Tupac Shakur still celebrated decades after death
Jun 16, 2017, 7:19 AM ET
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WATCH Sept. 15, 1996: Remembering Tupac Shakur
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Forty-six years ago today, Lesane Parish Crooks was born in New York City to Black Panther activists Afeni Shakur and Bill Garland.
They eventually renamed their infant Tupac Amaru Shakur, after an 18th century Peruvian revolutionary — and that sense of rebellion permeated Shakur's life until his death at the age of 25.
And with a tattoo across his abdomen that read "Thug Life," Shakur was unabashed about his bad-boy ways.
In honor of the music icon's birthday, the biographical film "All Eyez on Me," opens in theaters today. "Against insurmountable odds, Shakur rose to become a cultural icon whose career and persona both continue to grow long after his passing," says the film's website.
Shakur, also known by his stage names 2Pac, Makaveli and Pac, was not only a hip-hop artist: he was an actor, poet and activist.
Known for his extensive catalog — including "California Love," "Dear Mama" and "Changes" — he was gunned down on Sept. 7, 1996, in Las Vegas, and died six days later in the hospital. He was only 25. His shooting death is still unsolved, and according to experts, it will remain a mystery due to various discrepancies in witness reports.
Shakur was not without controversy. In just a short period of time, he amassed a lengthy list of run-ins with the law.
In 1992, during a confrontation at an outdoor festival in Marin City, California, Shakur's gun reportedly went off accidentally. The bullet struck a nearby 6-year-old named Qa'id Walker-Teal and killed him. Shakur settled the case, and charges against him were dropped.
In 1993, he was charged with felonious assault after he allegedly tried to hit rapper Chauncey Wynn with a baseball bat during a concert at Michigan State University. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was sentenced to 30 days in jail, but he only served ten days.
Also in 1993, Shakur was charged in connection with a shooting where he reportedly shot two off-duty Atlanta police officers, according to media reports. But all the charges were dropped against him once it was determined that the off-duty police officers were not only intoxicated and reportedly in possession of stolen weapons during the alleged incident, but one of the officers had also allegedly shot at Shakur's car.
That same year, Shakur was charged with sexually assaulting a woman in a New York City hotel room. Shakur maintained the sex was consensual, but in 1994, he was found guilty of first-degree sexual abuse. He served nine months in jail.
In 1994, Shakur was convicted of assaulting director Allen Hughes on the set of a music video, and he served a little over two weeks in jail.
Extensive criminal — and violent — background aside, there's no denying that Shakur left an indelible mark on the music world and in the psyche of an entire generation.
"I think we all see pieces of Pac in ourselves," hip-hop historian Shaheem Reid told ABC News in 2016. "I think … his perspective was, 'We're in the struggle together,' and as opposed to, 'I'm going to overcome it.'"
Many music experts agree that prior to his death, Shakur was growing into a community leader and turning his life around.
"Like others before him, such as Malcolm X, it took time for them to evolve in[to] the men they would be," Chuck Creekmur, owner of Allhiphop.com, told ABC News in 2016. "And I think Pac was actively making moves … evolving very rapidly to what I think he would have been,"
Enter Demetrius Shipp Jr. — who was cast to portray Shakur in "All Eyez on Me." The 28-year-old does have a connection to Shakur: his father helped produce "Toss It Up," which was the rapper's first single released posthumously.
But what really makes Shipp suitable for the role is his resemblance to Shakur, which he said prompted his high school classmates to give him the nickname "Pac."
And that resemblance still turns heads today.
"It's every day at this point, everywhere I go," he told USA Today, adding people joke, "Like, 'I knew he was alive!'"
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