“REBEL OF THE UNDERGROUND” The Life and Works of Tupac Amaru Shakur Both Tupac and Amaru are words of Inca origin. Together they mean, shining serpent. Shakur means thankful to God, from the Arabic language. Tupac, commonly known as America’s most controversial rapper was labeled a gangster rapper and one of the largest figures in the rap community. He was always known for doing what he wanted and not caring what others thought of him.
His life symbolized what a lot of people have gone through. Through his music and movies he showed how hard life can be. On June 16, 1971 Tupac was born to Alice Faye Williams in Brooklyn, NY. His mother was a revolutionary as she called herself Afeni Shakur. For many years she associated herself with members of the well-known Black Panther Party.
She joined a New York chapter of the Panther Party in 1964 and fell in love with an organizer, Lumumba Abdul Shakur. After four years with Lumumba, Afeni started to see another party member, William Garland who was another activist working with the party members to support their causes. Around this time things were going downhill for Afeni. In 1969 she and other members of the Panther were arrested and charged with several felony counts, including conspiracy to bomb a public place. A well-educated schoolteacher, Afeni decided to defend herself. However, things took a turn for the worst.
While out on bail she became pregnant with Tupac. Soon after, her bail was revoked. Afeni recalls: having previously miscarried four or five times, she did not expect to carry him to term. But Tupac, she says, wanted to be in this world. She remembers while in her cell she would pat her belly and say, This is my prince.
He is going to save the black nation (Kin 151). Acquitted and released on 156 counts from the Women’s House of Detention in Greenwich Village for lack of evidence, she was now out of jail and eight months pregnant with Tupac. By the time Tupac was born, Afeni had already lined up a job as a paralegal and things started looking up. However, soon after his birth, Afeni started snorting cocaine. For a while she was a very loving mother.
Afeni started to see a man by the name of Mutulu as she tried to bring a father figure into Tupac’s life. He was also a member of the Panther party. Soon after, Afeni was pregnant with her second child, Sekyiwa. A few months before her due date, Mutulu had been sentenced to sixty years for a fatal armored car robbery. Afeni was once again a single mother raising Tupac along with his sister.
A couple of years later his mother decided to move her family to Baltimore, Maryland, for a fresh start. While in Maryland the world got its first true taste of the life and works of Tupac Amaru Shakur. By the age of twelve Tupac had already landed his first role with the 127th Street Ensemble, a theater group he attended in the impoverished Harlem section of Manhattan. Having to suddenly leave the group, Tupac wanted to continue studying theater. In Baltimore, Tupac was quickly enrolled in the High School of the Performing Arts. His mother made sure he was well educated, she recalls He was articulate.
I trained him. Punishment for him was reading The New York Times. At age fifteen Tupac began to study acting and ballet at the Baltimore School of the Arts. Although mostly white students attended the school, Tupac felt in touch with them. He recalled: Them white kids had things we never seen.
That was the first time I saw there was white people who you could get along with. Before that, I just believed what everyone else said: They were devils. But I loved it. I loved going to school. It taught me a lot. I was starting to feel like I really wanted to be an artist.
(Tupac) While in the school of Arts, Tupac met a special friend, Jada Pinkett, whom he shared time with and created performances for anyone interested. Most teachers said he looked very promising; unfortunately he never finished school because his mother felt she needed an overall change. Afeni Shakur then moved her family to a small town outside Oakland, CA. Shortly after Tupac moved to California, he enrolled in a college program, which allowed him to finish his high school credits. Tupac gained his rap experience through writing poetry, although no one recognizes this as one of his talents.
In 1993, Tupac entered a poet circle where he wrote poems, which foretold his death. In The Event of My Demise is one of the poems taken from actual writings of Tupac Shakur from The Poetry Circle which seemed to indicate he was aware of his eminent death: IN THE EVENT OF MY DEMISE In the event of my Demise when my heart can beat no more I Hope I Die For A Principle or A Belief that I had Lived 4 I will die Before My Time Because I feel the shadow’s Depth so much I wanted 2 accomplish before I reached my Death I have come 2 grips with the possibility and wiped the last tear from My eyes I Loved All who were Positive In the event of my Demise (1993) This poem caused many people to stop and think about the reasons that could have possibly made Tupac write this. Could it have been an assignment given by the Poets Circle or could it have been his overwhelming feelings of what was yet to come. Several common people were randomly asked who they thought the author of this poem was, why was it written and who was the audience. Most believed the author was writing to a family member or to people who didn’t like what he stood for.
It was also felt that the author accepted his fatal death, but overall wanted to be understood. Others believed the author was aware he was dying and was actually writing his own eulogy. After disclosing the poem was written by Tupac, most were surprised yet were able to gain a better understanding of how deep he really was. Sometime after moving to California with his family, he moved out on his own to Marin City, California and began to sell drugs. Around this time he also started to focus his time on dancing and rapping.
In the late eighties, Tupac teamed up with Humpty-Hump (a.k.a. Eddie Humphrey, a.k.a. Gregory Shock-G Jacobs) and other Oakland-based rappers to create Digital Underground. The rap group was different; they had a live bass band, and a somewhat funk sound. With the low-key member Tupac, Digital Underground had great success.
This opened the door for 2Pac to enter the rap game, where his socially conscious lyrics earned him the nickname ‘Rebel of the Underground’. In 1991, Tupac achieved his dream and released his first solo album, 2pacallyps Now. Tupac told Vibe: Everybody knew me even though my album wasn’t out yet, I never went to bed. I was working it like a job. That was my number-one thing when I first got in the business. Everybody’s gonna know me. (Vibe, 1995) This first album gained Tupac national popularity and created the first of his many life controversies.
One song that attracted controversy was Trapped, which addressed certain issues and feelings of some young black males not having hope in white America. Another controversial song off the album was Brenda’s Got A Baby, which dealt with the alarming rate of black female pregnancy. However, in April, 1992 the album gained more controversy. A Texas state trooper was shot to death by a 19 year old young man, Ronald Howard, who later claimed to have been listening to Soulja Story off of Tupac’s album 2Pacalypse Now. The man cited Tupac’s lyrics: ..is it my fault, just cause I’m a young black male cop sweat me as if my destiny is makin’ crack sells only 15 and got problems cops on my tail, so I bail till I dodge ’em they finally pull me over and I laugh remember Rodney King and I blast on his punk ass now I gotta murder case. (Tupac) This incident pushed Vice President Dan Quayel and a number of other politicians …