'Final 24': Who killed Tupac Shakur? Four bullets, a death shrouded by secrets and a dark hip-hop rivalry
On September 7, 1996, Shakur was shot four times in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas and the rapper died six days later but the gunman was never captured
Popular in the music world as 2Pac, Tupac Amaru Shakur was one of the most significant rappers of his time. Songs like 'California Love', 'Hit 'Em Up' and 'All Eyez on Me' soon became a symbol of resistance and activism against inequality and he became one of the most significant rappers to address contemporary social issues. His albums '2Pacalypse Now' (1991), 'Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z...' (1993), 'Me Against the World' (1995) and 'All Eyez on Me' (1996) changed the ballgame and he became a central figure in West Coast hip hop. Named among the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, he was honored with the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame in 2002 and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017.
The rapper's life was marked with tragedy and drudgery as he got heavily involved in the murky East Coast–West Coast hip hop rivalry. In 1995, he was accused and convicted of molestation after being a victim of robbery and shooting. On September 7, 1996, Shakur was shot four times in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. The rapper died six days later and the gunman was never captured. After his death, his biggest rival, The Notorious B.I.G. — whose real name was Christopher Wallace — was considered a suspect but was killed in another drive-by shooting a few months later.
What really happened that night? Shakur was celebrating his business partner Tracy Danielle Robinson's birthday in Las Vegas and attended the Bruce Seldon vs Mike Tyson boxing match. After that, he headed to his Death Row nightclub, Club 662, in a black BMW 750iL sedan. The loud music and lack of license plates attracted attention and cops halted the car on Las Vegas Boulevard, but he was released without a ticket as the plates were found in the trunk.
At a traffic stop, an unidentified man in a white, four-door, late-model Cadillac sedan pulled up next to his car and fired directly at the rapper. Shakur was struck by four bullets — one in the arm, one in the thigh and two in his chest. He was immediately rushed to the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada, put on life support and was in coma. However, he succumbed to internal bleeding on September 13, 1996, and was pronounced dead at 4.03 pm PT.
The biggest question that still remains a mystery is: Who killed Tupac Shakur? The killing remains essentially unsolved but The Los Angeles Times did an investigation and speculated that the shooting was carried out by a Compton gang called the Southside Crips. Theories also suggested that the murder weapon was supplied by Notorious B.I.G., who agreed to pay the Crips $1M for killing Shakur. Crips member Orlando Anderson was blamed for his death for a long time. But, Anderson denied killing Tupac and was shot dead in 1998 over an alleged drug debt. Anderson's killer is serving three life terms. A story by Rob Marriott in the May 1997 issue of Vibe magazine said, "There are no easy answers to the myriad questions surrounding Tupac's death," and added, "But it has become clear that the rap star’s death — and the three homicides that followed — are only the most visible tragedies in a web of intrigue that extends deep into the LA underworld."
One year after the shooting, Sgt Kevin Manning reportedly told Las Vegas Sun that Shakur's murder "may never be solved". Sadly, his words have indeed come true. Perhaps, we will never truly find out who killed one of the world's greatest rap artists. In 2014, a retired Las Vegas cop said Tupac's last words were "F**k you," when he asked who shot him.
'Final 24' premieres on Wednesday, June 17, at 9 pm. ET/6 pm PT on AXS TV. More weekly episodes will feature the lives of several other iconic celebrities like Jim Morrison and John Belushi.