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After selling over 75 million albums worldwide, Tupac Shakur has gone down in history as one of the top selling music artists in the world. In 2006, MTV ranked Shakur as number two on the list of The Greatest MC’s of All Time, behind Jay-Z.

Born Lesane Parish Crooks to Billy Garland and Afeni Shakur, the New York City native was raised by devout Black Panther activists. His mother was pregnant with the future star while incarcerated. She had been arrested under suspicion of a bombing. Afeni Shakur was later acquitted of the charges. She changed her son’s name to Tupac Amaru Shakur.

Growing up in the Bronx and Harlem neighborhoods of New York, Tupac Shakur was trained in fine arts as a child, landing his first role at age 13 at the historic Apollo Theater. The production was to benefit the 1984 campaign of the Rev. Jesse Jackson. He continued to study ballet and acting when he and his mother moved to Baltimore, Md. While attending the Baltimore School for Fine Arts, he met a lifelong friend named Jada Pinkett (Smith).

By age 17, Tupac and his mother lived in the Bay Area of California. He pursued a career in entertainment, landing a spot as a backup dancer for the group Digital Underground in 1990. Shortly after, Tupac Shakur went solo with Interscope Records and released “2pacalypse Now” featuring the hit single “Brenda’s Got a Baby.”

Shakur’s acting career took off with a new major acting role in 1992 with the film “Juice”.  Two years later, he starred in the John Singleton film “Poetic Justice” opposite Janet Jackson. then “Above the Rim” in 1994.

Despite a budding acting career, Tupac Shakur was in and out of jail for affiliations with various crimes committed. In 1992, he was arrested on suspicion of the shooting death of a six-year old boy. Then, in Atlanta, Shakur was charged with shooting two off-duty police officers. He was also brought up on charges in connection with sexual abuse in a New York City hotel. All charges involving the first cases were dismissed accordingly, but the charges with the sexual assault solidified on the same day that the rapper was shot five times by muggers in a New York recording studio. He survived his injuries.

While serving his sentence for the sexual assault, Shakur became the first artist to reach number one on the Billboard charts while in prison with his hit album “Me Against the World.”

In his next album on Suge Knight’s Death Row label, Tupac Shakur made verbal attacks on his enemies with his release of “All Eyez on Me” in 1995. He also foretold of his death in the lyrics of the album.

Then on September 7, 1996 after a fight in the lobby of the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, NV, Tupac Shakur was shot while riding alongside Suge Knight in his SUV. He died six days later. Knight served nine years in prison for violating parole.

After a court battle with Death Row Records, the estate of Tupac Shakur released seven posthumous albums, six of them reaching platinum status. In 2010, his hit single “Dear Mama” was inducted into the U.S. Library of Congress because it represents a “moving and eloquent homage to both the murdered rapper’s own mother and all mother’s struggling to maintain a family in the face of addiction, poverty and social injustice.”

It was recently announced that the late rapper’s hit songs will be the focus of a new Broadway musical entitled “Holler if Ya Hear Me” set for the 2013-2014 season. The production will be produced by Afeni Shakur. The storyline is based upon the book by Todd Kreidler, and the presentation will be choreographed by Tony winner Wayne Cilento.

(Photo: Retna)

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