Tupac Shakur

Essay by cheathouse1University, Bachelor's April 2005

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Tupac Shakur became the unlikely martyr of gangsta rap, becoming the tragic symbol of hardcore rap. At the outset of his career, it didn't appear that he would emerge as one of the definitive rappers of the '90s, especially since he was a second-string rapper for Digital Underground, joining after they had their biggest hit. But in 1992, he delivered an acclaimed debut album, 2Pacalypse Now, which quickly followed with a star-making performance in the urban drama, Juice. Over the course, of one year his profile raised substantially, as he became as well-known for his run-ins with the law as he did for his music. By 1994, 2-Pac was rivalling Snoop Doggy Dogg as the most controversial figure in rap, as he was spending as much time in prison as he was in the recording studio. His burgeoning outlaw mythology helped his 1995 album Me Against the World enter the charts at number one, and it also opened himself up to charges of exploitation.

Yet, as the single "Dear Mama" illustrated, he was capable of sensitivity as well as violence. Unfortunately, the gangsta lifestyle he captured in his music soon overtook his own life. Signing with Death Row Records in late 1995, Shakur released the double-album All Eyez on Me in the spring of 1996, and the record, as well as its hit single "California Love," confirmed his superstar status. While his celebrity was at its peak, he was publicly fighting with his rival the Notorious B.I.G. and there were tensions brewing at Death Row. Even with such conflicts, 2-Pac's drive-by-shooting in September 1996 was unexpected. On September 13, six days after the shooting, Shakur passed away, leaving behind a legacy that was based as much on his lifestyle as it was his music.

The son of two Black Panther...