Tupac Amaru Shakur was a musical icon who took the '90s rap scene by storm. Most known for his lyricism, Tupac Shakur's songs stand the test of time. His tragic death at 26 cut short what should have been a bombastic music career. What's even more tragic is that no one has quite figured out why (or how) Tupac was killed. His case was a high profile unsolved murder. He was killed in September 1996 in Las Vegas. He and Suge Knight were driving in a car down the Las Vegas strip when he was killed in a drive-by shooting.
Who killed Tupac? There are plenty of theories about Tupac Shakur's murder - but which one is true?
In the mid-1990s, the West Coast hip-hop scene was led by Death Row Records head honcho Suge Knight and his marquee artist, Tupac. On the East Coast, Sean "Puffy" Combs ran the hit factory Bad Boy Records, whose flagship artist was the Notorious B.I.G. (a.k.a. "Biggie" or "Biggie Smalls"). The rivalry between the label heads, and their important artists, ramped up throughout the mid-'90s.
So who killed Tupac? Some argue Suge put a hit on his number-one artist because Tupac wanted to leave the label or for monetary reasons. Others implicated in Tupac conspiracy theories include Combs and 'Pac's arch-enemy, the Notorious B.I.G. The craziest theory of all? Maybe that Tupac is still alive.
Marion "Suge" Knight Killed Tupac Over Money
A 2002 documentary called Biggie & Tupac presented some interesting theories about Tupac's death, including one that Death Row boss Suge Knight ordered a hit on his superstar artist with whom he was having some monetary disputes. It claimed Tupac was planning to split from Death Row, and in retaliation, Suge wanted him taken out. Suge then had Biggie killed in order to take suspicion off of himself for 'Pac's case. Interestingly, Knight reportedly owned (or just took) Tupac's money.
Corroborating this suggestion was the late Jerry Heller, the controversial former manager of pioneering West Coast rap group N.W.A. Before his death, Heller claimed Knight “unquestionably put the hit out" on Tupac. Knight, who was riding beside Tupac in the car when the rapper was killed, allegedly pulled his friend in front of himself as a shield.
Tupac Faked His Own Death And Is In Hiding
One of the most popular theories about Tupac's passing is that he isn't actually dead at all. In fact, some believe he's really alive, hiding out in luxurious locations all over the world. Why? Tupac assumed the moniker "Makaveli," a reference to the Renaissance philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli, who suggested faking a death in order to evade enemies. Some claimed "Makaveli" was an anagram for “Am Alive K."
The sleeve copy of Tupac's final album, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, contained the sentence "Exit 2Pac, Enter Makaveli,” which suggested rebirth under a new name. The numerology present in his lyrics has encouraged fans to believe this.
There have been Tupac "sightings" all over the world, in which people claimed to see Tupac (or lookalikes) and, reportedly, Tupac's frequently been seen in the Caribbean. In 2018, a man named Michael Nice claimed he was part of security team that helped Tupac escape Las Vegas first to Barbados, then to Cuba in the aftermath of his "alleged" shooting." Nice stated, "Why [do] you think nobody been arrested if they said they the one that killed Tupac? Because Tupac is not dead... You know he’s somewhere smoking a Cuban cigar on an island."
They Found The Murder Weapon, But The Feds Destroyed It For Suspicious Reasons
Adding fuel to the conspiracy theory fire, a 2017 docu-series revealed the murder weapon used in the Tupac case was discovered in a Compton backyard in 1998. The now-defunct Compton Police Department took the gun into evidence, which handed it over to the LAPD after the department was dissolved.
In 2006, a deputy working on the Notorious B.I.G murder discovered the property where the gun was found belonged to a girlfriend of a rival gang member. That man was outspoken about his issues with Tupac - a clear motive for murder.
But instead of handing over the gun to the Las Vegas Police, the federal government decided to destroy the weapon. Why? According to documents obtained by the documentary crew, they were worried it might alert potential conspirators. Very strange indeed.
The Far-Right Jewish Defense League Was Blackmailing Tupac
Before Tupac's death, he was allegedly being extorted by an extremist group called the Jewish Defense League (JDL), a violently racist organization that is aberrant from mainstream Judaism. The JDL allegedly blackmailed him for money (or said Tupac was in danger) then offer him protection in exchange for cash. Jerry Heller also used them to protect himself from Suge.
Did they have something to do with his death? It's unknown. But Tupac wasn't the only Suge Knight affiliate guy threatened by the JDL; the FBI also mentioned N.W.A.'s Eazy-E as someone the radical terrorists targeted.