In 1996 Tupac Shakur was shot and died six days later on Friday 13th September. Or so the official story goes.
Since then numerous theories have surfaced suggesting that the rapper isn’t dead. The question is, have sixteen years of these theories resulted in any credible evidence that he is still alive?
‘There were times I was so sure he’s really alive. Last summer I was so into the theories I could have told you every little thing in detail. It hurts to think that he’s dead.’ Tupac Fan
It is understandable that people find it hard to let go because years after Tupac’s death the music just keeps coming. There are constant reminders of Tupac, his talent and the message he brought to the world for his brief quarter century.
But the will of the fans alone won’t bring Tupac back. If it could then he’d have rushed out on to stage long before now, long before the digital performance at Coachella.
‘Like I said, he was too outgoing to stay quiet for sixteen years.’ Tupac Fan
It’s appealing to many to imagine instead he’s hiding away, somewhere like Cuba with other exiles from the struggle, writing raps for today’s artists. But a quick examination of the theories quickly reveals there is little substance to them. And substance is understood as something that would stand up to careful legal examination.
The reliability of the police during the immediate aftermath of the shooting and in the years that followed is often cited as a reason that Tupac is still alive. However, there is no proof that there was any sort of a cover up to assist Tupac as he slipped into the shadows.
If there is issue to be taken with the conduct of the police it is highlighted in LAbyrinth. This book by Randall Sullivan follows the Detective Russell Poole’s investigations into the murders of Tupac and Biggie Smalls, highlighting the criminal-cop crossovers in alarming detail. It places responsibility for the murders at the feet of Suge Knight and an ensemble of off duty police officers.
That neither investigation has yielded results isn’t proof that Tupac is alive. It only shows the inability of the police to close the cases, and maybe it is to avoid implicating themselves, as Randle Sullivan suggests, but that assertion hasn’t seen the inside of a courtroom.
Machiavelli, the ‘7 day theory’ and lyrical mastery, the theory whereby Tupac had a Machiavellian plan to disappear, make money, defeat his enemies and return, and that it is all laid out pain to see in his work.
This theory draws heavily on picking out things he said in his lyrics and then claiming that proves something. More often than not they only highlight how close to death he felt. Since his death the things he said have taken on new significance for the ‘alive’ theorists and in many cases have become a brand that has been exploited to perpetuate the rumours. But Tupac was just a well read, smart individual that was infusing his art with depth that made it all the more intriguing after he died.
After all that was written by fans about a public return after seven years in hiding, the movie, book and album ‘Resurrection’ were released. Tupac didn’t return though and the diehard ‘alive’ theorists began looking again at Tupac’s lyrics to find something that pointed to another date of return. Before that there was the ‘Untitled’ track at the end of the album ‘Better Dayz’ and so on – I’m sure you have heard the theories before.
Much is made of possible motives for Tupac wanting to disappear. Facing the possibility of years in prison is enough to make most people consider going on the run. And yes, he would have to be motivated to fake his own death but motives don’t always translate into the actions we might expect. There is no proof that Tupac acted on any motive to fake his own death.
Even references to financial irregularities have not been shown to be based on concrete evidence. The allegation is made that Tupac emptied his bank account before his death because he wouldn’t be able to cash in his life insurance as this would be a legal impediment to a later return. But how much money did Tupac have to go on the run with anyway? One of the main arguments for Suge Knight being behind his killing is that Tupac was owed millions that Death Row didn’t want to pay him.
Some of the best evidence comes from the autopsy report which doesn’t accurately reflect Tupac’s details. The report has been seen and these details seen to be incorrect. This might be enough to raise eyebrows especially when the coroner is quoted as saying he didn’t know who Tupac was and wouldn’t have known whether it was him or not. But the coroner also said that these measurements can be inaccurate.
Of course, there are the autopsy photos, which were published by Cathy Scott. These would suggest an autopsy was carried out but ‘alive’ theorists argue that these are faked. The reason being that Tupac needed to confirm his death after too much speculation had surfaced. The falsification of these photos is argued because the ‘Makaveli’ tattoo is apparently missing from Tupac’s neck. Take a look for yourself, the photos aren’t really clear enough to tell.
Despite the lack of evidence some fans still want to believe in the ‘alive’ theories. Most people, including the coroner believe that in theory it would have been possible for Tupac to do it. There just isn’t any evidence and he hasn’t yet returned.
But if he were to have faked his own death he surely wouldn’t have left any evidence because that would be self-defeating.
Maybe that’s the obsession, it just can’t be proved.
‘So you see I can’t find a straight opinion about it. I’ve always wanted to put all the theories together in the puzzle when I have the time because it’s so strange and has got my attention.’ Tupac Fan
The two groups of fans occasionally get militant about whether he is dead or alive but what’s most important in all of this? Dead or alive, the most important thing is that the message he brought stays alive.
‘I really can’t decide what I should think… But it’s so crazy to think he’s sitting somewhere and is watching how the world is arguing about his life, his opinions, his “death”, his knowledge, his character, his technique, his talent… maybe he’s just smiling about his hologram…’ Tupac Fan
Whatever you believe just go on keeping Tupac’s message alive.