Tupac Shakur had been shot before. The tattooed, urban poet and self-identified thug was a central figure in the East Coast-West Coast hip-hop rivalry. The first Tupac shooting —November 30, 1994— left the rapper with five bullet wounds, including two in the head. Los Angeles-based Shakur pointed his finger at a number of New York rappers, including Sean Combs and the Notorious B.I.G. He would later release a number of scathing rhymes against both Combs and Biggie, including one in which he claimed to have slept with Biggie's wife.
On September 7, 1996, Tupac Shakur attended a Mike Tyson boxing match at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, then got into the passenger seat of Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight’s car. At a stoplight, a white Cadillac pulled up next to Knight’s car rolled down its windows and fired multiple rounds into Shakur’s passenger seat. Shakur was taken to the hospital, where he died of internal bleeding after six days. A few months later, while waiting at a Los Angeles stoplight, the Notorious B.I.G. met the same fate. Thanks to fanatical conspiracy theories, uncooperative witnesses and shoddy police investigations, neither murder case has ever been solved.
Shakur’s last album, Makaveli: The Don Killuminati/The 7 Day Theory, was released a month after his death. The title referenced Niccolo Machiavelli, the Italian philosopher who was rumored to have faked his own death (this has been largely disproved) and whose works Shakur studied while serving an eleven-month prison sentence in 1994. So did Tupac Shakur really die, or does he still walk among us, cloaked in a new identity?
Nah, he died.
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