The Death of Tupac — End of a THUG Life

On September 13, 1996, rapper Tupac Shakur died in hospital, six days after he was gunned down in Las Vegas.

Tupac was in Vegas with Death Row Records founder Suge Knight to attend the Mike Tyson-Bruce Seldon boxing match on September 7.  Following the match Shakur and his entourage were captured on video in the lobby of the MGM Grand Hotel getting into a scuffle with a Crips gang member.

Hours later, Shakur was riding as a passenger in a car driven by Suge Knight when a white Cadillac pulled up alongside them at a stoplight and opened fire. At least 12 shots were fired, with four hitting Tupac in the hand, pelvis and chest and another bullet grazing Knights head.

In 2014, a retired Las Vegas cop said Tupac told him, “F**k you,” when asked who’d shot him. In other accounts, Tupac’s last words included, “I can’t breathe” and “I’m dyin’, man.”

Vegas crime scene

Emergency surgery at University Medical Center saved Shakur’s life that night, and in the days following, doctors announced that his chances of recovery had improved. But then on September 13, 1996 Tupac Shakur died of his wounds. His girlfriend Kidada and his mother Afeni were both with him in his final days.

Tupac’s body was cremated and members of his old band, Outlawz, made the controversial claim that they had smoked some of his ashes in honor of him.

His mother announced she would scatter her son’s ashes in Soweto, South Africa, the “birthplace of his ancestors,” on the 10th anniversary of his murder.

Tupac and his mom Afeni

But she later changed the date to June 16, 1997 — Tupac’s 26th birthday as well as the anniversary of the 1976 Soweto uprising.

24 years later, Tupac’s murder remains unsolved. A Los Angeles Times investigation determined that uncooperative witnesses and minimal pursuit of gang-related leads has stymied the case.

What we do know is that the story of Shakur’s death began two years earlier with a failed attempt on his life.

On November 30, 1994, Shakur was shot and seriously wounded during a robbery committed by two armed men in the lobby of a midtown Manhattan office building that housed a recording studio where he’d been working on his third album, Me Against the World.

Shakur blamed the attack on producer Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs and rival rapper Christopher Wallace—a.k.a. “The Notorious B.I.G.”

Biggie and Puffy

Shakur’s subsequent move to the L.A.-based record label Death Row Records, sparked the so-called “East Coast vs. West Coast” feud that defined the hip-hop scene through the mid-1990s.

Six months after Tupac, died Biggie was murdered in similar circumstances in Los Angeles. No arrest has been made in that case either.

Despite a legacy which includes a conviction for sexual assault, Tupac Shakur remains one of the most celebrated artists in hip-hop.  A steady stream of posthumous album were released after his death which has kept his name near the top of lifetime sales rankings.  On April 7, 2017, Tupac was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Movies, books and podcasts about his life and death have kept his image and music current among fans who were far too young to have seen and heard him perform while he was still alive. 

For more stories from the 1990s, make sure to check out my podcast “History of the 90s” on ApplePodcasts, Spotify, Google Play and anywhere else you stream audio. You can also listen at http://www.curiouscast.ca

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