His life was a tapestry of often contradictory images: the concerned young father cradling his son in the video for “Keep Ya Head Up”; the angry rapper spitting at cameras as they swirled around his 1994 trial for sexual assault; the artist who animatedly, yet eloquently, pushed back at Ed Gordon’s questions during a memorable BET interview; and the man who seemed to predict his own demise when the “I Ain’t Mad at Cha” video, released weeks after his death, depicted him as an angel in heaven.
After recording two albums – the muddled 2Pacalypse Now and the slightly improved Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. – Shakur unveiled his crew T.H.U.G. L.I.F.E., an acronym for The Hate U Gave Little Infants Fucks Everybody.
Released in May while Shakur was incarcerated, Me Against the World is arguably his most concise and moving work.
Shakur signed with the hottest and most dangerous record label in America, Death Row, and dropped the first hip-hop double CD.1996’s All Eyez on Me teems with “Gangsta party” hits, high-wattage collaborations, and even samples – contrary to popular belief, G-funk producers sampled nearly as often as their East Coast counterparts.
No other rapper has generated a legend as profound as The Don Killuminati: The Seven Day Theory, the 1996 album that fueled widespread belief that he had somehow survived the Las Vegas shooting.
The bootlegs not only intensified talk that he was somehow still alive, but led to accusations that Suge Knight, then in prison and battling Afeni Shakur over control to Tupac’s work, was responsible for the leaks.
“13 bootleg albums of his unreleased material have hit the streets. Is Death Row responsible?” asked Rap Pages, which dedicated a September 1998 cover to “The Raping of Tupac.” Regardless of the source, Shakur’s posthumous deluge set a precedent that everyone from Weezy to Gucci Mane follows to this day: Stay in the studio, and feed the streets until it bursts.