in jail on February 7 1995. The epic Me Against The World was released while he was serving his sentence, but still debuted at number 1 in the US charts. Meanwhile, Marion "Suge' Knight, president of hip-hop's most successful label Death Row Records, had arranged parole for Shakur, who eventually served only eight months of his sentence. Newly signed to Death Row, Shakur released 1996"s sprawling double set All Eyez On Me, which entered the main Billboard US chart at number 1. The reviews were both supportive and outstandingly good, and the album sold over six million in its first year, and generated a hit single with the Dr. Dre duet "California Love'. During the same year, Shakur began concentrating on his acting career again, appearing in Bullet and Gridlock'd (opposite Tim Roth). Further drama came when he was gunned down in Las Vegas on 8 September after watching the Mike Tyson-Bruce Seldon fight at the MGM Grand, and died five days later. Various explanations were given, including the theory that the Notorious B.I.G. arranged the shooting after Shakur had bragged about sleeping with his wife, Faith Evans. The east coast/west coast rivalry continued after his death, leading to the Notorious B.I.G."s murder in similar circumstances six months later. In a further twist, Orlando Anderson, the chief suspect in Shakur's murder, was shot dead on 29 May 1998.
Since his death Shakur's recorded legacy has generated several posthumous releases and hit singles, amid ugly squabblings over his estate. R U Still Down? (Remember Me) (released on his mother's new Amaru label) collects unreleased material from 1992-1994. The Rose That Grew From Concrete is an excellent tribute album from many of rap's new wave, all of whom owe much to his talent and legacy.