5 enduring conspiracy theories about Tupac

Tupac Shakur. (Photo: Ken Nahoum, Edge Film)

Tupac Shakur. (Photo: Ken Nahoum, Edge Film)

R U Still Down?

If Tupac Shakur ever wondered this of fans, the answer is unequivocally yes — so much so that fans have held on to conspiracy theories surrounding the enigmatic rapper 20 years after his still-unsolved murder. On the anniversary of the Don Killuminati artist’s death, we look back on a few of the enduring theories.

1. Shakur faked his own death. 

This is perhaps the most pervasive theory that emerged after the rapper died days after he was targeted in a drive-by shooting on the Las Vegas strip. Conspiracy theorists have rationalized it by pointing to Shakur’s respect for political philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli, whose treatise The Art of War (not to be confused with Sun Tzu’s The Art of War) has been misconstrued as advocating for faking one’s death in order to manipulate an enemy. Machiavelli actually wrote: “Sometimes it has been of great moment while the fight is going on, to disseminate words that pronounce the enemies’ captain to be dead, or to have been conquered by another part of the army. Many times this has given victory to him who used it.”

But believing that Machiavelli espoused faking one’s death, fans reasoned that Shakur’s   adoption of the stage name, Makaveli, and the inclusion of the phrase “Exit 2Pac, Enter Makaveli” in the album sleeve for The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory — an album which also depicted Shakur as Jesus Christ — were all deliberate clues left behind by the artist. Theorists have also picked apart a video interview with Shakur’s mother Afeni — the only individual besides hospital personnel to see the artist after he was admitted — who said, “in the end, he chose to leave quietly.”

2. He’s hiding in Cuba. 

Some speculate that Shakur was weary of the bloodshed that accompanied rap beef and longed for an escape, holing up in Cuba with his aunt, Assata Shakur. Assata was a staunch figure within the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army who sought political asylum in Cuba in the early 80s after escaping from a New Jersey prison following a hotly-contested murder conviction.

3. He’s being harbored by the government as a witness. 

Of course, the CIA has long refuted this.

Alternatively, there are those who believe that Shakur did die on Sept. 13, 1996 and that…

4. Suge Knight — and his then-attorney David Kenner — called for his death. 

“Tupac Shakur was becoming a very outstanding actor. And it came to Suge Knight’s attention that Tupac was going to leave Death Row Records – and the evidence shows you just don’t leave Death Row Records and get away with it,” said LAPD Detective Russell Poole, who worked closely with author Randall Sullivan on LAbyrinth, a damning look into the LAPD’s involvement with the Death Row Records label head and pattern of police brutality and cover-ups, all of which were chronicled in reports on the LAPD Rampart Scandal.

LAbyrinth also revealed that Shakur fired Kenner shortly before his death, and was looking to launch his own label, a move which would have barred Knight from the profits of Shakur’s work.

Knight was in the car with Shakur on the night of shooting but, as Sullivan argues, “if you look at the police report, the shooter’s car pulled up and shot at an angle that could really only hit Tupac. No shot really came close to hitting Suge.”

Then, there’s this theory…

5. Biggie Smalls was the mastermind behind the shooting. 

Their feud was one of the most storied in hip-hop history — and, in an anonymously-sourced Los Angeles Timesinvestigative piece, former Times reporter Chuck Philips wrote that the Notorious B.I.G. offered the Crips $1 million to kill Shakur. However, after a 2008Times story by Philips was retracted due to the inclusion of falsified FBI reports,  this notion was widely dismissed as well.

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