Tupac Shakur was born on 16 June 1971. Rapper. Actor. Activist. Thug. Poet. Rebel. Visionary. Though his recording career lasted just five years, Tupac Amaru Shakur (1971-1996) is one of the most popular artists in history, with over 75 million records sold worldwide. More than half of his eleven studio albums sold over three million copies in the U.S., and both 1996’s All Eyez on Me and his Greatest Hits collection have been certified diamond, surpassing the ten-million mark and placing them among the top-selling albums of all time.
Intent on escaping Baltimore’s violence, his family relocated to Marin City, California when he was 17. He hooked up with the popular Bay Area rap crew Digital Underground, starting as a roadie and back-up dancer, and eventually working his way up to contributing a verse to the 1991 hit “Same Song,” his recorded debut. Tupac was signed to Interscope Records by Tom Whalley (who still oversees his estate today), and his first solo album, 2Pacalypse Now, arrived a few months later, generating both acclaim and controversy. Though the single “Brenda’s Got a Baby” demonstrated his empathy and conscience, the album’s unsparing examinations of street violence and police harassment led to a public condemnation by Vice President Dan Quayle.
This tension would continue to play out over the next five years, as Tupac’s life grew increasingly tumultuous and his popularity escalated. In 1993, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z., including the hits “Keep Ya Head Up” and “I Get Around,” became his first platinum release. Two years later, following the release of the Thug Life: Volume 1 album (recorded with Thug Life, his group of five MCs), the more somber and reflective Me Against the World reached Number One on the album charts and was nominated for two Grammys.
Things got even bigger in 1996 with All Eyez on Me, Tupac’s best-selling album, which spawned five singles, including two Number One hits, “California Love” and “How Do U Want It.” At the height of his phenomenal success, Tupac’s life was cut short on September 13, 1996 when he was murdered in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas at the age of 25.
Despite the tragedy, Tupac’s music catalog continued to grow thanks to a significant cache of unreleased songs. He recorded at a relentless pace, eventually amassing enough music for an additional seven studio albums, including the multi-platinum releases R U Still Down?, Until the End of Time, and the double-disc Better Dayz.
Nearly a decade after his final album, appreciation has only deepened for the lasting impact of Tupac’s music. His story was told in 2003’s Academy Award-nominated documentary Tupac: Resurrection. The Library of Congress added “Dear Mama” to the National Recording Registry in 2009, and even the Vatican featured “Changes” on its official playlist.
Tupac Amaru Shakur Biography and Profile
2PACALYPSE NOW 1991 BIOGRAPHY 1
Some of the earliest words music fans heard from 2Pac that were not in a song were in the press biography that accompanied publicity copies of 2Pacalypse Now in late 1991. Journalist Sal Manna had been commissioned by Interscope Records to interview the relatively unknown rapper and write his biography. No agenda, no preconceptions. No subject too controversial, no holds barred. The two of them sat down on August 21, 1991 at a San Fernando Valley house where 2Pac and his mother Afeni were living. No manager, no posse, no record company. Just 2Pac and the interviewer in a room together. This was the beginning of his career—so early, in fact, that neither Interscope nor Afeni were sure whether 2Pac was one word or two, and went with 2 Pac in the original draft. The resulting biography and cut-by-cut, in which 2Pac talked about each song on the album, were both fiercely confrontational and shockingly insightful. This was 2Pac at 20 years old, yet much of what he said then is still true today, 25 years later.
“Life for the Young Black Male is hard, it’s not ‘The Cosby Show,’” says underground hip hop’s 2Pac. “I’m not perfect, I’m not half good, I’m all bad. The Young Black Male can identify with me and all that pain growing up poor. We need someone who’s been through that and narrowly escaped. We need someone who’s still in the streets, someone who stands for something.” That’s the straight Word is Bond from 2Pac (pronounced two-pock, whose full name is Tupac Amaru Shakur), an intensely outspoken and charismatic member of Digital Underground. On 2Pacalypse Now (Interscope Records), his provocative solo debut album, the rebellious 20-year-old challenges not only American society and the Young Black Male but the rap audience as well. “2pacalypse Now is a battle cry,” he explains, “a no-bullshit record about how we really live, really feel. Hip hop’s a mirror reflection of our culture today. Everything put on wax will be remembered and ‘Pray’ is not how we’re living in the ‘90s. It’s up to the rap audience to decide the future of rap music. If you want it to be that bubblegum ‘Ice, Ice, Baby’ bullshit, that’s what it’s gonna be. But if you want it to be real, you have to stick with the real NIGGAs. If not, they’re going to take this industry away from us. It’s gonna be a white thing, just like they did with rock ‘n’ roll. I’m speaking truth. We’ve got to stand strong.”
For 2Pac, NIGGA means Never Ignorant Getting Goals Accomplished. 2Pac is and has. His life has been very real from the start. His mother, a Black Panther, was pregnant with him when she was sent to jail on suspicion of conspiracy to blow up the New York Botanical Gardens. “I was in jail even as a fetus,” says 2Pac. “So I have no mercy for the system.” Still, his mother acted as her own attorney and beat the case. His father? He died the day after he got out of jail. His stepfather? On the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list. A godfather? Famed Panther Geronimo Pratt. Says 2Pac, “All my heroes have been in jail.” After being born and raised in a rough-and-tough section of New York City, he moved with his mother to the impoverished ghettos of Baltimore, where he attended the High School of Performing Arts to learn to become an actor. “I saw black people on TV and thought maybe I could be one of the few”, he recalls. But when a high school friend was shot and killed while playing with guns, he was inspired to write and perform his first rap. The gun control rhyme quickly spread his name around the city and he decided to find his future in music. Dropping out of high school (he later earned his G.E.D.), he set out for Northern California. “There’s supposed to be palm trees, sand and easy money,” 2Pac says with a laugh. “It ain’t so.”
Two years ago, he found himself homeless and hungry, sleeping on a public bench in The Jungle—Oakland, California. In desperation, he turned to “a rough crowd, a mix of bad people. But everyone around me now had money. Anti-drug? I’m anti-poverty. All this ‘drop the weapons, drop the dope’ don’t work. I want to tell that man out there that he can’t sell drugs but I can’t—because he’s got a family to feed. You have to give people more. They have to see a purpose to life. When you’ve never had shit, you have nothing to lose. I was lost, so what?” “Let’s face it, the war on drugs is a war on us. How dumb can the American public be? You can’t wage war on inanimate objects. There’s no poppy fields in my neighborhood. It’s a war on the Young Black Male, we’re who they’re locking up.” Though he began giving out tapes of his raps and performing, he admits he never thought he’d make it big. But finally he got his break—and was invited to audition for Shock G from Digital Underground. Shock liked what he heard but 2Pac would have to earn his way on stage. “He told me, ‘Come on the road as a roadie and by next year everyone will know who you are.’ He’s been Word to the Mutha.” Still, following months of roadwork, 2Pac had yet to appear in concert. Then someone tried to kill him: After talking peace on stage during a solo appearance at a Martin Luther King, Jr. festival, his pursuer shoved a 12-gauge in his face and almost succeeded in snuffing him. 2Pac immediately gave Shock an ultimatum: “Yo! Let me rap or I’m leaving. And Shock came through. If not for him, I would’ve gone down.”
2PACALYPSE NOW 1991 BIOGRAPHY 2
2Pac was featured on Digital Underground’s “Same Song” from the This Is An EP Release project, which was also performed in the film “Nothing But Trouble.” Today, the folks who were trying to kill him are fans. “When you’re rapping you gain a posse and make more friends. Now they come to get an autograph.” It may soon be the autograph of not only a music star but a movie star too. 2Pac has a major role in “Juice,” a film written and directed by Spike Lee’s cinematographer Ernest Dickerson, which will open on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday in late January. The story is that Money B was going to an audition and 2Pac simply hitched a ride to somewhere else. But as Money read the script, he started teasing 2Pac that one of the characters acted just like him. When they got to the audition, 2Pac asked if he could read for the part and immediately won the role of the villain, the best friend-turned-murderer. Ironically, he’s become the actor he started out to be. However, 2Pac remains a staunch member of Digital Underground. “D.U. is an empire not a group,” he points out and he’ll be heard on its next album, Sons Of The P (Meaning Parliament or Panthers).
Staying true and sticking together is important to 2Pac. 2Pacalypse Now was produced by what he calls The Underground Railroad (an overall title that includes himself, Big D the Impossible, Shock G, Pee Wee, Jeremy, Raw Fusion and Live Squad). “It’s like when Harriet Tubman took the slaves north. Dope dealers are like slaves, trapped, and rappers are like conductors on this underground railroad taking them to something better. In my posse I’m talking about brothers who used to be kingpins. They trust me so I got to be large. What I get, the homies get too. I’m down for the Young Black Male. Like on the movie, the actors were bringing other black actors to the set—I was bringing my friends from the street. That worried a few people. But I live what I say. I’m not no teacher, as you can tell from how I speak. I’m just a voice from the crowd.”
His is a voice of reality. “In the ‘90s you don’t have to wear beads or no kinte cloth to be African. Africans are living in the ghettos! They can’t afford that kinte shit. It’s time to be real.” “I’m not bragging about being from the ghetto,” he continues. “There’s nothing to brag about. These aren’t gangster raps. Gangsters are a fairy tale. The only reason they’ve got the confidence of the Young Black Male is because they’re the only ones who shoot back—like the Panthers in the sixties. I’m not a gangster, I’m a NIGGA, I’m from the underground. I can’t front. To say that I’m ‘hard’ is too fashionable. I’m not hard, I’m soft. Life’s made me crazy soft. If you hit me, I’ll fall.” On the street, 2Pac wears his gold and packs a pager like a dealer even though he’s not. Why? “I’m not turning the other cheek. The streets are dangerous and so I have to be. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun either. The slaves were still singing. I love it when cops sweat me—because I’m legit. I’m the wrong one, even though I look this way, and so they have to turn me loose. I want to show it’s cool to be legit. I want a positive image—to take the bad and turn it to good, to music.”
His is a voice of hope. “The Young Black Male hero is already in us!” Every white kid wants to be us! Americans tried to kill us and we’ve gotten the worst revenge because now we got their kids wanting to be us! I see it at every rap show—and that’s excellent. If the white adults can say, ‘My son can kick it with that man,’ maybe they’ll see what’s going on for real. That’s the power of rap and once was the power of rock ‘n’ roll.”
It’s the power of the streets. It’s the power you can’t control. It’s the power of 2Pac.
2PACALYPSE NOW 1991 BIOGRAPHY PART 3
2Pac recently talked about the songs on his debut album, 2Pacalypse Now (Interscope Records). Produced by The Underground Railroad, 2Pacalypse Now was recorded in Richmond, California from March to August 1991. “Trapped” is the first single.
“Young Black Male”: “Only a Young Black Male can tell you how a Young Black Male lives. How you get sweated by the cops all the time. How your homies are rushed. This rap’s so straight from the heart that I did it in one take, one burst.”
“Trapped”: “We’re trapped in our own ghettos and some people are braggin’ about it! White people can go anywhere except the ghetto and we can’t go anyplace but the ghetto. Who do you think has the best of that deal? It doesn’t make any difference if your hair is permed or braided or in dreads, if you’re in the ghetto then you’re trapped.”
“Brenda’s Got A Baby”: “A true story. A family in New York died when they left the gas on because they were so cold—except for a 12-year-old girl. She then went to stay with a cousin who molested her and got her pregnant. She had the baby on the bathroom floor before she went to school! Then she threw it in the incinerator. Fortunately, someone saved the child. But reading that story, the pain really shook me.”
“Violent”: “My enemy is the police. They’re like the cop in Terminator 2—globs that can take any shape. They call themselves Officer Friendly but they’re out on the street kicking motherfuckin’ asses. The song just vents my frustrations.”
“If My Homie Calls”: “I’ll always stay true to my homies. The show can wait, the movie can wait. Because your homies are the ones who stay true.”
“I Don’t Give A Fuck”: “Digital Underground got jacked by the San Francisco Police Dept., they put guns to our heads. Right after getting nominated for a Grammy: ‘Shut up or we’ll blow you away!’ Two hours later, I’m in a studio session and this is what came out. I’m talking some true shit here.”
“Something Wicked”: “In case anybody thinks we always need samples, I wanted to show how we’d make it with no samples at all. We got a beat and just rocked it.”
“Rebel Of The Underground”: “I’m a rebel. I’m always the one talking the loudest and getting arrested or thrown out of someplace.”
“The Lunatic”: “That’s my nickname in the underground, big ‘U’ and little ‘u.’ Everybody’s got a character and a nickname. I guess I got this one because mine is a personality that can flip at any second.”
“Part-Time Mutha”: “This is the flip side of records glorifying dope dealin’ and free sex. This one’s about a friend who freaks for a 10-piece and how his son is so ashamed of him he becomes a stone cold killer. And a mother who’s so blinded by love of this dealer she’s not listening when her daughter tells her she’s been raped. And how a one-time stand leaves a man with baby and how it changes his life. He too is a part-time mutha.”
“Soldier Story”: “Dope dealers are known as soldiers ‘cause they’re tuned into war. In this story, a little brother idolizes his big brother dope dealer. So when the big brother goes to the penitentiary, the little brother tries to break him out—and dies. He didn’t know it’s a fast life—he didn’t know it’s not like they tell you.”
POWAMEKKA CAFE 176 LUDLOW ST, NEW YORK
From April 7 to April 9, 2017, the estate of Tupac Shakur unveiled the Powamekka Café pop-up restaurant in New York City to help celebrate Tupac’s induction to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The restaurant concept was based on notes and sketches from Tupac’s notebooks and fulfills his long-held dream of opening a “passionate paradise 4 people with power 2 play & parlay.”
The Powamekka Café pop-up took over the popular Lower East Side eatery, Sweet Chick, co-owned by restaurateur John Seymore and hip-hop legend Nas. The curated experience realized Tupac’s vision of a place for friends and family to get together and “escape the worldz cold reality” while serving the finest in “down home Southern and Creole food from generations of recipes and traditions”
Some of Tupac’s favorite meals filled the exclusive menu, including meatloaf, gumbo, and his cousin Jamala’s fried chicken wings.
The Sweet Chick space was transformed into Powamekka with photos from Tupac’s childhood, framed pages from his notebooks, and rarely seen pieces of music memorabilia. For three nights, hundreds of people came to the Café to appreciate and remember Tupac together.
Tom Whalley, trustee of the Tupac Shakur estate, said in a press release, “Tupac’s creative vision was limitless. He was constantly working on ideas and plans that reached far beyond music and film. We are proud to bring Tupac’s Powamekka Café to life.”
To commemorate the pop-up, a line of limited-edition merchandise and apparel was created in collaboration with Bravado, Universal Music Group’s merchandise and brand management company.
The Powamekka Café was located at 178 Ludlow St, New York 10002, where Sweet Chick continues to operate and thrive.
TUPAC INDUCTED INTO THE 32ND ROCK & ROLL HALL OF FAME
On Friday, April 7, 2017, Tupac Shakur was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Tupac is the first solo hip-hop artist to be inducted and received entry on his first year of eligibility. He joins fellow hip-hop artists Run DMC, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, The Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, and NWA.
From the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s induction biography of Tupac:
Beyond his popularity, Tupac Shakur is one of the most complex figures to emerge from hip-hop – really, to emerge from any art form.
His naked emotion and fearless personal revelation were a direct influence on MCs from Eminem to Kendrick Lamar. “Every rapper who grew up in the ’90s owes something to Tupac,” wrote 50 Cent in Rolling Stone, paying tribute to Shakur as one of the “100 Greatest Artists Of All Time.”
In a recording career tragically cut short after just five years, Tupac Shakur sold over 75 million records worldwide, with All Eyez On Me and his Greatest Hits collection both surpassing the ten million sales mark. Since his murder in 1996 at the age of 25, Tupac’s legend and impact have continued to expand across the globe. He has become an international symbol of resistance and outlaw spirit, an irresistible contradiction, a definitive rap anti-hero.
We are incredibly honored that Tupac has been selected as one of the 2017 inductees for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Thank you to the nominating committee and to his fans who supported his nomination by voting.
This award recognizes how Tupac’s message of change and mission to give a voice to those who didn’t have one continues to resonate with millions of people to this day. They are the reason Tupac’s legacy lives on.
2PACALYPSE NOW AVAILABLE ON VINYL
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of its release, 2Pacalypse Now is finally available on vinyl for the first time in the U.S. Pressed on the industry’s highest standard HQ-180® audiophile grade vinyl, at the world class facilities of Record Technology Inc., this new format gives 2Pac’s fans a new way to hear his classic debut from 1991. The album comes packaged in a double LP gatefold and includes photography and artwork from the album’s initial release.
2Pacalypse Now was recorded at the Starlight Sound studios in Richmond, California, between March and August 1991, and was released on November 12 of that same year on TNT and Interscope Records. It was certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) on April 19, 1995 and is nearing platinum status.
- Young Black Male (Produced by Big D the Impossible)
- Trapped feat. Shock G (Produced by The Underground Railroad)
- Soulja’s Story (Produced by Big D the Impossible)
- I Don’t Give A Fuck feat. Pogo (Produced by Pee-Wee)
- Violent feat. DJ Fuze, Money B and Mac Mone (Produced by Raw Fusion)
- Words of Wisdom (Produced by Shock G)
- Something Wicked feat. Pee-Wee (Produced by Jeremy)
- Crooked Ass N**** feat. Stretch (Produced by Stretch)
- If My Homie Calls (Produced by Big D the Impossible)
- Brenda’s Got A Baby feat. Dave Hollister (Produced by The Underground Railroad)
- The’ Lunatic feat. Stretch (Produced by Live Squad)
- Rebel Of The Underground feat. Ray Luv and Shock G (Produced by Shock G)
- Part Time Mutha feat. Angelique and Poppi (Produced by Big D the Impossible)
2Pac Biography and Profile (2Pac)