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June is Black Music Month and WERS at Night will recognize black musicians, composers, singers, and songwriters who have made enormous contributions to the music industry. Today, June 19th, 889@Night is highlighting Tupac.
Tupac Amaru Shakur is one of the best-selling music artists in the world and one of the greatest rappers to ever enter the game. Born on June 16, 1971 in East Harlem, NYC, 2Pac was an American rapper and actor. He had a very difficult upbringing then most kids. Both his parents, Afeni Shakur and Billy Garland, were members of the Black Panther Party in New York during the 1960s and early 1970s. As a child, Shakur lived around criminals and people who were struggling. His stepfather, Mutulu Shakur, was on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list in 1982.
Tupac was involved in a lot of acting growing up. When he was twelve, he preformed in plays such as A Raisin in the Sun and The Nutcracker. Shakur and his family moved around a lot. In 1986, they moved to Baltimore, Maryland where he went to Paul Laurence Dunbar High School. He then transferred to the Baltimore School for the Arts. This is where he studied poetry, jazz, and ballet. The school really helped bring out Shakur’s artistic side. At school, people got a first glimpse of Shakur’s rapping skills. He won numerous rap battles and was considered the best rapper in his school. He moved again in 1988, this time to Marin City, California. He continued to study poetry at Tamalpais High School. Lelia Steinberg, his poetry teacher, saw Shakur’s remarkable talent and organized a concert for him, which led him to a deal with Atron Gregory. Gregory set him up as a roadie and backup dancer with the rap group Digital Underground in 1990.
2Pac’s musical career took off in the early 1990s. A lot of his music caused controversy, mainly due to his lyrics. In 1991, he released his first solo album, 2Pacalypse Now. This album was praised for its underground feel. The album went on to be certified gold by the RIAA.
In 1993, 2Pac released Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z., which debuted at #24 on the Billboard 200 and reached platinum status. 2Pac’s musical career was on the path to success, but his personal life kept bumping into obstacles. In November of 1993, Shakur and his entourage were charged with sexually assaulting a woman in a hotel room, which Shakur denied the charges. He was convicted of sexual abuse and sentenced to 1 ½ – 4 ½ years in prison. He served part of his sentence and released on bail pending appeal.
In 1993, 2Pac formed the group Thug Life. Only one album was released, Thug Life: Volume 1, in 1994. This album went gold. The group consisted of Big Syke, Macadoshis, Mopreme, The Rated R, and 2Pac. There were many tracks that the group recorded for the album, but only ten made it on because Interscope records felt many of the songs were too controversial to release.
On November 30, 1994, the day before the verdict in his sexual abuse trial was to be announced, 2Pac was shot five times and robbed in the lobby of Quad Recording Studios in Manhattan. Assumptions were made that Sean Combs, Andre Harrell, and Biggie Small set him up. After checking into the hospital, 2Pac made the decision to leave the hospital three hours after surgery. The next day in court, he showed up in a wheelchair and was found guilty of three counts of molestation. On February 6, 1995, he was sentenced to 1 ½ – 4 ½ years in prison on a sexual assault charge.
While serving his prison sentence, 2Pac released his multi-platinum album, Me Against the World, in 1995. He became the first artist to have an album at number one on the Billboard 200 while serving a prison sentence. The album sold 240,000 copies in its first week. He set a record for the highest first week sales for a solo male rap artist at the time. Many called the album the “magnum opus” of his career. Me Against the World is considered to be one of the greatest and most powerful hip-hop albums of all time. It won best rap album at the 1996 Soul Train Music Awards.
In October 1995, Shakur was released from prison from the help of Suge Knight, CEO of Death Row Records, who paid his $1.4 million bail in exchange for 2Pac to release three albums under the Death Row label. All Eyez on Me was released in 1996. It was certified 5x Platinum after 2 months and 9x platinum in 1998. The album featured the Billboard Hot 100 number one singles “How Do U Want It” and “California Love”. The album made history as the first double-full-length hip-hop solo studio album released for mass consumption. All Eyez on Me was the second album to hit number one on both the Billboard 200 and the Top R&B/ Hip-Hop albums charts. It sold 566,000 copies in the first week and was charted on the top 100 with the top one-week Soundscan sales since 1991. During the 1997 Soul Train awards, the album won Rap album of the Year award. He also won the Award for Favorite Rap/ Hip-Hop Artist at the 24th Annual American Music Awards.
2Pac’s fifth and final studio album, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory was also released in 1996 before his death. The emotion and anger of 2Pac can be felt and heard on this album. The album peaked at number one on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and the Billboard 200. It also generated the second-highest debut-week sales total of any album that year, selling 664,000 copies during the first week. The album was certified 4x Platinum on June 15, 1999. Sadly, 2Pac was killed on the night of September 7, 1996 after leaving a Mike Tyson-Bruce Seldon boxing match at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Details about the murder are still a little blurry. We lost a great MC whose true intention was to empower others and bring positive change to the world. Through his poetry and musical lyrics, 2Pac voiced his opinions about the world and his everyday struggles. He made music that people could relate to. He was a truly gifted individual who used his talents to help others and bring awareness to everyday violence. His words, lyrics, poetry, smile, humor, and his passion for change will never be forgotten. To this day, 2Pac is recognized as one of the greatest artists of all time.