Tupac Shakur grew up around nothing but self-delusion. His mother, Alice Faye Williams, thought she was a "revolutionary." She called herself "Afeni Shakur" and associated with members of the ill-fated Black Panther Party, a movement that wanted to feed school kids breakfast and earn civil rights for African Americans.
During her youth she dropped out of high school, partied with North Carolina gang members, then moved to Brooklyn: After an affair with one of Malcolm X's bodyguards, she became political. When the mostly white United Federation of Teachers went on strike in 1968, she crossed the picket line and taught the children herself. After this she joined a New York chapter of the Black Panther Party and fell in with an organizer named Lumumba. She took to ranting about killing "the pigs" and overthrowing the government, which eventually led to her arrest and that of twenty comrades for conspiring to set off a race war. Pregnant, she made bail and told her husband, Lummuba, it wasn't his child. Behind his back she had been carrying on with Legs (a small-time associate of Harlem drug baron Nicky Barnes) and Billy Garland (a member of the Party). Lumumba immediately divorced fer.
Things went downhill for Afeni: Bail revoked, she was imprisoned in the Women's House of Detention in Greenwich Village. In her cell she patted her belly and said, "This is my prince. He is going to save the black nation."
By the time Tupac was born on June 16, 1971, Afeni had already defended herself in court and been acquitted on 156 counts. Living in the Bronx, she found steady work as a paralegal and tried to raise her son to respect the value of an education.
From childhood, everyone called him the "Black Prince." For misbehaving, he had to read an entire edition of The New York Times. But she had no answer when he asked about his daddy. "She just told me, 'I don't know who your daddy is.' It wasn't like she was a slut or nothin'. It was just some rough times."When he was two, his sister, Sekyiwa, was born. This child's father, Mutulu, was a Black Panther who, a few months before her birth, had been sentenced to sixty years for a fatal armored car robbery.
With Mutulu away, the family experienced hard times. No matter where they moved-the Bronx, Harlem, homeless shelters-Tupac was distressed. "I remember crying all the time. My major thing growing up was I couldn't fit in. Because I was from everywhere. I didn't have no buddies that I grew up with."
As time passed, the issue of his father tormented him. He felt "unmanly," he said. Then his cousins started saying he had an effeminate face. "I don't know. I just didn't feel hard. I could do all the things my mother could give me, but she couldn't give me nothing else."
The loneliness began to wear on him. He retreated into writing love songs and poetry. "I remember I had a book like a diary. And in that book I said I was going to be famous." He wanted to be an actor. Acting was an escape from his dismal life. He was good at it, eager to leave his crummy family behind. "The reason why I could get into acting was because it takes nothin' to get out of who I am and go into somebody else."
His mother enrolled him in the 127th Street Ensemble, a theater group in the impoverished Harlem section of Manhattan, where he landed his first role at age twelve, that of Travis in A Raisin in the Sun. "I lay on a couch and played sleep for the first scene. Then I woke up and I was the only person onstage. I can remeber thinking, "This is the best shit in the world!" That got me real high. I was gettin' a secret: This is what my cousins can't do."
In Baltimore, at age fifteen, he fell into rap; he started writing lyrics, walking with a swagger, and milking his background in New York for all it was worth. People in small towns feared the Big Apple's reputation; he called himself MC New York and made people think he was a tough guy.
He enrolled in the illustrious Balitomore School for the Arts, where he studied acting and ballet with white kids and finally felt "in touch" with himself. "Them white kids had things we never seen," he said. "That was the first time I saw there was white people who you could get along with. Before that, I just believed what everyone else said: They was devils. But I loved it. I loved going to school. It taught me a lot. I was starting to feel like I really wanted to be an artist.
By the time he was twenty, Shakur had been arrested eight times, even serving eight months in prison after being convicted of sexual abuse. In addition, he was the subject of two wrongful-
In the late eighties, Shakur teamed up with Humpty-
In 1992, Shakur entered a most fruitful five-
In November of 1994, he was shot five times during a robbery in which thieves made off with $40,000 worth of his jewelry. Shakur miraculously recovered from his injuries to produce his most impressive artistic accomplishments, including 1995's Me Against the World, which sold two million copies, and the double-
Following his passing, Shakur's label released an album, The Don Killuminati, under the pseudonym "Makaveli." The cover depicted Shakur nailed to a cross under a crown of thorns, with a map of the country's major gang areas superimposed on it. In January of 1997, Gramercy pictures released Gridlock'd, a film in which Shakur played the role of a drug addict to mostly good reviews. His final film, Gang Related, was released in 1997, and Death Row is said to have several unreleased recordings in the vaults for potential future release.
Now guys... to many, 2pac is seen as a kind of Black Jesus. A Prophet. 2pac admitted to harbouring a deep sense of duty and responsibility to the future of the black community and especially the future of its young generations. He states in various songs that he wished he could go to college, but instead realised that he was gifted beyond measure and it was his duty to drop out and help his Brothers and Sisters through the medium of rap. Ultimately, his outspokenness and his refusal to comply with 'pop' rap and its themes at the time resulted in his fatal shooting.
I leave you with one of 2pac's more thought provoking songs entitled "Still I Rise"
Still I Rise