Every few years since his death in 1996, rumors circulate claiming that rapper Tupac Shakur is still alive. Today we consider this enduring urban legend.
Tupac Shakur was born on June 16, 1971 to parents who were deeply involved in the Black Panther Party, a revolutionary African American organization that became prominent in the 1960s due to their sometimes radical tactics in pursuit of civil rights. While growing up in the East Harlem area of Manhattan in New York City, he was no stranger to racial militancy and a young life tarnished by the imprisonment of immediate family members. By some accounts, he was a very well-read and rounded student through grade school and high school. At the age of 17, his family moved from Manhattan to Marin City, California where he soon became a roadie, dancer, and eventual rapper for alternative hip hop group Digital Underground.
While experiences in Digital Underground introduced him to the mainstream music industry, it was his prolific stream of material from side projects and genuine solo releases that established the roots of a respected rap dynasty. Two of his solo albums, 1995’s “Me Against the World” and 1996’s “All Eyez on Me” are even considered to be five-star albums by the Allmusic Guide.
Although he seemed to possess a thoughtful depth and empathy that was uncommon in rap music, he was also paradoxically linked to controversy, and was involved in a series of assaults (even shooting two off-duty police officers) and legal troubles and accusations the last few years of his life. In November 1994, he survived a robbery in which he was shot five times. In hindsight, it seems that the violence within his life was reaching a crescendo.
The Death of Tupac Shakur
On the 7th of September in 1996, Tupac Shakur was shot multiple times in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada. Earlier in the night, he had attended a boxing match at the MGM Grand with Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight. While a passenger in Knight’s BMW, the shooting occurred at an intersection at roughly 11:15pm. After police and paramedics arrived, Shakur was taken to University Medical Center of Southern Nevada where he was placed on life support and sedated into a medically induced coma. He died of internal bleeding six days later on September 13th, 1996.
Copies of Tupac’s coroner report are widely available online.
Recent Tupac Stories in the News
Recently a number of stories have circulated in relation to Tupac Shakur. Some from legitimate news agencies, while others have sprung from fake news websites under the pretense of satire. Every now and then, one of these fake stories will go viral and catch the public’s imagination, spreading rapidly from person to person via social media with no attention paid to authenticity. Here are a few recent stories from legitimate and fake news outlets:
- In May 2014, Rolling Stone featured an interview with Chris Carroll, the first police officer on the scene of the fatal shooting. In the article, Carroll reveals what are thought to be Tupac’s final words. The piece was reprinted by CNN.
- On May 2, 2014, TMZ featured a brief interview with Suge Knight in which he fueled rumors that Tupac Shakur was still alive. An article regarding Knight’s theory was reprinted on MTV’s website. During the interview, Knight said the following, “Why you think nobody been arrested if they said they the one that killed Tupac? Because Tupac not dead. If he was dead, they’d be arresting those dudes for murder. You know he’s somewhere smoking a Cuban cigar on an island.”
- Fake news site Huzlers recently claimed that Tupac Shakur had come out of hiding after faking his death almost 18 years ago. The website displays a disclaimer admitting that it is a satirical source that publishes false news. However, this disclaimer appears to occasionally disappear or is slightly altered.
- On August 27, 2014, satirical news outlet Empire News posted a false story claiming that several witnesses to Suge Knight’s recent shooting insisted that the gunman resembled Tupac Shakur.
- In 2015, a blog post on Gawker theorized that Tupac was alive and living in Cuba, having fled to be with his aunt Assata in a country where he could remain undetected from the US government. It is purely speculative, with no corroborating sources.
Could Tupac Shakur Be Alive?
Rumors that Tupac Shakur is still alive or somehow faked his death are not new. In fact, I remember hearing these whispers uttered shortly after Tupac’s death back in 1996. Ever since then, hearsay has existed about a rivalry between East and West Coast rappers, gang activity, and even some theories implicating Suge Knight. All one has to do is search the subject on Google for a wealth of conspiracy theories and alleged 2Pac sightings. It is possible that these theories persist because Tupac was so influential, and he died under somewhat mysterious circumstances at the peak of his fame.
Could Tupac still be alive? After all, there have been seven posthumous album releases since his death. Many artists are prolific enough to have unfinished material released after their untimely deaths, but seven albums is unusual. He surely had enough money to fake his own death and go into hiding. Perhaps he entered something akin to the witness protection program and assumed a new identity?
All that is known for certain is the official story that has been told to us. The authoritative account – and highest probability – is that Tupac Shakur succumbed to his shooting injuries on September 13th, 1996 after being on life support for several days.
Tupac’s death is supported by eyewitness statements, including that of officer Chris Carroll, to whom Tupac spoke his last words, and the official coroner’s report. Those who claim that he isn’t alive are generally supported by speculation.
The chart below shows search interest in “Tupac alive” which has been consistent over the past 10 years, with several surges along the way.
Rumors continue to circulate that Tupac Shakur supposedly faked his death and may still be alive. However, these myths are not new, yet gossip has been freshly fueled by a combination of fake and authentic news stories. Although the tales of survival have been recurring for years, Tupac Shakur likely died in September of 1996, just as the official story tells us.
What do you think about rumors that Tupac is still alive?
Updated July 24, 2015
Originally published September 2014