Keep Ya Head Up: The life and death of Tupac Shakur
There are some cases that were pop cultural landmarks of a lot of our childhoods or, at least, our formative years. At the top of the lists of the great unsolved cases of the 90s is probably the murder of Tupac Shakur. Usually, Tupac’s death is paired with the unsolved murder of Biggie Smalls. It makes sense that they would be.
During the 90s, we were in the midst of what was known as the East Coast-West Coast rap rivalry. There were attacks, diss tracks, and at the heart of it all were Biggie (East Coast) and Tupac (West Coast), who were two stars on the rise in a big, big way. Then it ended for the pair in very bloody ways and pretty close together.
The death of Tupac Shakur has more questions than answers on what happened to the rap superstar and, more importantly, who was even responsible for his death. Of course, not everyone is convinced Tupac is dead either.
A man with a lot of enemies
As he climbed his way up the ladder, Tupac was not afraid to make a few enemies to get to the success he wanted. Anyone familiar with Tupac knows the feud between him and Biggie after the shooting at Quad Studios, though Biggie denied involvement in the shooting multiple times before his own death.
Even outside of the Quad Studios, Tupac was found guilty of sexual assault, even though he denied the incident even happened. He did serve his sentence in jail, but was bailed out during his appeal trial by Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight as long as Tupac released three albums on his label.
Not too much “California Love”
While in prison, Tupac tried to reform who he was not only as an artist but as a person. As part of this, he tried to look out for those around him after causing so much trouble before he went to prison. Fellow Death Row rapper Buckshot recounted how Tupac wanted him to come to Vegas with him and Knight against Knight’s wishes.
That fateful trip to Las Vegas brought the hip-hop feud going on in CA with them. Members of the Crips from Compton followed the Death Row group out to Vegas, and earlier in the day on September 5th, Crips robbed a member of Death Row’s entourage at a Foot Locker.
So when Knight and his gang saw alleged Crips member Orlando “Baby Lane” Anderson at MGM, they knew they had to mean business. Tupac, Knight and their gang jumped Anderson and left off to one of Death Row’s clubs in Vegas.
11:15pm, time of disaster
On the way to the club, Knight and Tupac’s car was pulled over for not having plates on their car. But once they showed their plate was just in the trunk since it couldn’t stay on, they were let off with a warning. But only a few moments later, at 11:15pm, a four door white sedan pulled up to their car at a red light, and fired four shots at Tupac.
As he arrived at the hospital, Tupac found out that someone had called Death Row, threatening him. They gave the information to police, but since they were understaffed, they couldn’t follow up on the call. Doctors did what they could to save Tupac, but six days after the shooting, Tupac died from internal bleeding on September 13th, 1996.
The fight to find Tupac’s killer
For the longest time, the case of Tupac’s death wasn’t going anywhere, as neither Tupac nor his entourage wanted to comment on what happened that fateful September night. But in 2002, an article dropped in the LA Times arguing the one who killed Tupac was the same person Tupac attacked earlier that evening: Orlando Anderson.
After a year-long investigation, journalist Chuck Phillips argued that Tupac’s murder was committed as revenge by the Crips, after Anderson’s attack earlier that evening. Since Anderson was only interviewed once by police though, they never could do anything. Plus, Anderson was killed in another shootout two years later, so he couldn’t be arrested.
The article also brought back up the theory that Biggie was the one who organized the shooting as revenge on his rival. Phillips implied that Biggie was responsible thanks to the help of several NYC criminals at the time. But regardless, Phillips made it clear that none of this was definitive, thanks to the poor handling of the case by Vegas police.
Bad police work leaves the death unsolved
Thanks to his investigation, Phillips noted that police didn’t take the fight between Tupac and Anderson as seriously as they should’ve in their investigation. He also noted that police failed to follow up with every member of Tupac’s entourage and a witness who reported seeing the same car that held Tupac’s shooter.
While Knight and other members of Tupac’s entourage made it clear they didn’t want to cooperate with police, one member told police he could probably identify the assailants. However, he was killed after police brushed him off, proving he definitely knew something.
Is he dead?
Of course, there’s the classic theory that Tupac is just on some sunny beach somewhere away from the rest of the world. While it’s a running joke in the world of hip-hop, there are some definite conspiracy theories arguing the rapper is alive.
Suge Knight’s son is one of the biggest ones to make the claim, but as of late, the main conspiracy theorist is Rick Boss. His film 2Pac: The Great Escape from UMC is based on the claim from 2019 that people saw Tupac in South Africa. In interviews, Boss claims he wrote the story around information from Tupac’s family and close friends.
While there’s absolutely no evidence proving Tupac is alive, there’s still plenty of evidence out there that could convict Tupac’s killer. Hopefully, a new discovery will come along, and we’ll get one step closer to closing the case successfully.
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