Wednesday, February 3, 2016


Although we lost him far too soon at the age of twenty-five, Tupac Shakur managed to accomplish much in his short life and remains one of the most influential artists in hip-hop. During the early '90's he used his music as an outlet to address the themes of racism, social injustice, police brutality and inner-city violence, which was revolutionary during a time when much of rap was focused on expensive cars, sexy women and petty squabbles. The undeniable power of Shakur's words made the world take notice and changed hip-hop forever.

Shakur was born Lesane Parish Crooks in East Harlem, New York but a year after his birth, he was renamed after the 18th-century Peruvian revolutionary, Túpac Amaru. His parents were actively involved with the Black Panthers and the Black Liberation Army which would influence him as a child. As a teen, Shakur enrolled in the 127th Street Repertory Ensemble where he performed in various plays. By the time he was seventeen, the family moved to Marin County, California where he would continue with theater and poetry.

He was soon captivated by rap music and got involved with the alt-hip-hop group, Digital Underground as a back-up dancer. This lead to Shakur performing with the band on their albums before breaking out on his own as "2Pac" with his debut release, "2Pacalypse Now" in 1991. While it wasn't a commercial hit, it did bring attention to the aspiring rapper. The follow-up released two years later, "Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z..." did even better with two top-twenty hit singles, "Keep Ya Head Up" and "I Get Around".

Around this time, Shakur began to flex his acting muscles and appeared in the films, "Juice", "Above The Rim" and "Poetic Justice" with Janet Jackson. It was also during this time that he had major troubles with the law including accusations of shooting two off-duty police officers, assaulting director Allen Hughes while filming "Menace II Society" and the most serious offense; sexually assaulting a female fan which he was found guilty. Shakur served nine months of his four year sentence before Suge Knight, CEO of Death Row Records, posted his bail under the condition of him recording three albums for his label.

2Pac's third album, "Me Against the World" was released while he was in prison in 1995 and it entered the Billboard album chart at number one. Reflective and very personal, the album was critically acclaimed with the single, "Dear Mama", an emotional tribute to his mother, Afeni Shakur, becoming one of his biggest hits reaching the top of the rap singles chart and the top-ten on the pop charts.

A few months after the release of Shakur's fourth CD, "All Eyez on Me", he was leaving a boxing match in Las Vegas with Suge Knight when their car was fired upon by an unknown number of assailants. Knight was injured by fragmentation but Shakur was fatally hit multiple times and passed away four days later on September 13, 1996. To preserve Shakur's legacy, his mother founded the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation in 1997 to help students enhance their talents. The prolific artist left behind a large body of unreleased material and six albums were released posthumously between 1996 through 2006.

To celebrate the life and artistry of Tupac Shakur, here are just two of my favorite tracks:

"Keep Ya Head Up" - 2Pac (1993) mp3

"Dear Mama" - 2Pac (1995) mp3


During a loving musical tribute while receiving this year's lifetime achievement award from BET, we were reminded of what an amazing ...