Considering that Death Row Tupac Shakur was tragically murdered at the tender age of 25, he undoubtedly packed a lot of compelling activity into his unfortunately short life. Regarding rap, the legend we now know as Pac emerged at 18 when he joined Shock G as part of the avant-garde rap outfit Digital Underground.
If you look closely enough, you can spot the rapper (real name Tupac Shakur) in the video of 1990 hit Digital underground hit, ‘The Humpty Dance’. The track became so big that it generated a large fanbase for the ensemble and put eyes on Pac. In fact, it created a groundbreaking opportunity for Shakur.
Once Tupac had featured in ‘The Humpty Dance’, he became a Digital Undeground staple. He became their hypeman and went on to appear in their ‘Same Song’ video. As a result of these video performances, Shakur proved he had a knack for screen performance.
Before moving to Oakland, Shakur attended the Baltimore School of the Arts, where he studied acting, dance and even poetry. It’s where he met Jada Pinkett-Smith and fell in love with the works of the famed playwright William Shakespeare. He would later profess his love for the works of Shakespeare.
After his stint with Digital Underground, Pac got the opportunity to make a brief but impactful appearance in Nothing But Trouble alongside Dan Ackroyd in 1991. A year later, Shakur would appear alongside Omar Epps in Juice. According to Money-B, a close friend of Shakur’s from Digital Underground, Pac nailed the audition.
Recalling the day of the Juice audition for RollingStone magazine, Money-B detailed, “We get to the audition, and I go in there, and I just totally fall on my face. I was terrible. Tupac goes in there, and he’s in the room auditioning. All of a sudden, you hear clapping.”
Unfortunately for Money-B, Tupac Shakur had nailed down the audition and secured the role of Bishop. The following year, he starred in Poetic Justice (1993) with the legendary Janet Jackson. From here, his rap career began taking off, and with his mother, he moved from Oakland to LA (the home of Death Row Records).
In 1995, after his highly publicised prison stint, Pac highlighted his background in the arts and even began to draw comparisons between the plays of Shakespeare and LA gang life. Speaking to the LA Times, Shakur clarified, “I am not a gangster and never have been!”
It was during this 1995 interview that 2pac began to reveal his admiration for Shakespeare. Speaking on one the playwright’s most well-known works, Shakur explained, “Look at Romeo and Juliet that’s some serious ghetto sh*t!” he said. “You got this guy Romeo from the Bloods who falls for Juliet, a female from the Crips, and everybody in both gangs are against them. So they have to sneak out, and they end up dead for nothing. Real tragic stuff.”
Only a legend like 2pac could draw parallels between the works of Shakespeare and LA gang life. However, the rapper was undeniably educated, and as much as people like to forget, Shakespeare himself was an impoverished man. Shakur knew this. You can watch Shakur’s early performance with Digital Underground in the video below to see how this story began, as we all know how it ended unfortunately.