Tupac Shakur Biography - Biography
Stories like these have been rattling around Hutton’s mind as he puts the finishing touches on the long-gestating Tupac Shakur biopic All Eyez on Me. When it hits theaters on June 16, what would have been the rapper’s 46th birthday, it will mark the end of a complicated journey, one fraught with two multimillion-dollar lawsuits, a rotating door of writers and directors, a noncommittal estate, and a public thrashing from an Oscar-nominated filmmaker.
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Tupac Amaru led the largest uprising in colonial Spanish American history, from its beginnings near the Inca capital of Cusco in November 1780 until his execution on May 18, 1781. In fact, the rebellion continued into early 1783, well after his death and that of his influential wife, Micaela Bastidas. It stretched through the core Andean area of today’s Peru and Bolivia, from Cusco to Potosí, petrifying authorities and the Spanish throughout the continent and in Madrid. José Gabriel Condorcanqui was an indigenous authority, a , a title that the Spanish conquerors retooled from the Inca Empire. Condorcanqui added the name Tupac Amaru to highlight his bloodlines and ties to the Inca nobility. Condorcanqui made his living as merchant or muleteer, work that took him throughout colonial Peru, where he heard stories, saw injustices, and made friends and potential allies. He spoke Quechua (the language of the Incas, today the mostly widely spoken indigenous language in the Americas) and Spanish, and was comfortable in the home of Cusco’s upper classes as well as the huts of the region’s masses, the indigenous peasantry. He had mules, much land, and many debts; he was neither poor nor rich.
Tupac was born as Lesane Parish Crooks. After joining the Black Panther party, his mother changed his first name to Tupac Amaru, after an 18th-century Peruvian revolutionary who was killed by the Spanish. Tupac later took his surname from his sister’s Sekiya's father, another Panther called Mutulu Shakur.
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A single mother of two children, Tupac’s mother Afeni struggled for money. The family moved homes often, sometimes staying in shelters. After they moved to Baltimore, Tupac enrolled at the prestigious Baltimore School for the Arts, at which he felt "the freest I ever felt."
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Tupac's father, Billy Garland, was also a Panther but lost contact with Afeni when Tupac was five years old. The rapper would not see his father again until he was 23. "I thought my father was dead all my life," he told the writer Kevin Powell during an interview with Vibe magazine in 1996. "I felt I needed a daddy to show me the ropes and I didn't have one."
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Steinberg was eventually able to get Tupac in front of music manager Atron Gregory, who secured a gig for him in 1990 as a roadie and dancer for the hip hop group Digital Underground. He soon stepped up to the mic, making his recording debut in 1991 on Same Song, which soundtracked the comedy Nothing but Trouble. Tupac also appeared on Digital Underground's album Sons of the P in October that year.
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Tupac’s mother, Alice Faye Williams, was the daugher of a North Carolina maid and a high-school dropout. She became pregnant with her son in 1970 while on bail after being charged with conspiring to set off a race war. Afeni was acquitted the following year after successfully defending herself in court, displaying a gift for oration that her son would inherit. She changed her name to Afeni Shakur after becoming actively involved with the Black Panther Party. Afeni died in May 2016 at the age of 69.
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But Hutton says the days of having to defend his motives will soon be over. After 20 years of working on All Eyez on Me, he’s almost at the finish line. It’s not about him, he stresses. It’s about Tupac — the poet, the rapper, the savior, the savant, looking to teach the world about the struggles of growing up black in America.