Remembering Tupac Shakur: June 16, 1971 – September 13, 1996

2PacGreatestHitsOne clear June night in 1996, Tupac Shakur was sitting in the back of Suge Knight’s BMW, stopped at a red light on the Las Vegas Strip. Tupac, one of the biggest rap stars on the planet, had been amassing a long list of enemies. Just that night, after watching Mike Tyson beat Bruce Seldon at the MGM Grand, the star had jumped Orlando “Baby Lane” Anderson in the lobby, perpetuating the feud between the Southside Crips and his gang, the Bloods. Tupac and Notorious B.I.G., once friends, had become the personification of the East Coast-West Coast rap rivalry—just that March, the two’s posses would brandish weapons and fight backstage at the Soul Train awards. The FBI wasn’t a fan—his mother was a Black Panther who had been jailed by the State of New York while pregnant with him, on charges that she helped plot bombings at city department stores and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and he was vocal about his support for her and the cause.

But the most dangerous, perhaps, was sitting there next to him in the car. Knight had signed Tupac to his label, Death Row, after putting up $1.4 million to bail the rap star out of jail in 1995. But the contract would run out soon, and Tupac had just fired his lawyer, David Kenner, who was also an owner of Death Row. As Knight worried about how he might lose his biggest star, a Cadillac pulled up alongside them. Rounds of bullets flooded the car, hitting the 25-year-old Tupac four times, one puncturing his lung. He was rushed to the hospital; after repeatedly trying to leave the bed, doctors put him in a drug-induced coma. Six days later, after internal bleeding couldn’t be stopped, his mother gave the okay to take him off life support. It’s a mystery just who was in that second car that night, or what their motives might have been—but with Notorious B.I.G. and Baby Lane Anderson both dead, and Knight jailed on a separate, recent murder charge, we probably will never know.

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