Thought of as one of hip-hop’s untouchables, Tupac Shakur was immortalized in death exactly 20 years ago when he was gunned down in Las Vegas at the young age of 25. Conspiracy theories swirl around his demise, from secret messages left in his songs, to the idea that ‘Pac is in fact, still alive and well- and of course, theories of who actually pulled the trigger.
With his first album release in 1991, it’s crazy to imagine that Tupac’s career only lasted five years, but he was still able to become a key player in the East vs. West-Coast hip-hop rivalry. Eventually signing to Death Row Records, one of the hottest labels in America, Tupac dropped his fourth album- the infamous All Eyez On Me. With songs like California Love and 2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted, the album topped charts and became hip-hop’s first double CD. The fact that most of Tupac’s albums have been released posthumously is a testament to how much material he recorded before his untimely murder.
Born to Afeni Shakur, a Black Panther, it probably would’ve been impossible for Tupac to ignore the racial and systemic inequalities faced by his community. Frequently vocal in his music and interviews on issues such as poverty, police brutality, and the mass incarceration of African American men, it’s guaranteed that ‘Pac would be a champion of movements such as #BlackLivesMatter today.
It wouldn’t be fair to simply call Tupac a ‘rap icon’- he is a cultural icon. Many forget that he attended the Baltimore School of the Arts and pursued an acting career, landing roles in films such as Juice and Poetic Justice. His other achievements include a posthumous book release of his poetry, entitled The Rose that Grew from Concrete. If ‘Pac truly weren’t incredible, he would not be one of the most imitated rappers of all time, have his own Coachella hologram, and be having a biopic film be released this November.
On September 13, 1996, the rap game was changed forever. Tupac Shakur was a poet, a musician, and an actor, who redefined the word ‘thug’. He was never afraid of saying what he believed to be true, and strived to make the voices of his community heard. We are now left to wonder- if Tupac was still alive, how much more would he have accomplished by now?
Check out one of Tupac’s most inspirational interviews below: