Hip hop artist Tupac Amaru Shakur was a musical icon who took the '90s rap scene by storm. Most known for his lyricism, Shakur's songs stand the test of time. His tragic death at age 25 cut short what should have been a highly successful 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. On September 7, 1996, Shakur and record producer Suge Knight were driving in a car along the Las Vegas Strip when the young rapper was fatally shot in a drive-by shooting. In a medically-induced coma, Shakur died a few days later in a Nevada hospital on September 13. Who killed Tupac? There are plenty of theories about his 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 labels and 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 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 shot, 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 Niccolò Machiavelli, who supposedly 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, which was released posthumously, contained the sentence "Exit 2Pac, Enter Makaveli,” suggesting rebirth under a new name. There have been Tupac "sightings" all over the world, in which people have claimed to see Tupac (or lookalikes) and, reportedly, he is frequently seen in the Caribbean. In 2018, a man named Michael Nice said he was part of the security team that helped Tupac escape Las Vegas first to Barbados, then to Cuba in the aftermath of his "alleged" shooting. Nice previously had told media, "Why [do] you think nobody [has] been arrested if they said they [are] the one[s] that killed Tupac?" Nice reportedly died December 2018.
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 that the property where the gun was found belonged to a girlfriend of a Crip gang member.
But the gun was never handed over to the Las Vegas Police Department. Why? According to documents obtained by the documentary crew, a federal prosecutor was 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 right-wing organization that identified as a domestic terrorist group. The JDL allegedly blackmailed him for money (or said Tupac was in danger) then offer him protection in exchange for cash.
Did they have something to do with his death? It's unknown. But Tupac wasn't the only artist threatened by the JDL. The FBI also mentioned N.W.A.'s Eazy-E as someone the radical terrorists targeted.