Today, 13 September, is the 22nd anniversary of the death of Tupac Shakur.
The seminal hip-hop artist died after a violent disagreement following a Mike Tyson boxing match in Las Vegas boiled over. He was shot several times while travelling in a car on 7 September 1996.
His mother, Afeni Shakur, made the agonising decision to turn off his life support machine nearly a week later. No-one was ever brought to justice for his murder, though several people have claimed to know who did it.
As an artist, Tupac was one of the biggest in the world – as a lyricist, not many can compare. His music was brash, bold, sometimes cocky, sometimes reflective. His work has gone on to inspire a generation of rappers, and his legacy lives on to this day.
Born in New York in 1971 to Afeni Shakur and Billy Garland – both prominent members of the Black Panthers – he moved to California and became an instant cult hero with his first album 2pacalypse Now.
His raps not only flowed impeccably, but also challenged the injustice and inequality that Tupac saw in society.
During his career he released four full-length studio albums, but his work spanned further than that through his acting, poetry and activism.
Despite that, he was never far away from controversy. He spent time in jail for his role in the sexual assault of a woman in 1993 and was an active participant in the East Coast/West Coast hip-hop war.
He was also heavily involved with the southern Californian gang culture. His allegiance to the ‘Bloods’ gang is thought to have played a part in the events that led to his murder.
Tupac allegedly had an altercation with a member of the rival ‘Crips’ gang on the night of his death over an incident some months before.
Despite the controversies – and there were many – his body of work stands out as being some of the greatest that hip-hop has ever produced.
His contemplative style as well as his switched-on lyrics have inspired just about every rapper that has followed afterwards.
Every year, on 13 September, the great and good of hip-hop pay tribute to the memory of one of the greats.
Two years ago, Kendrick Lamar said: “I was eight years old when I first saw you. I couldn’t describe how I felt at that moment. So many emotions.
“Full of excitement. Full of joy and eagerness. Twenty years later I understand exactly what that feeling was.”
In past years, Eminem has added: “He [Tupac] would also be able to trump people who were interviewing him when they would hit him with hard questions – it was incredible. He was a superstar in every aspect of the word.”
High praise, indeed.
Featured Image Credit: Reuters
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