Born Lesane Parish Crooks, Tupac Amaru Shakur is one of the most iconic artists of all times. He was a seasoned rapper who rose from a humble background to be a symbol of a new movement in African American rap. An influential figure in the music industry who defied all odds on his way to the top. Popularly called 2Pac or Makaveli, he is known for addressing contemporary social issues, especially as it affected the black community in the ’80s.

Tupac was born on June 16, 1971, in East Harlem, New York City. His mother, Afeni Shakur (née Alice Faye Williams) was a member of the Black Panther Party, a revolutionary socialist political organization that existed between 1966- 1982. She renamed her son to Tupac Amaru Shakur when he was a year old, after the Peruvian revolutionary Túpac Amaru II.

As a child, he moved around a lot with his family. He attended Roland Park Middle School at Baltimore, Maryland and Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. He later transferred to Baltimore School for the Arts where he studied acting, poetry, jazz, and ballet, all of which he excelled at. 

In 1991, Tupac debuted under the stage name 2Pac joining the rap group, Digital Underground as a guest in their single, “Same Song,” which was compiled as a soundtrack for the movie Nothing but Trouble.

His first album, 2Pacalypse Now was released in November 1991. 2Pacalypse Now was certified Gold with half a million copies sold. Most of the singles on the album addressed urban black issues which are still prevalent in the world today. Prominent rappers like Eminem, Nas and Game have stated that some of 2Pac’s singles on the album served as an inspiration to them.

Tupac’s second album, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z, was released on February 1993. The album debuted at number 24 on the Billboard 200 and it garnered more commercial success than his previous album. The album produced hits like “I Get Around” which ranked number 11 on the pop singles chart on Billboard Hot 100. The album was certified Platinum, selling more than one million copies in the US alone.

Following public scrutiny for his gangster life and various allegations including sexual assaults, his third album, Me Against the World was released on March 14, 1995. Released while in prison, the album ranks among the greatest, most influential rap albums, selling 240,000 copies in its first week. His lyrics were inspired by his impending prison sentence, troubles with the police and personal struggles. Me Against the World is described as Tupac’s most introspective album. According to the rapper, the album was made to show hip hop audience his respect for the art form. He intentionally tried to make the album more personal and reflective than his previous album. 

The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, holding the spot for four consecutive weeks. His single in the album, “Dear Mama” was the album’s most successful single, topping the Hot Rap Singles chart and peaked at number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album was the best-selling album of the year in the United States. Me Against the World was certified double platinum and it was nominated for two Grammy awards at the 38th Grammy Awards. In 2008, the National Association of Recording Merchandisers (NARM), in conjunction with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, included Me Against the World in its list of the Definitive 200 Albums of All Time.  

After his release from prison, Tupac released his fourth album, All Eyez On Me on February 13, 1996, by Death Row Records. The album would go on to be his last studio album to be released during his lifetime. The two-disc album debuted at number one on the Billboard charts and sold more than five million copies within its first year of release. It peaked at number one on both the Billboard 200 and the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts. The album won the 1997 Soul Train award for Rap Album of the Year, posthumously and Tupac won the award for Favourite Rap/Hip-Hop Artist at the 24th Annual American Music Awards. The album was certified Diamond.

His fifth album, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, commonly called The 7 Day Theory was released posthumously under a different stage name, Makaveli. It was released on November 1996, two months after the rapper’s death. The album was originally scheduled for release in March 1997, but after his death, it was released four months earlier. The album was finished in seven days during the first week of August 1996. The lyrics were written and recorded in three days and mixing took an additional four days. The album contains the last songs Tupac recorded before his death in September 1996. The album peaked at number one on the Billboard 200 and sold 664,000 copies within its first week. By 1999, it was certified 4× Platinum. 

Apart from being an artist, Tupac Shakur was also an actor. He featured in several movies like Poetic Justice (1993) alongside Janet Jackson, Juice (1993) and Grindlock’d (1997).

Tupac married his girlfriend Keisha Morris in 1995, however, the marriage ended in March 1996. He was in a relationship with Kidada Jones, daughter of the record producer Quincy Jones in months leading up to his death. 

During his career, 2Pac was tried on multiple occasions for offences ranging from physical assault to sexual assault. He was charged with shooting two off-duty officers in October 1993 at Atlanta. The charges were later dropped due to discrepancies in testimonies. On September 14, 1994, Tupac pleaded guilty to a misdemeanour and was sentenced to 30 days in jail. He was released ten days later and ordered to 35 hours of community service. In early 1994, he also served 15 days in jail for assaulting the movie director of a movie he was scheduled to appear in. In November 1993, Tupac and three other men were charged in New York with sexually assaulting a woman in his hotel room. Tupac denied the allegation and said he was hurt that a woman would accuse him of taking something from her. In 1994, he was convicted of first-degree sexual abuse, but acquitted of other charges. 

On the evening of September 7, 1996, at 11:15 p.m., Tupac was leaving a Las Vegas casino where he had just attended a prizefight match by Mike Tyson when he was shot by an unknown assailant, four times. He was taken to the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada where he received treatment for his gunshot wounds. He died six days later, September 13, 1996, from internal bleeding and was pronounced dead at 4:03 p.m. Cause of death according to medical report were respiratory failure and cardiopulmonary arrest associated with multiple gunshot wounds. His body was cremated the next day. Though several suspects came into light, the identity of the shooter remains unknown till date.

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