The martyred icon of 'gangsta rap', Tupac Shakur became a legend not only for his music but also for his run-ins with the law. By 1994, he was one of the most controversial figures in music, his rivalry with fellow rapper Notorious B.I.G. marking his career with violence and incarceration.
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After living on the streets and hustling for a few years, Tupac joined Digital Underground as a backup dancer. While he toured with this group he also worked on his own music, and soon released his own debut album, "2Pacalypse Now." This album was followed by "Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z." which went platinum in 1993 and firmly established 2Pac as a serious artist.
By this point, however, Shakur was having serious problems with the law. In 1994 he was found guilty of sexual assault, accused of abusing a female fan, and was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison. While in jail, his third album, "Me Against the World," hit number one, making 2Pac the first artist to reach the top of the charts while incarcerated.
His next album, "All Eyez on Me," was certified quintuple platinum, but it seemed that, despite his success, Tupac was beginning to tire of rap and focus more on acting. In 1996, Tupac was shot while riding in a car through Las Vegas. Many theories have been supplied to explain the shooting, including that it was orchestrated by his rival Notorious B.I.G., or that it had to do with his label's ties to the mob and gangs.
Tupac's life and music are emblematic not only of the rap style, but the lifestyle associated with the genre. His life was so tumultuous that it is easy to ignore his musical accomplishments altogether. However, it was his lyrics and musical style that made him famous, and many consider 2Pac to be among the very best.
* Tupac Amaru means 'shining serpent' in Quechua, and was the name of the last royal Inca before that civilization was conquered by the Spanish. Shakur is Arabic for 'thankful for god'.
* Much effort has gone into bringing Tupac back to life through posthumous albums and in 2003, this trend continued with the release of the documentary Tupac: Resurrection. The film was produced under the supervision of Shakur's mother, and was narrated entirely with Tupac's own voice, from archival footage recorded before his death.
* Although the Tupac we know worked hard to cultivate his 'tough guy' image, one of the rapper's first loves was Shakespeare. In fact, as a young student at the Baltimore School of the Arts, he often dreamt of becoming a Shakespearean actor later in life.