Tupac Shakur: a biography
“Did u hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the
concrete” – Tupac Shakur, “The Rose That Grew from Concrete”
Lesane Parish Crooks was born June 16, 1971, in New York City.
Soon after birth his mother, Afeni Shakur, renamed him Tupac Amaru
Shakur after an Incan revolutionary. Tupac Amaru meaning “Shining
Serpent” and Shakur meaning “Thankful to God.” Afeni Shakur, was a
Black Panther activist who had recently been acquitted after
successfully defending herself against criminal charges including
conspiracy to bomb public areas in New York, according to “Tupac
Shakur 1971-1996: The Strange and Terrible Saga,” an article that
appeared in a 1996 issue of Rolling Stone.
Tupac grew up in the Bronx and Harlem. At the age of 12, his
mother enrolled him in a Harlem theater group where he first
discovered his passion for acting. After moving to Baltimore in the
mid-80s Tupac entered the Baltimore School for The Arts where he
His acting career stalled when Tupac was 17 and again he moved,
this time to Marin City in Northern California. While there he met
Leila Steinberg, a woman who he saw as crucial to his success.
“At 17 he (Tupac) was wide-eyed and really believed he could
change the world,” said Steinberg in the film “Tupac Shakur, Thug
Angel: The Life of an Outlaw.” Through Steinberg, Tupac met Shock G
and became a backup rapper with his group Digital Underground.
Digital Underground had recently become rap stars thanks to their
hit “Humpty Dance.”
After a couple of years working with Digital Underground and
proving himself as a rapper, Tupac released his first solo album
“2Pacalypse Now” with Interscope records in November of 1991. It
was the beginning of an incredible solo career that would see four
more albums released before his death. The next year Tupac made his
acting debut alongside Omar Epps (“The Program,” “Love and
Basketball”) in the movie “Juice” where he played the violent
Along his rising fame came legal problems. Tupac was involved
with multiple lawsuits in the early ’90s including one in which a
6-year-old girl was accidentally shot in an altercation between
Tupac’s crew and others. In 1993 Tupac was arrested and later
released after allegedly shooting two off-duty Atlanta police
officers. Later in 1993 he was accused of rape. He was sentenced to
prison for one count of sexual abuse and served eight months out of
a four-and-a-half-year sentence. However, in a 1995 interview with
MTV’s Tabitha Soren he said that he had done nothing wrong. While
in prison Tupac was married to Keisha Morris but the union was
annulled soon after his release.
In 1994, during an unsolved robbery Tupac was shot five times
while in New York. Although nobody was ever charged with the crime
Tupac insisted that he had been set up. After a remarkable recovery
Tupac would release two more albums before being murdered in Las
Vegas on Sept. 13, 1996.
Tupac Shakur: portrait of an artist as a young man
“It always felt like I was in the studio putting beats down
behind Huey Newton or Malcolm X. I knew it was important.” — Shock
G from Digital Underground on recording with Tupac.
Tupac Shakur produced an amazing amount of artwork through
different mediums in his short career. With a background in the
arts that began when he was 12 years old, performing in the theater
Tupac created music, movies and poetry. He was an artist influenced
by politics, inspired by circumstance and educated not just by
school but also by the street.
“Tupac Shakur was the hardest working man in hip-hop — hands
down,” said Shock G of Digital Underground in “Thug Angel.”
Between the release of “2Pacalypse Now” in 1991 and his death in
1996, Pac released four albums, and since his death has released
six more, according to a Nov. 9 article in the New York Times.
Considered by many to be the best rapper in history, Tupac
gained much of his props for being able to connect with his
Many, like Ryan Zenk, a Denver preschool teacher and CSU alum,
feel a parallel between what Tupac said and their own lives. Zenk
also grew up fatherless like Tupac and felt the artist spoke to
“A lot of people out there say a boy needs a father to teach him
to be a man, but Pac was a person that really took it upon himself
to become an independent man with his own strong beliefs,” said
Tupac had the same effect on fellow artists as well.
“I guess no matter what color you was or where you came from,
you felt like you could relate to him,” said rapper Eminem in
“Eminem: Reconstructing Tupac,” featured on mtv.com. “He made you
feel like you knew him. I think that honestly, Tupac was the
greatest songwriter that ever lived.”
In addition to his music Tupac was also an aspiring star on the
silver screen. Having grown up acting he showed natural ability in
movies such as “Juice,” “Poetic Justice” with Janet Jackson (1993)
and “Above the Rim” (1994). After his death two more movies,
“Bullet” (1997) and “Gridlock’d” (1997), were released with Pac
playing major roles.
Tupac’s artistic nature was also credited on the screen and
noted by New York Times by reviewer Janet Maslin in a 1992 article
where she said, “Mr. Shakur, as Bishop, becomes the film’s most
In addition to music and acting Tupac was also a poet. In 1999 a
book of Pac’s poetry titled “The Rose that Grew from Concrete” was
published by Simon & Schuster.
Tupac’s insatiable appetite for creating art led to a vast
library of material which to date continues to be released.
Tupac Shakur: an activist and philosopher
“The Hate U Give Little Infants F**ks Everyone – that’s Thug
Life.” – Tupac Shakur speaking about the acronym T.H.U.G.
Tupac grew up in the hood. His mother was a Black Panther turned
crackhead who wasn’t there for him after moving to Cali. He grew up
believing his father was dead until meeting him for the first time
after being shot in 1994. He did time at Rikers Island for a crime
he claimed not to have committed. All of this contributed to what
he called his “thug life.”
Across his stomach “Thug Life” was tattooed. It was a sign of
the life he lived. Thug life was something that he grew up living
as a black man in the streets. He considered himself a soldier and
as a soldier it was his mission to bring thug life to the forefront
of society and show it as a reality for many like him.
As a thug Tupac had no trust for the government and he saw the
young black man as the most persecuted person in America. In “Thug
Angel” he spoke about his idea that all of society is comprised of
gangs, from real gangs such as the Bloods and Crips all the way to
the cops, CIA and FBI. He saw the government as just a bigger gang
with bigger guns. He felt that because the government had the right
to protect themselves he had the same rights.
“They claim that I’m violent / Just cuz I refuse to be silent /
Envious, because I will rebel against / Any oppressor, and this is
known as self defense,” raps Tupac in his debut album “2Pacalypse
Pac held the firm belief that he had every right to defend
himself. It was a key aspect to the thug life philosophy.
Black activism was also key aspect to the thug life mentality.
He believed that it was time for black people to stand with each
other in a society that would rather look the other way than
acknowledge racial injustices. In an accusation against the famous
composer Quincy Jones Tupac raged about Jones’ interracial
marriage. However, at the time of his death Tupac was engaged to
Jones’ interracial daughter Kidada.
Thug Life and street passion drove Pac but ultimately divided
him as well.
“There’s two ni**as inside me. One wants to live in peace, and
the other won’t die unless he’s free,” he said in a 1992 interview
with Vibe magazine.
He was a gangsta who rapped of love and lived a life embroiled
in violence, a young black man who felt oppressed by the system- a
ticking time bomb that blew up too soon.
Tupac: life after death
“The tragedy of Tupac is that his untimely passing is
representative of too many young black men in this country. If we
had lost Malcolm X at 25, we would have lost a hustler nicknamed
Detroit Red. If Martin Luther King died at 25, he would’ve been a
local Baptist minister who had not yet arrived on the national
scene. And if I had left the world at 25, we would have lost a
big-band trumpet player and aspiring composer — just a sliver of
my eventual life potential.” – Quincy Jones
Tupac Shakur was shot four times on the Las Vegas strip on Sept.
7, 1996, and died from the resulting injuries at 4:03 p.m. six days
later on Sept. 13. Clouded in controversy, there has still been no
arrest for his murder.
Since his murder, rumors have run rampant that Tupac may have
staged his death. Internet Web sites have been at the forefront of
this hysteria promoting the so-called 7 Day Theory, a theory
propagating the idea that Tupac had faked his death to fool his
enemies and return even more powerful than before. HitMeUp.com, a
leading Tupac fan Web site, says that the 7 Day Theory stemmed from
Pac’s first post mortem release “Makaveli: Don Killuminati The 7
Tupac had decided to begin recording under the new name Makaveli
after becoming interested in the Italian philosopher Machiavelli
while imprisoned at Rikers Island. Machiavelli wrote a book titled
“The Prince” which discussed different ways to gain and hold power.
In the book he theorized that staging one’s own death would be a
way to become even more powerful and fool one’s enemies. Another
factor that fans insist as proof that Tupac is still alive is the
cover of The 7 Day Theory album which has an image of Pac on the
cross, an image many felt prophesizes an eventual “resurrection” of
Although many fans would like to believe Pac is coming back, his
long absence has raised doubts in even the most loyal
“I would like to believe he was coming back,” said Rob Vaughn, a
22-year-old senior majoring in psychology. “I really loved Pac, but
I know he’s not alive.”
In contrast Tupac’s family and friends are surprised by fans
beliefs that he’s still physically alive.
A lifelong friend of Tupac, Karen Lee, smiled during an
interview for “Thug Angel” when she said, “it’s almost funny to me
because he couldn’t have been quiet this long.”