Guest Author - Donna Johnson
Tupac Amaru Shakur was born in New York City on June 16, 1971. He grew up in the same city, moving to Baltimore, Maryland at the age of 15. While attending the city’s Baltimore Performing School of the Arts, he gained recognition as a talented rapper, winning several competitions. Three years later, he moved to California, where he joined the group Digital Underground as a roadie and backup dancer in 1990.
Shakur made his major music debut on Digital Underground’s Same Song track on the soundtrack for the movie Nothing But Trouble in 1991. He released his debut solo album, 2Pacalypse Now the same year. Subsequent albums increased his popularity, particularly 1993’s Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.
Despite Shakur’s career success, he was plagued by legal troubles throughout the 1990s, including a conviction for sexual abuse. He was sentenced to one and a half to four years in prison, a sentence he began serving on Valentine’s Day, 1995. In October of that year, Death Row Records CEO Marion “Suge” Knight put up the money to bond Shakur out of prison pending appeals, in exchange for the rapper recording three albums for the label.
Shakur began working on his commitment to Death Row immediately, releasing the double album All Eyez on Me in February of 1996. In June, he released the single Hit ‘Em Up, a track that blasted former friend Christopher Wallace, also known as the Notorious B.I.G, Biggie Smalls, or just Biggie, along with Wallace’s label mates at New York-based Bad Boy Records, including the CEO Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs. Shakur had long suspected Wallace and Combs of arranging, or at least having prior knowledge of, an attack the day before Shakur’s prison sentencing, in which the rapper was robbed and shot five times outside a recording studio in New York.
Shakur’s last live performance was on July 4, 1996, at the House of Blues in West Hollywood, California. The rapper was joined on stage by Snoop Doggy Dogg, Tha Dogg Pound and Outlawz. The following month, he recorded The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory , his fifth studio album and the final one he owed to Death Row. This album, which took only seven days to record, would not be released until after Shakur’s death.
On September 13, 1996, Shakur attended a Mike Tyson fight in Las Vegas, Nevada’s MGM Grand Hotel with Suge Knight and an entourage of several other people. Before the evening was over, the rapper would be fighting for his life in a local hospital after being shot yet again.