Remembering Tupac Shakur 20 Years After His Death

Tupac Shakur was fatally wounded in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada, on September 7, 1996. Although he was not immediately killed, the hip-hop legend was pronounced dead on September 13. Twenty years later, 2Pac’s death remains one of the most controversial unsolved murders in the United States.

A native of East Harlem, New York, Tupac Shakur had a difficult childhood, as his mother struggled with drug addiction and his family frequently moved.

Despite his disadvantages, the young Shakur expressed a keen interest in acting. As a youth, he became a member of Harlem’s 127th Street Ensemble theater troupe. He later attended Baltimore, Maryland’s School for the Arts, where he studied acting, dance, and poetry.

While living in Baltimore, Tupac developed an interest in hip-hop and rap, which he performed under the stage name MC New York. In the late 1980s, the talented rapper moved to Las Angeles, California, and joined Digital Underground.

Following his success with Digital Underground, Tupac Shakur adopted the stage name 2Pac and launched his solo career.

Although he won numerous awards for his music, including an American Music Award for Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Artist and an ASCAP Rhythm & Soul Music Award for Top Soundtrack Song of the Year, 2Pac’s career and personal life were steeped in controversy.

As reported by Biography, Tupac Shakur’s lyrics were criticized as explicit and hostile. His songs also became a point of heated debate, as they focused heavily on gang culture, rebellion against authority, and violence against women.

Unfortunately, 2Pac’s personal life mirrored some of his controversial lyrics. Between 1993 and 1995, the artist was arrested a total of seven times for crimes ranging from gun violence to sexual assault.

Although a majority of the charges were eventually dismissed, Tupac Shakur was convicted of felonious sexual abuse in 1995. He was sentenced to a maximum of four years and six months in prison.

Following his early release, 2Pac signed a contract with Death Row Records and headed back to the recording studio.

During an October 1995 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Tupac Shakur vehemently denied rumors that he was ever involved in a criminal gang.

“I am not a gangster and never have been… I’m not down with people who steal and hurt others. I’m not some violent closet psycho… I’m an artist.”

The hip-hop legend also denied rumors that his lyrics were a reflection of his own lifestyle. He also expressed dismay that some of his more sensitive songs were simply ignored.

“The thing that bothers me is that it seems like all the sensitive stuff I write just goes unnoticed… the media doesn’t get who I am at all. Or maybe they just can’t accept it.”

On the evening of Saturday, September 7, 1996, 2Pac and Suge Knight attended the Mike Tyson/Bruce Seldon fight at the MGM Las Vegas casino. When the fight was over, the men drove away from the venue in a 1996 BMW 750 sedan.

While traveling down Flamingo Road, Tupac Shakur stood up and stuck his upper body through the vehicle’s sunroof. As reported by the website, an unknown assailant fired a total of 13 shots at the BMW. 2Pac and Suge Knight were both injured in the shooting. Unfortunately, Shakur’s injuries proved to be fatal.

Although nobody was ever charged in Tupac Shakur’s death, it is assumed that he was killed amid the infamous East Coast/West Coast rap war. However, the hip-hop artist’s death has become the subject of numerous conspiracy theories.

As reported by SFGate, the theories range from suggestions that 2Pac faked his own death to accusations that Suge Knight was directly involved in his friend’s death. Some conspiracy theorists have even suggested the hip-hop legend’s death was faked by authorities, who placed him in the Witness Protection program.

The identity of the person or persons responsible Tupac Shakur’s death may never be known. However, he will always be remembered one of the most iconic hip-hop and rap artists in the world.

[Photo by Robert Kalfus/AP Images]

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