The Things You Never Knew About Tupac Shakur
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The Things You Never Knew About Tupac Shakur

He was not just the gangster rapper; he was the revolutionary son of a revolutionary woman.

The Things You Never Knew About Tupac Shakur
Rolling Stone

“What of a love unspoken? Is it weaker without a name? Does this love deserve to exist without a title because I dare not share its name? Does that make me cruel and cold to deny the world of my salvation because I choose to let it grow? People tend to choke that which they do not understand. Why shouldn’t I be weary and hold this love from man? What of a love unspoken? No one ever knows, but this is a love that lasts and in secrecy it grows.” -Tupac Shakur

Tupac was an amalgamation of contradictions. He was the artist, the poet, the thug, the rapper, the actor and so much more. He was not just the gangster rapper; he was the revolutionary son of a revolutionary woman. He was the voice of a generation, the voice of the youth. But too often, the “real” Tupac Shakur is overlooked. Tupac is one of my favorite rappers, not just because of his musical abilities, but because of so much more. This listicle examines little or unknown facts about Tupac.

1. Tupac came from a revolutionary upbringing.

His mother was Afeni Shakur, a member of the Panther 21 group, a group of 21 Black Panther members who were arrested and accused of planning a bombing and rifle attack on two police stations and an education office in New York City (all 21 members were eventually acquitted). Geronimo Pratt was his godfather, and his stepfather was Mutulu Shakur; both were influential and respected members of the Black Panther Party in New York. There were two candidates for his fatherhood: one was Billy Garland, a Black Panther, while the other was “Legs,” a local disciple of Harlem gangster Nicky Barnes. Ironically, these two candidates serve to identify the inner conflict Tupac would often feel as he grew up: to be the radical or the gangster.

2. Tupac was born Lesane Parish Crooks.

A month after Afeni served as her own lawyer in court (and won!) Tupac was born. She renamed him after an Incan chief (Tupac Amaru) who was killed by Spanish conquistadors who tore his body apart with horses. Tupac Amaru, (the Incan), was the last indigenous monarch of the Neo-Inca State.

3. Tupac went to the prestigious Baltimore School for the Arts.

He had an extremely promising future here but moved to California with Geronimo Pratt and his family at the hands of his mother’s crack addiction. He also met future actress Jada Pinkett, whom he formed an unbreakable bond with.

4. Tupac was a lover of literature and an extremely voracious reader.

His library was expansive. He had DuBois, Nikki Giovanni, Sun Tzu’s "Art of War," Maya Angelou, Richard Wright’s "Native Son," Nietzsche, Hermann Hesse, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Sigmund Freud (he read Freud only to discredit him), Alice Walker, Alex Haley’s "Roots," Machiavelli and many more reputable intellectuals. He read books on physic science, yoga, philosophy, psychology, meditation and more.

5. Tupac was a poet.

There’s an album that was released posthumously involving poems of his, read and recited by prominent figures, such as Jada Pinkett-Smith, Sonia Sanchez and Mos Def. This album is entitled “The Rose that Grew from Concrete,” after one of his most well known poems.

6. Tupac was a better actor than he’s given credit for.

In the movie "Gridlock’d," probably Tupac’s best performance, he portrays a heroin-addicted jazz musician named Spoon who attempts to quit with his friend Stretch. Tupac was an actor before he started rapping, and toward the end of his life he even mentioned that he wanted to focus more on acting.

Now, here are few fun facts that you probably didn’t know about the late, great Tupac Shakur:

1. He was cast in the movies “Cool Runnings,” “How to be a Player,” and “Higher Learning” before his death. He was also cast in the movie “Woo,” which was shot only a few days before photography began. In addition, he was cast in the movie “Menace II Society” but was fired after a physical altercation with the director.

2. One of Tupac’s favorite songs was by Don McLean, entitled “Vincent.” Don McLean is known for his song “American Pie;” however “Vincent” tells the story of Vincent Van Gogh. Van Gogh’s painting “A Starry Night” was also one of Tupac’s favorite works of art.

3. Tupac’s favorite actor was Jim Carrey. Carrey would send funny letters to Tupac while he was in jail.

4. Tupac and Madonna dated.

5. Tupac is the only artist to have an album at No. 1 on the Billboard charts ("Me Against the World") while incarcerated.

6. Tupac Shakur's alter-ego Makaveli was named after Niccolo Machiavelli. Machiavelli faked his own death, which is why many people believe Shakur is still alive.

7. T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E stands for "The Hate U Give Little Infants F*cks Everybody." N.I.G.G.A.Z stands for "Never Ignorant Getting Goals Accomplished."

8. Shakur often recorded his verses in one take. He felt that rappers who could not perform their verses on the first try weren't ready to be rappers.

9. Ten albums have been released posthumously and all have gone platinum.

10. He was offered a record contract at age 13 but his mother refused to let him sign it because she felt he had a lot to learn about the world.

11. Shakur renamed his publishing company "Joshua's Dream" in honor of a terminally ill boy whose dying wish was to meet Tupac.

I could go on and on about Tupac with fun facts and interesting information about him, but that list would be endless. Tupac Shakur is one of the most influential rappers in my life. While "A Tribe Called Quest" jump-started my love for hip hop, Tupac exacerbated it. He exemplified the conundrum many of us had. He was internally conflicted about who he was and who he wanted to show the world -- a conundrum many of us still struggle with.
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