Keep Ya Head up. Dear Mama. California Love. I Get Around.
Anyone who listened to a radio in the 1990s knows these titles as Tupac Shakur classics. Since his death in 1996, dedicated fans have kept Shakur’s memory alive and well. Seventeen years later, a biopic is slated to begin shooting in 2014 detailing the rapper’s life. Born Lisane Parish Crooks on June 16, 1971 but renamed Tupac Amaru by his Black Panther activist mother Afeni, Shakur was shot in Las Vegas in September 1996, and died on Friday the 13th, 6 days later. The name Tupac Amaru means “shining serpent” in the Incan language.
Known for explicit lyrics detailing the violent “gangsta” lifestyle, Shakur began his rapping career as MC New York, later joining California-based group Digital Underground. He is featured prominently on the single “Same Song”. In 1991, Shakur struck out under the name 2Pac with debut album 2Pacalypse Now. The single “Brenda’s Got a Baby” went No.3 on Billboard’s Hot Rap Singles chart.
The image of Shakur as a streetwise rapper was not a front. He was known for his temper and for carrying a gun. Arrested five times between 1992 and 1994, Shakur’s convictions included minimal jail time for assaulting another rapper with a bat, punching director Allen Hughes on the set of Menace II Society (1993), and four and a half years for sexual assault. Shakur became the first artist to go No. 1 on Billboard while incarcerated with his hit “Dear Mama” from Me Against The World (1995).
Considered a poet by those who knew and worked with him, Shakur continues to influence hip-hop artists today. Last year, a holographic image of Shakur appeared on stage with contemporary rappers Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre. Tyga employed unreleased lyrics and vocals from Tupac in his single “Hit ‘Em Up”.
Shakur’s talent was not limited to music. He joined the 127th Street Ensemble theater company based in Harlem and later attended Baltimore School of Arts, where he studied acting and dance. According to iMDB.com, Shakur had roles in a few TV series including the Cosby spinoff A Different World (1993) and Drexell’s Class (1992). Movie appearances include Above the Rim, Bullet and Gridlock’d. He was cast opposite Janet Jackson (Poetic Justice 1993) and had a starring role in Juice (1992) with Omar Epps and Samuel L. Jackson. His lyrics and music continue to crop up in films today, from Jamie Foxx’s hit Django Unchained to Robert Downey, Jr.’s Iron Man 2.
The question now is who can pull off the iconic artist’s role in the biopic, titled Tupac. Several names are being tossed around, some known others a bit more obscure. According to MTV.com, Afeni Shakur, who is producing the film, has yet to name a director, so for the meantime, it is a question for fan speculation.
Writen by: Brandi Tasby