Before his untimely death on September 13, 1996, Tupac Amaru Shakur (also known under the moniker of 2pac) gave the world countless moments, and his life could’ve come right out of a movie script. Even in his early 20s, he was a man wise beyond his years, and in celebration of his birthday, we take a look back at some of his greatest moments – for better or worse.
After bursting onto the scene with a standout verse on Digital Underground’s “Same Song,” Shakur rose to the heights of the music industry, and became a staple in popular culture through his provocative lyrics, revolutionary mindstate, and his sometimes-erratic behavior. For many, 2pac’s many personalities is what made him special. He was to exude everything human emotion through his thoughts and actions, and his words resonated with so many people around the world.
On what would be 2Pac’s 52nd birthday, let’s take a look back at what made him a cultural icon, and a true legend in his own right.
Shortly after joining Digital Underground, 2Pac appeared on the track “Same Song” in 1990, introducing himself to a larger audience.
In 1992, Tupac wowed audiences in his first starring role in the film Juice. His portrayal of Roland Bishop was lauded by critics, and laid the foundation for what would be a lucrative acting career. He also appeared in season 6 of the hit NBC show A Different World, Tupac made a guest appearance as Piccolo, Lena childhood acquaintance from her hometown. In real life, he and Jada Pinkett Smith were close until his death in 1996.
In the summer of 1993, TupacShakur gave a riveting, impromptu speech at the Indiana Black Expo in Indianapolis, Indiana. He was only 22 years old at the time, but he showed the intelligence and leadership qualities of a man much older than he was.
In 1993, Tupac was charged with shooting two white off-duty police officers in Atlanta. He was approached by the two, who claimed he had nearly hit them with his car. An exchange of words turned violent, as one of the officers fired at 2Pac’s car, and Pac shot both men. He was arrested, but the charges against all parties were eventually dropped.
2Pac’s 1994 performance as Birdie in Above the Rim was a masterpiece in duality. His aggressive and ruthless demeanor proved for great cinema, but his scenes with Leon showed a sympathetic figure yearning for acceptance.
In 1994, Pac had two classic interviews – one with MTV and the other on BET. Ed Gordon had an in-depth conversation with the young man, with 2Pac showing his social awareness. During his MTV interview, Pac said his famous phrase “I will spark that brain that will change the world.”
In November of 1994, 2Pac was robbed and shot in the lobby of a Manhattan recording studio. He was rushed to the hospital to undergo emergency surgery; only three hours later, and against doctor’s orders, he checked himself out of the hospital, and showed up in a wheelchair for a court appearance the following day.
In February 1995, February 1995, he was sentenced to 18 months to over 4 years in prison on sexual abuse charges. While incarcerated, Me Against The World was released, which included the lead single “Dear Mama.” The song is a tribute to his mother, Afeni Shakur.
The shift in Tupac’s career happened after his eight-month prison sentence he served in 1995. After he was bailed out by Suge Knight, Pac signed with Death Row Records, and released the classic video “California Love.” It featured Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman, and was directed by Hype Williams.
At the height of the East Coast/West Coast beef, 2pac released “Hit ‘Em Up” as the B-Side to “How Do U Want It?” On the song, he disses The Notorious B.I.G., along with the entire Bad Boy roster, Junior M.A.F.I.A., Lil’ Kim, and Mobb Deep.
Almost three months to the day after he released “Hit Em Up,” Shakur was shot on the Las Vegas strip while riding with Suge Knight. He died on September 13, 1996 at the age of 25. After his death, the album The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory was released in November 1996, the final project with his creative input. Recorded in seven days in August 1996, it was the period to an amazing life and career.