2Pac became quite a sensation, earning praise for his musical and acting talent as well as condemnation for his explicit, violent lyrics. Many of his songs told of fights, gangs, and sex. He appeared to be living up to his aggressive gangster rap persona with several arrests for violent offenses in the 1990s. In 1994, he spent several days in jail for assaulting director Allen Hughes and was later convicted of sexual assault in another case. Shakur himself fell victim to violence, getting shot five times in the lobby of a recording studio during a mugging.
The next year, after recovering from his injuries, Shakur was sentenced to four and a half years in prison in the sexual assault case. His third solo album, Me Against the World (1995), started out in the number one spot on the album charts. Many critics praised the work, noting that tracks like “Dear Mama” showed a more genuine, reflective side to the rapper. The possibility of an early death runs through several songs on this recordings – something that many have seen as a chilling moment of foretelling.
After serving eight months in prison, Shakur returned to music with the album All Eyez on Me (1996). He was reportedly released after Death Row Records CEO Marion “Suge” Knight paid a bond of more than $1 million as part of Shakur’s parole. In his latest project, Shakur as the defiant street thug was back in full force on this recording. The song “California Love” featured a guest appearance by famed rapper-producer Dr. Dre and made a strong showing on the pop charts. “How Do You Want It” also was another smash success for Shakur. It appeared to be a golden time for Shakur.
Besides his hit album, Shakur continued to pursue his acting career. He landed several film roles around this time. He co-starred with Mickey Rouke in the 1996 crime drama Bullet. Before his untimely death, Shakur completed work on two other projects—Gridlock’d and Gang Related—that were released in 1997.
During his career, Shakur had become embroiled in a feud between East Coast and West Coast rappers. He was known to insult his enemies on his tracks. On a trip to Las Vegas to attend a boxing match, Shakur was shot while riding in a car driven by Knight on September 7, 1996. He died six days later, on September 13, 1996, from his injuries at a Las Vegas hospital. Shakur was only 25 years old at the time of his death, and his killer has never been caught. Since his death, numerous albums of his work have been posthumously released, selling millions of copies.
Shakur’s life has inspired numerous books and theatrical productions, including the 2012 musical Holler If Ya Can Hear Me. That same year, he made a posthumous appearance at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival with the help of technology. A 2-D image of the late rapper accompanied Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg during one of their performances at the California event. Shakur’s return to the stage from beyond the grave stirred up a new wave of interest in his videos and his music.