It’s September 7, 1996. Rapper Tupac Shakur and his entourage attended the Mike Tyson vs. Bruce Seldon boxing match at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas earlier that night.
While on his way to an afterparty, Tupac was gunned down in a drive-by shooting in Suge Knight’s BMW while stopped at a red light at the intersection of Flamingo Rd. and Koval Lane. Two .40 caliber bullets landed in his chest.
Medical workers rushed Tupac to UMC Hospital, where he died six day later from his wounds. He was only 25 years old.
His death remains unsolved. It’s been the subject of countless conspiracy theories. Many believe that he didn’t succumb to the gunshot wounds that night, but he faked his death and escaped to Cuba.
Tupac’s fifth studio album The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory was released less than two months after his death. It’s named after Niccolò Machiavelli, an Italian war strategist who pretended to fake his death to trick his enemies. The letters “Makaveli” can be rearranged to “Am Alive K.” Inside the album liner notes, it reads, “Exit: 2pac, Enter: Makaveli.”
Were the conspiracy theories a clever ploy by the music industry to push record sales? It’s understandable when you consider that seven of his 11 albums were released post-mortem. However, Tupac left such a large impact on the world, it’s easy to believe that fans had a hard time reconciling with his death.
One of the newest conspiracy theories suggests Tupac knew about his assassination plot and employed a body-double to take the bullets in his place. Director of the new documentary 2Pac: The Great Escape From UMC believes Tupac is hiding out in Mexico.
“Let’s just say Mr. Shakur — the family is aware of the movie and they’re okay with the title so that should tell you more or less what’s going on,” said filmmaker Rick Boss.
Tupac’s posthumous life cycle has kept him a relevant figure in the modern pop culture vernacular. Last April, Snoop Dogg resurrected Tupac with deep-fake technology for a music video cameo. His likeness was also displayed in Supreme New York ads via hologram earlier this year.
One of the most important albums of the 2010’s, Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly closes with a ‘conversation’ between Lamar and 2Pac. Lamar later revealed he originally named the album Tu Pimp a Caterpillar (which abbreviates to TuPAC).
A living memorial for Tupac remains on the corner of Flamingo & Koval – the site of his shooting location. His dedicated fans make a pilgrimage to the intersection en masse twice a year. On June 16, Tupac’s birthday, and September 13, the day of his death.
Last week marked the 24th anniversary of Tupac’s untimely passing. VegasNews went to visit his memorial.
As I approached the corner from the crosswalk, I heard Tupac’s music blaring out of a massive PA speaker. The adjacent light pole was decorated with hundreds of notes, lyrics, and personal anecdotes scribed in permanent marker. An array of lit sacred candles, flowers, and empty 40z bottles of malt liquor from libations scattered the ground.
Rich and his wife Stephanie embraced each other as they read the notes on the light pole. “He’s an inspiration,” said Rich. He and his wife moved to Las Vegas from Long Beach less than a month ago. This was their first time visiting the memorial, but they plan on making a yearly tradition out of it. “The things he thought, the things he represented. He was an icon for people of where he came from.”
Another visitor was Heidi, she considers herself a “lifetime dedicated” Tupac fan. Born and raised in Las Vegas, she makes many voyages to the intersection throughout the year. “He’s got a song Untouchable, well I’m unseeable. I come and go,” she told Vegas News.
Heidi brought a bouquet of balloons, take-out boxes of mac & cheese, orange soda, and chicken wings, which were Tupac’s favorite foods. “He means everything to me,” she said.
Joseph is a teacher at the Clark County School District. This marks his 17th year in a row visiting the memorial on the anniversary of his death. “I was a fan of his from a young age. He died on the day that I turned 12 years old so it stuck with me.”
“I didn’t quite appreciate all the lyrical content at that time but now I see that it is more relevant than ever,” said Joe. Police brutality, income inequality, and racial justice were common themes in Tupac’s music – something that resonates with people today more than ever.
Tupac’s birthday last June brought a larger crowd than usual. There was even a dedication at the intersection. America is facing a new social justice movement in light of the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Elijah McClain. And it’s clear we are fighting the same fight Tupac did two decades earlier.
Whether it’s for the politics, or for the music, Tupac’s legacy lives on for people from all generations and walks of life.