Tupac Shakur was one of the most well-known rappers in the world and, during the 1990s, was the go-to artist if you wanted hardcore and passionate gangsta rap. As the primary artist of Dr Dre and Suge Knight’s Death Row Records, Pac undeniably made massive hits and, before his murder in 1996, was one of the most famous rappers in the world.
Tupac, as well as being a talented rapper, was also highly controversial and was, for all intents and purposes, the perpetrator of the east coast vs west coast feud. The bloodshed and horror of the 1990s was primarily down to Shakur and Suge Knight. The rapper, as the son of Afeni Shakur, a political activist and member of the Black Panther Party, naturally had an anti-establishment mindset and, as such, was quite a brash character and highly troublesome character. But still popular.
When we’re looking back at hip hop in the 1990s, we’re looking (for the most part) at two feuding record labels, Death Row Records on the West Coast and Badboy Entertainment on the East Coast. Both companies had their own stars, with Pac signed to Death Row, and Biggie Smalls signed to Bad Boy. Respectively, these two artists, with their affiliates i.e. Snoop Dogg, Dr Dre, Lil Kim and Diddy, were ruling the rap charts and selling unfathomable amounts of records with their feud actually fuelling sales.
However, before all of the above, when 2pac was signed to Death Row in L.A., 2pac was making music in other places with other people. Prior to settling in Los Angeles with his mother, Shakur lived in a number of places, including Baltimore, Marin City and Oakland, and it is while he was in Oakland that he became part of the alternative hip hop outfit, Digital Underground.
Formed by the Oakland rapper Shock G, Digital Underground had a lot of different members coming in and out of the group, and 2pac was one of them. Most known for their 1990 song ‘The Humpty Dance’, Digital Underground were quite eccentric with their image and took an uplifting approach to performances.
Released in 1990, before Dr Dre had even formed Death Row Records, Pac appeared on the track ‘Same Song’ by Digital Underground and, of course, featured in the group’s music video. This was the first music video Tupac ever recorded, but he would go on to record a lot more as part of Death Row.