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Rapper, actor. Born on June 16, 1971, in New York, New York. Shakur has become a legend in hip-hop and rap circles for his talent, his violent behavior, and his brutal death. The son of a Black Panther activist, Shakur moved around a lot as a child. In his youth, he explored acting by becoming a member of the 127th Street Ensemble, a Harlem-based theater company.
As a teenager, Shakur attended the Baltimore School for the Arts, where he took acting and dance classes, including ballet. While living in Baltimore, he discovered rap and began performing as MC New York. In the late 1980s, Shakur and his family moved to the West Coast. He joined the Oakland, California-based hip-hop group Digital Underground, which earlier had scored a hit with the song "The Humpty Dance."
In 1991, Shakur emerged as a solo artist — using the name 2Pac — with his debut album 2Pacalypse Now. The track "Brenda's Got a Baby" reached as high as number three on the Billboard Hot Rap Singles chart. His second album crossed over to the pop charts, with singles "I Get Around" and "Keep Ya Head Up." The album went platinum, selling more than a million copies. Around this time, Shakur also appeared in several films, including Poetic Justice (1993) opposite Janet Jackson.
2Pac became quite a sensation, earning praise for his musical and acting talent as well as condemnation for his explicit, violent lyrics. Many of his songs told of fights, gangs, and sex. He appeared to be living up to his aggressive gangster rap persona with several arrests for violent offenses in the 1990s. In 1994, he spent several days in jail for assaulting director Allen Hughes and was later convicted of sexual assault in another case. Shakur himself fell victim to violence, getting shot five times in the lobby of a recording studio during a mugging.
The next year, after recovering from his injuries, Shakur was sentenced to four and a half years in prison in the sexual assault case. His third solo album, Me Against the World (1995), started out in the number one spot on the album charts. Many critics praised the work, noting that tracks like "Dear Mama" showed a more genuine, reflective side to the rapper. The possibility of an early death runs through several songs on this recordings — something that many have seen as a chilling moment of foretelling.
After serving eight months in prison, Shakur returned to music with the album All Eyez on Me (1996). He was reportedly released after Death Row Records CEO Marion "Suge" Knight paid a bond of more than $1 million as part of Shakur's parole. In his latest project, Shakur as the defiant street thug was back in full force on this recording. The song "California Love" featured a guest appearance by famed rapper-producer Dr. Dre and made a strong showing on the pop charts. "How Do You Want It" also was another smash success for Shakur. It appeared to be a golden time for Shakur. Besides his hit album, he tackled several film roles.
During his career, Shakur had become embroiled in a feud between East Coast and West Coast rappers. He was known to insult his enemies on his tracks. On a trip to Las Vegas to attend a boxing match, Shakur was shot while riding in a car driven by Knight on September 7, 1996. He died six days later on September 13 from his injuries. His killer has never been caught. Since his death, numerous albums of his work have been released, selling millions of copies. Hearing him express his views and share his thoughts proves that he was much more than just a rapper.