Shakur’s music and philosophy is rooted in many American, African-American, and World entities, including the Black Panther Party, Black nationalism, egalitarianism, and liberty. His debut album, 2Pacalypse Now, revealed the socially conscious side of Shakur. On this album, Shakur attacked social injustice, poverty and police brutality on songs “Brenda’s Got a Baby”, “Trapped” and “Part Time Mutha”. His style on this album was highly influenced by the social consciousness and Afrocentrism pervading hip hop in the late 1980s and early 1990s. On this initial release, Shakur helped extend the success of such rap groups as Boogie Down Productions, Public Enemy, X-Clan, and Grandmaster Flash, as he became one of the first major socially conscious rappers from the West Coast.
On his second record, Shakur continued to rap about the social ills facing African-Americans, with songs like “The Streetz R Deathrow” and “Last Wordz.” He also showed his compassionate side with the inspirational anthem “Keep Ya Head Up”, while simultaneously putting his legendary aggressiveness on display with the title track from the album Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. he added a salute to his former group Digital Underground by including them on the playful track “I Get Around”. Throughout his career, an increasingly aggressive attitude can be seen pervading Shakur’s subsequent albums.
The contradictory themes of social inequality and injustice, unbridled aggression, compassion, playfulness, and hope all continued to shape Shakur’s work, as witnessed with the release of his incendiary 1995 album Me Against the World. In 1996, Shakur released All Eyez on Me. Many of these tracks are considered by many critics to be classics, including “Ambitionz Az a Ridah”, “I Ain’t Mad at Cha”, “California Love”, “Life Goes On” and “Picture Me Rollin'”.; All Eyez on Me was a change of style from his earlier works. While still containing socially conscious songs and themes, Shakur’s album was heavily influenced by party tracks and tended to have a more “feel good” vibe than his first albums. Shakur described it as a celebration of life, and the record was critically and commercially successful.
Shakur was a voracious reader. He was inspired by a wide variety of writers, including Niccolò Machiavelli, Donald Goines, Sun Tzu, Kurt Vonnegut, Mikhail Bakunin, Maya Angelou, Alice Walker, and Khalil Gibran. In his book, Dyson describes the experience of visiting the home of Shakur’s friend and promoter Leila Steinberg to find “the sea of books” once owned by Shakur.
At a Mobb Deep concert following the death of the famed icon and release of The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, Cormega recalled in an interview that the fans were all shouting “Makaveli”, and emphasized the influence of the The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory and of Shakur himself even in New York at the height of the media-dubbed ‘intercoastal rivalry’.
About.com named Shakur the most influential rapper ever.
To preserve Shakur’s legacy, his mother founded the Shakur Family Foundation (later re-named the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation or TASF) in 1997. The TASF’s stated mission is to “provide training and support for students who aspire to enhance their creative talents.” The TASF sponsors essay contests, charity events, a performing arts day camp for teenagers and undergraduate scholarships. The Foundation officially opened the Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts (TASCA) in Stone Mountain, Georgia, on June 11, 2005. On November 14, 2003, a documentary about Shakur entitled Tupac: Resurrection was released under the supervision of his mother and narrated entirely in his voice. It was nominated for Best Documentary in the 2005 Academy Awards. Proceeds will go to a charity set up by Shakur’s mother Afeni. On April 17, 2003, Harvard University co-sponsored an academic symposium entitled “All Eyez on Me: Tupac Shakur and the Search for the Modern Folk Hero.” The speakers discussed a wide range of topics dealing with Shakur’s impact on everything from entertainment to sociology.
Many of the speakers discussed Shakur’s status and public persona, including State University of New York English professor Mark Anthony Neal who gave the talk “Thug Nigga Intellectual: Tupac as Celebrity Gramscian” in which he argued that Shakur was an example of the “organic intellectual” expressing the concerns of a larger group. Professor Neal has also indicated in his writings that the death of Shakur has left a “leadership void amongst hip-hop artists.” Neal further describes him as a “walking contradiction”, a status that allowed him to “make being an intellectual accessible to ordinary people”.
Professor of Communications Murray Forman, of Northeastern University, spoke of the mythical status about Shakur’s life and death. He addressed the symbolism and mythology surrounding Shakur’s death in his talk entitled “Tupac Shakur: O.G. (Ostensibly Gone)”. Among his findings were that Shakur’s fans have “succeeded in resurrecting Tupac as an ethereal life force”. In “From Thug Life to Legend: Realization of a Black Folk Hero”, Professor of Music at Northeastern University, Emmett Price, compared Shakur’s public image to that of the trickster-figures of African-American folklore which gave rise to the urban “bad-man” persona of the post-slavery period. He ultimately described Shakur as a “prolific artist” who was “driven by a terrible sense of urgency” in a quest to “unify mind, body, and spirit”.
Michael Dyson, University of Pennsylvania Avalon Professor of Humanities and African American Studies and author of the book Holler If You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur indicated that Shakur “spoke with brilliance and insight as someone who bears witness to the pain of those who would never have his platform. He told the truth, even as he struggled with the fragments of his identity.” At one Harvard Conference the theme was Shakur’s impact on entertainment, race relations, politics and the “hero/martyr”. In late 1997, the University of California, Berkeley offered a student-led course entitled “History 98: Poetry and History of Tupac Shakur.”
In late 2003, the Makaveli Branded Clothing line was launched by Afeni. In 2005, Death Row released Tupac: Live at the House of Blues. The DVD was the final recorded performance of Shakur’s career, which took place on July 4, 1996, and features a plethora of Death Row artists. In August 2006, Tupac Shakur Legacy was released. The interactive biography was written by Jamal Joseph. It features unseen family photographs, intimate stories, and over 20 removable reproductions of his handwritten song lyrics, contracts, scripts, poetry, and other personal papers. Shakur’s sixth posthumous studio album, Pac’s Life, was released on November 21, 2006. It commemorates the 10th anniversary of Shakur’s death. He is still considered one of the most popular artists in the music industry as of 2006.
According to Forbes, in 2008 Shakur’s estate made $15 million. In 2002, they recognize him as a Top Earning Dead celebrity coming in on number ten on their list.
MTV ranked him at #2 on their list of The Greatest MCs of All Time.
Shakur was inducted into the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame in 2002.
In 2003, MTV’s “22 Greatest MCs” countdown listed Shakur as the “number 1 MC”, as voted by the viewers.
In 2004, at the VH1 Hip Hop Honors Shakur was honored along with DJ Hollywood, Kool DJ Herc, KRS-One, Public Enemy, Run-D.M.C., Rock Steady Crew, and Sugarhill Gang.
A Vibe magazine poll in 2004 rated Shakur “the greatest rapper of all time” as voted by fans.
At the First Annual Turks & Caicos International Film Festival held on Tuesday, October 17, 2006, Shakur was honored for his undeniable voice and talent and as a performer who crossed racial, ethnic, cultural and medium lines; his mother accepted the award on his behalf.
In 2008, the The National Association Of Recording Merchandisers in conjunction with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recognized him as a very influential artist and has added him in their Definitive 200 list.
His double album, All Eyez on Me, is one of the highest-selling rap albums of all time, with over 5 million copies of the album sold in the United States alone by April 1996; it was eventually certified 9x platinum in June 1998 by the RIAA.