Tupac Shakur is not just a posthumous hip-hop icon. In the years since his September 1996 murder, he has attained a status that led some to coin him ‘the Black Elvis’. More successful as a recording artist than at the active peak of his career, his posthumous albums continue to sell in massive quantities around the world. His cultural importance is reflected in a ‘Tupac’s not dead’ myth – the first time a black performing artist has been mythologised on the level of a Presley or a James Dean. Crucial to the iconic appeal of Tupac is the mass of contradictions that define him: the macho gansta-rapper who eulogised the ‘thug life’; the erudite young man who hoped for a political and spiritual awakening among his peers; the sexually insatiable star who served a prison term for sexual abuse of a young woman fan; the sensitive son of a politicised single mother, who recorded a sympathetic pain to women. A Thug Life explores all these contradictions, alongside every other aspect of Tupac’s life and career.
Compiling interviews, articles, reviews and essays on rap music’s enduring icon, this extensively illustrated anthology is divided into five distinct sections, covering his early life, his music, film and the dark side of his life – the flirtations with gang culture, accusations of forcible sodomy and rape, his lucky escape from death after a 1994 shooting, and his accusations against former friend, the Notorious BIG, that fuelled the East-West Coast rap wars. The final section examines the murder of Tupac one September night in Las Vegas, and the conspiracy theories it fuelled. Interview transcripts are included of Death Row Records boss Suge Knight, talking of how Shakur died in his car, and Afeni Shakur, describing her legal action against the young gang member she blamed for her son’s death – which was halted with the suspect’s own shooting.