In late 1993, Tupac formed the group Thug Life with friends from different states across the US, including Big Syke, Macadoshis, his step-brother Mopreme, and Rated R. The group released their first album, Thug Life: Volume 1 on Interscope in 1994 with notable hits such as "Pour Out a Little Liquor" and "Bury Me a G" which, despite its hardcore content, still managed to be certified as a gold record. The group subsequently disbanded after Shakur's release from prison.
While in New York filming, Above the Rim in 1994 Tupac got to know James ‘Henchman’ Rosemond. (They originally met in ’92 briefly.) The pair hung out in between filming and Henchman introduced Pac to Haitian born, Jacques ‘Haitian Jack’ Agnant who was a friend of Henchman’s from their hustling days in the Vanderveer projects in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Agnant was a very flashy player, had the bling bling, cars and the crew. Pac was impressed and studied the hustler’s every move in preparing for the role as Birdie in Above the Rim. According to Henchman in Vibe magazine December ’05 Tupac and Agnant were inseparable fighting together, club hopping together almost every night. At this period Tupac claimed he needed to seriously change his ways or declare bankruptcy due to increasing legal fees. This would be first blood for west coast record label Godfather, Suge Knight who circled the financially-weakened Tupac and paid him $200,000 for the track he did with his group Thug Life "Pour Out a Little Liquor". Then Suge served him a lucrative offer to join the powerhouse Death Row records. Pac refused, going in favour of Haitian Jack Agnant and Jimmy Henchman. Not long after as Tupac was imprisoned for the sexual assault conviction, he was dropped from the lead role in Higher Learning, another John Singleton film.
The Hunted Child
Tupac’s public image was defined not through his music or acting prowess but by a series of altercations with the law as before his recording career he had no criminal record. By October 1991 he found himself entangled with the Oakland police filing a $10 million lawsuit over police brutality. Oakland P.D. claimed he was jaywalking and when he swore back at them he was immediately choked, beaten and had his head smashed onto the pavement. The case was eventually settled out of court for $42,000.
By 1992 Tupac moved out to Los Angeles and began amercing himself in the local gang culture. He used this lifestyle as a vehicle for personifying an identity and sponging up stories for upcoming songs. At 5 foot 8 and 150 pounds with fine features and bold eyes he scared nobody, until he purchased his first pistol and began training at shooting ranges. He illustrated his body with tattoos, most famously the “Thug LIFE” emblazoned across his solar-plexus and the image of an assault rifle above it with “50 Niggaz”. His first brush with the law occurred when he returned to Marin City’s fifteenth anniversary celebration and got into a shouting match with young men from the neighbourhood that didn’t end until shots were fired and a six year old child was fatally wounded with a bullet to the head. Tupac’s half-brother was arrested but later released due to insufficient evidence. The only thing remembered about the incident was the national headlines with Tupac and six year old boy shot.
After releasing his follow-up album Pac was high on the fumes of his success and lived like a celebrating gun-toting brat. With an antagonistic temperament Tupac would find himself involved in several more violent incidents in 1993 proving to be very costly in the US courts of law. In March ’93 during a drive into the Fox lot in Hollywood to record a segment for In Living Color, Tupac pulled a gun on the limo driver after the man asked Tupac not to smoke pot inside the vehicle, then after insulting Pac about not having a father-figure role model, he watched on as his entourage beat the man senseless.
Atlanta Police Shooting
The following Halloween, while filming Poetic Justice Tupac was in Atlanta when he got into a shoot-out with police. Tupac came across two off-duty police officers and witnessed them harassing a black motorist in Atlanta on the side of the road. Tupac took it upon himself to aid the motorist and after a fight with the officers he shot both officers with his own gun. One officer was hit in the leg, the other in the buttock. It was later revealed in court both officers were heavily intoxicated and were using guns stolen from the evidence room. Also one of the officers was charged with aggravated assault on the same day as Tupac’s first hearing. The case was dismissed with no charges against Tupac. Once again his public image was growing sour. He was painted as a media villain and ghetto martyr. These building events left Tupac in serious financial peril with legal fees mounting up.
The bad press continued to mount up when he was the target of civil lawsuits relating to the shooting of a Texas state trooper and the paralysis of a woman who was shot by a stray bullet at a near-riot at a concert in Arkansas, blaming the lyrics in his songs. Press headlines grew stronger when he was arrested on sexual assault charges at Thanksgiving. This next period in Tupac’s young professional and personal life would not only challenge his freedom in society, doomed to follow behind the elders in his family but after an orchestrated assassination in New York would leave him fighting for his life in hospital before resuming a prison sentence in Dannemora.