Twenty years ago – September 13, 1996 – we lost our Hip-Hop icon/warrior Tupac Amaru Shakur.
His passing still haunts the minds of supporters worldwide. Since that fateful night on September 7, 1996, the Tupac shooting still raises many eyebrows and unanswered questions.
Who killed him and why? Was it a rival gang hit? Was it a “Hip Hop beef”? Or perhaps something more sinister such as a government plot to silence a very powerful voice who could challenge the powers that be – as was the case with many influential black figures four to five decades ago. And although Pac’s mother Afeni often gave little energy to the circumstances surrounding her son’s death, the questions and theories are still on going.
To this day no one has been arrested for the shooting.
The most reliable witness of the shooting, Outlawz member Yafeu Fula a.k.a. Yaki Kadafi -son of former Bronx head of the Black Panther Party Sekou Odinga-was gunned down two months later in Orange, New Jersey in what police detectives said had the “makings of a professional hit” according to F.B.I. documents. And the prime suspect in the murder Orlando Anderson-who was beat down by Pac and Suge the night of the shooting-was also shot to death two years later following a gun battle in Compton, California that left two other men dead.
In both cases police ruled that the deaths were unrelated to Pac’s. Of course many people were unconvinced of the police’s official reports.
Although the slain rapper made his mark in music, he was quite an elliptical figure. Pac was not only a Hip-Hop star, he was also a poet, actor, and activist, which is the main reason why his influence crossed the ideological spectrum.
In her 1997 book, “The Killing of Tupac Shakur,” former Las Vegas Sun reporter Cathy Scott says, “Not since John Lennon was cut down on the streets of New York City has a major entertainment figure been murdered at the pinnacle of his popularity. As in the Lennon killing, Shakur’s death resonated far beyond the world of musical entertainment. Unlike the Lennon killing, Tupac’s murder has yet to officially be solved.”
In the recently released documentary “Murder Rap: Inside the Biggie and Tupac Murders” directed by Michael Dorsey, former LAPD Detective Greg Kading-who in 2006 began investigating the two murders and who wrote a book of the same title in which the documentary is based on-says plainly that music mogul Sean Combs (or better known as “P.Diddy”) paid members of the Crips gang to murder Shakur. During that time his label Death Row Records was in a lyrical war with Bad Boy Records headed by Diddy.
Artists of both labels-Pac being the most vocal on the Death Row side-engaged in constant lyrical battles via the airwaves contributing to what many have referred to as “East Coast/West Coast” rivalry, a rivalry that many Hip Hop fans said was instigated by White media.
Diddy’s involvement in Shakur’s murder has been tossed around for 20 years and he emphatically has denied it. During an April 1st interview on New York’s 105.1 FM show, The Breakfast Club, when asked by host Charlamagne Tha God about the accusations made in the documentary he aggressively responded, “We don’t talk about things that are nonsense. We don’t even entertain nonsense, my brother.”
Of course, in years past, there have been several other documentaries discussing possible forces behind’s Pac’s death. One in particular, 2009’s “Tupac Assassination: Conspiracy or Revenge,” produced by his former bodyguard Frank “Big Frank Alexander” alleges that Death Row boss Suge Knight (who was wounded while driving Pac the night he was shot and currently serving jail time) owed several artists over $104 Million and that Tupac was threatening to leave the label after the release of his last album The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory which easily could have lead to Knight going out of business. According to some of those interviewed in the film, this is what lead to Knight placing a hit on him. Like Diddy, he of course has long denied any involvement in Pac’s murder.
By the way, Knight said that he doesn’t believe Pac is even dead. During a 2014 interview with TMZ he stated, “Why you think nobody been arrested if they said they the one that killed Tupac?” He asserted, “Because Tupac not dead. If he was dead they’d be arresting those dudes for murder. You know he’s somewhere smoking a Cuban cigar on an island.”
If one were to Google the names of Suge, Diddy, and Tupac you’ll see thousands of theories spanning over a period of several years implicating these two men in the rapper’s death.
Since 1996 many activists who are familiar with Tupac Shakur’s family background, however, are not so convinced that his murder was a mere gang or music beef. And that his death was indeed nothing less than a political assassination ordered by people in high levels of influence who were threatened by the rising star’s influence among youth across the globe, black youth in particular.
In this article, AllHipHop examines this particular theory as it has been asserted more than any other theory since the time of his death. When Pac died it was during the first semester of my first year in college. I still remember the intense debates and very in depth discussions fans of his were having over who really killed him and why.
Was Tupac Shakur killed by our government or other “higher ups” that are often mentioned by conspiracy theorists? If so why?
Please keep in mind that the notion of our government targeting controversial black public figures is not beyond the realm of reality. From the 1950s-early 70s the F.B.I headed by J. Edgar Hoover waged a war against Black America. This war was titled the Counterintelligence Program or in its shortened form COINTELPRO.
According to the Freedom of Information Act signed into law in 1966 by President Lyndon Baines Johnson, one of Hoover’s main program goals was to: “Prevent the rise of a ‘MESSIAH’ who could unify, and electrify, the militant black nationalist movement.”And “a final goal should be to prevent the long-range GROWTH of militant black organizations, ESPECIALLY AMONG YOUTH. Specific tactics to prevent these groups from converting YOUNG PEOPLE must be developed.”
Columbia University professor and former Panther 21 member Dr. Jamal Joseph said that Tupac was targeted because of his revolutionary bloodline and that he was far too influential with young people. See the full clip below.
Like the deaths of Medgar Evers, Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr., Pac’s death contains many elements of suspicion, even by those who ordinarily wouldn’t be bought in by conspiracy theories.
It should also be mentioned that government agents were in the organizations of the aforementioned men. And in a 1999 civil case filed by the King family it was ruled that certain intelligence agencies were responsible in his death. Could this in fact also be the case in Tupac’s death?
There are still many people-including fans-who are unaware of what made the Hip Hop star who he was. He was originally born Parish Lesane Crooks. While a year old his mother Afeni Shakur-who was a leader in the New York City chapter of the Black Panther Party-renamed him Tupac Amaru after the last Incan emperor who was executed for leading a native uprising against the Spanish invaders in the 18th-century.
Although by the time Pac came of age in New York the organizational structure of the Black Panther Party across the country had been dismantled as a result of the F.B.I. lead Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO). As a result Panther member across the country were targeted and even brought up false chargers resulting in many of them either being on the run or locked up.
Afeni along with Dhoruba Bin Wahad, Charles Barron (who is now a New York assemblyman), Jamal Joseph along with seventeen other members of the city’s Panther chapter stood trial in a case known as the “Panther 21” case for allegedly plotting to bomb government buildings. This resulted in Afeni serving jail while pregnant with Pac. In fact his hit song “Dear Mama” was based on this event. All were eventually acquitted.
John Potash says in his 2015 book, Drugs as Weapons Against Us: The CIA’s Murderous Targeting of SDS, Panthers, Hendrix, Lennon, Cobain, Tupac, and Other Activists, “A review of rap icon Tupac Shakur’s radical leftist lineage and leadership provides the first motive of the ruling oligarchy to push U.S. intelligence to target Tupac at the beginning of his career.”
Through his formative years the young boy would witness his mother still being targeted by the F.B.I. She reported that during her son’s youth the agency blocked her from finding work.
Despite the many crises that would face he, his mother, and extended activist family, however, Pac would still be mentored by other prominent members of the group such as his godmother Assata Shakur, godfather the late Geronimo Ji-Jaga Pratt, and stepfather Dr. Mutulu Shakur.
Mutulu would regularly take Pac to activist meetings across the city. Pac even once said that whenever he got in trouble, as a disciplinary exercise, he was required to read news paper articles and give a report.
At 12-years-old, when asked what he wanted to be, the activist inspired youth would respond, “A revolutionary.” At 13, he took the lead child’s role in the play “Raisin in the Sun.” This play was shown at Harlem’s historic Apollo Theatre as a fundraiser for the 1984 presidential campaign of Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.
When he reached high school age, his mother moved him and his sister Sekyiwa to Baltimore, Maryland where he enrolled in a prominent arts high school. It was in this city where he was introduced to the militant New Afrikan People’s Organization co-founded by family friend Watani Tyehimba who would later become his business manager. Pac began attending the young adult auxiliary of the organization: New Afrikan Panthers.
Shortly after Afeni moved him and his sister to Marin, California which is near Oakland, where they both lived with Geronimo Pratt’s wife Linda. By this time the New Afrikan Panthers had grown to an organization with eight chapter nationwide. And like the Black Panther Party most of its members comprised of teenagers and young adults in their early twenties.
At just the tender age of 17, Pac was elected as their youngest National Chairman. One of his top priorities was to free his godfather Geronimo from prison who had been framed in an F.B.I. lead campaign that had caused many Black Panther to be unjustly incarcerated.
At a certain point in time the young revolutionary leader began corresponding with both Pratt and Panther co-founder Huey P. Newton about reforming the Black Panther Party.
Pac would rap at at local benefits to raise money for Geronimo’s legal fees.
During this point in his development-because of his activism and later his controversial lyrics- he reported that this is when police and political harassment towards him began. Prior to this while in high school Tupac mentioned being visited by F.B.I agents who wanted to know the whereabouts of Mutulu who like many Panthers during that time were on the run from the law.
On his 1991 debut album 2Pacalypse Now he recorded a track titled “Wordz of Wisdom” in which he mentions members of his Panther family, blames the government for introducing drugs into the Black community. “The war on drugs is war on you and me.” On another track he says, “F**k you to the FBI…The CIA and…B-U-S-H.”
In 1991 after MTV released his solo debut video “Trapped”, PAC reported that while in Oakland two local White police officers assaulted him for allegedly jaywalking. He filed a lawsuit against the city for $10 Million, however, he eventually settled for only $42,000.
In August of 92 while attending a Marin City music festival, he was assaulted by a group of men in front of officers who did nothing to assist him. During this same year Politician began condemning his music. The (then) Vice President Dan Quayle also condemned Tupac for his music.
Time had censored many of the lyrics that were contained on his second album Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. One song that was prohibited from being released “Holler if you Hear Me.” And this CD’s release was also delayed for a year.
News reports from that time period will show an apparent harassment campaign being lead by area police as they had against the Black Panther Party. Tupac once said, “I never had a record until I had a record”.
As National Chairman of the New Afrikan Panthers, Pac lead several initiatives to end the gang violence that had been plaguing the West Coast at that time. This is what became known as the gang truces of the 90s. These truces had nationwide influences.
His business manager Watani Tyehimba claimed that Pac created the “Thug Life Movement” to pose as gangster in order to win over and politicize the gangs.
Its important to mention that many of the organizers involved in the gang truces were either murdered or imprisoned. Watts gang truce organizer Tony Bogard was murdered in January of 94 and Dewayne Holmes who finalized the truce of 92 was arrested for an “Alleged $10 robbery at a Gang Unity dance. According to several of the area papers, he was given the near maximum sentence and sent to a remote prison in Sierre, Nevada.
Potash alleges in his 2015 book that these Tupac lead gang truces were interfering with money made in the international drug trade and that is cost money launderers billions of dollars. He said that the biggest money launderers were the international bankers and multinational corporations and referred to the C.I.A. as the “biggest drug traffickers in the world”. And he also alleges that most of the drug money that comes to the U.S. is laundered through the banks in America.
He reported that between 1993-96 profits from drug sales decreased. And he also reported that then U.N. Drug Czar Antonio Maria Costas told the London Observer that, “Inter-bank loans were funded by money that originated from the drug trade.”
Terms such as “money launderers” and “international bankers” are often used when reading about the assassinations of King, Malcolm, Kennedy, and other political figures. But can this apply to a “gangsta” rapper?
In his book, Potash also attempts to show the connection between the government’s targeting of Tupac and the Freeway Rick Ross controversy. In the 1990’s, Ross had revealed that the C.I.A. had used him to initiate the Crack epidemic that had devastated Black communities across the country during the 1980s. Ross also mentioned that he was used in the infamous Iran-Contra affair in which drugs and weapons trafficking was reported.
He also says the long held notion that he was targeted for his family’s activist history. In a phone interview with AllHipHop Potash reiterates and also elaborates his claim.
“I believe that U.S. intelligence-whether it be the CIA or FBI-or U.S. intelligence in general orchestrated Tupac’s assassination. And of course I say ‘assassination’ because he was an activist and cultural leader in the sense that he had already been chairman of the New Afrikan Panthers that was already active in eight cities,” he maintains.
During this same interview Mr. Potash says that Shakur was much more influential in his activism than were Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. when they were his age.
Potash went on to mention the confessions of F.B.I. whistle blower M. Wesley Swearingen who said that COINTELPRO tactics lasted into the 1990’s. Most people are unaware of the 4,000 thousand page file that the Bureau kept on Pac. Potash mentioned that agency told him only ninety-nine pages could be released, “for national security reasons”.
We see many frightening parallels within the murders of Evers, Malcolm, and King. One being government infiltration of their organizations and more importantly their staff and security entourages.
Author Cathy Scott alleges in her book that undercover F.B.I. and D.E.A. agents were in Pac’s entourage and that they were present the night of the shooting. She also claims that they were in violation of their duty as federal agents by not assisting him during the shooting since they were assigned to monitor him.
Were they ordered to stand down?
And of course we can’t forget the November 1994 attempted shooting murder of Tupac while he was visiting New York. Potash states in his 2008 book,” The FBI War on Tupac and Black Leaders,” that this was one of the F.B.I.’s attempts to take the rap star’s life using a patsy.
AllHipHop caught up with Public Enemy Minister of Information Prof. Griff via phone to get his take on Tupac’s death.
“They are targeting the black man to be destroyed. So anyone that will speak out and galvanize the masses of the people and the people are listening and following that individual, they are automatically targeted for destruction,” Prof. Griff says. “Tupac was charismatic and very gifted. He was streetwise. He had a magnetism about him and people were listening to him so much so that young people today don’t think that he’s dead.”
The Hip Hop pioneer continues, “If we knew that the enemy knew that also.”
Sway Calloway shares his memories of Tupac, how he educated men and his last conversation with him.
Lastly, E.D.I. Mean, a member of Tupac’s feared crew The Outlawz has a difficult time reconciling why Pac was killed.
“That’s a hard question to answer”, he says. He goes on to say, “I think as a whole he accomplished what he was here to do. And Universal Law says that once you’ve accomplished your mission and you’ve set that in motion then you’re no longer needed here.”
E.D. referred to his death as “just his way of exiting.” “As far as who did it and why they did it, I don’t know. I don’t know and never really cared” he continues. He mentioned Tupac’s mother always focused more on the fact that he’s no longer here than on who took his life.
Do you think the murder of Tupac Amaru Shakur will ever be solved? We’d love to read your comments.
Chuck Creekmur and Elijah Smith contributed to this this report.