Death Row took on-board Tupac’s family baggage, Suge Knight purchased a house for his mother Afeni Shakur, and when she and family members came out to LA Knight lodged them in the luxurious Westwood Marquis hotel. Pac kept himself busy in the Death Row studios in Tarzana heavily intoxicated on weed and alcohol. It was here where he recorded an unprecedented amount of tracks and lyrics which apart from making hip-hop’s first ever double album, allowed his music to be continually released in albums long after his untimely death. Tupac was by far the brightest star and biggest celebrity in the hip-hop community, thanks to his impressive acting career and even more impressive street-credibility built by his continual criminal convictions and run-ins with the law. With Pac heading up Death Row the label remained on top of the pile in the west coast and Suge reaped the profits of the industry’s best-selling artist. It appeared as if Tupac sided with the most fearsome record executive in America and his notorious gang affiliation being the only ones powerful enough to protect him against those who wanted Pac gone. Despite the distinct bravado front he put up, Pac had a growing army of enemy and by association with Suge’s MOB Piru street gang he was physically backed against any of his foes. Hand in hand Suge and Tupac relied upon each other and with a lasting common interest a strong bond was established. They shared an interest in tearing down east coast’s Bad Boy Entertainment and the record executive Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs whom Suge declared war against the year prior during Pac’s incarceration at The Source Awards starting the East/West feud.
All Eyes On Me
During early 1996 Tupac insisted upon negotiating movie deals without going through Suge Knight’s agency. By February the all-coastal legend had formed a production company called "Euphanasia" entirely independent from any ties with Knight and Death Row Records hiring friend Yaasmyn Fula to run the company. She however found it hard to obtain any financial accounts from Death Row management, but although Pac kept her from pressing any legal threats he did warn his younger cousins not to sign contracts with Death Row. By this stage Tupac had also begun to lean heavily on the advice of his east coast attorney and Harvard graduate Charles Ogletree who was frustrated by having to deal with his LA lawyer, Death Row’s David Kenner. (Tupac would later fire the services of David Kenner, a move seen by associates as deadly.) This would mould the first movements by Tupac to escape from Death Row by maintaining a friendly relationship with Knight but to separate his business. Easy enough to accomplish legally and on paper, but not so easy physically to walk away from the frightening wrath of Knight, they remained on a level of unity against their rivals, Bad Boy Entertainment.
Meanwhile by mid February Tupac released the first hip-hop double LP, All Eyes On Me sales were explosive, selling more than half a million copies in it’s first week in stores earning $10million, second only to The Beatles Anthology as the best commercial opening in the history of the music industry. The fresh-out-of-jail comeback marketing worked like a charm, the same way as selling seats or pay-per-view for Tyson’s first fight after release from prison. The album was more anticipated than LL Cool J’s Mama Said Knock You Out and remains today a 9x platinum classic rap album. The album hosted a long list of successful chart-topping singles the most recognized was the west coast anthem of the decade "California Love" an internal controversial track that crippled the record label indefinitely. The track was written and produced by Dr. Dre and was to be the headliner for his upcoming album but Suge insisted he was taking too long and as Pac was the newest and hottest recording star in the family, the hit was re-produced with Tupac’s added vocals and released on All Eyes. The single went straight to number one on the US charts. Also Tupac collaborated with newly Suge Knight-managed R&B sensations K-Ci and Jo-Jo from Jodeci on the next single "How Do U Want It" which also débuted at number one on the US charts. Immediately afterwards he began working on his follow-up Death Row album.
Tupac’s next album was recorded under the pseudonym Makaveli for the respect of the book he read in prison by the great tactician Niccolò Machiavelli that taught him about the secrets of war. Don Kiluminati – 7 Day Theory was released soon after his murder, by November 1996. The album cover was an illustration depicting Tupac on a cross under a crown of thorns mimicking Jesus with a map of the nation’s major gang areas superimposed on it. He recorded videos for his singles, "To Live & Die in LA" which served as another ode to the city who adopted him in his last 5-6 years here. Another was "Toss It Up" which directs abuse at former labelmate Dre. Pac took a dislike to Dre after he was absent at Snoop’s court hearings and leaving Death Row with his name down on production for artists he had nothing to do with on the label. In this track Pac rapped, “Still down with that Death Row sound searchin’ for pay days no longer Dre Day/Arriverderci, lonely forgotten, rotten for plottin’ child’s play/ check your sexuality as fruity as this Allaize/Quick to jump ship, punk trick what a dumb move/Cross death Row now who you gon’ run to/Flossin’ with those suckers ‘cause you similar/pretendin’ to be hard, oh my god check your temperature/Screamin’ Compton but you can’t return/You ain’t heard brothers pissed ‘cause you switched and escaped to the ‘burbs.”
Several other singles were released detailing a deeper, somewhat remorseful outlook for Tupac. The album sold over a million copies as soon as it hit the streets, eventually going 5x platinum and is now considered a hip-hop classic.
Tupac was always celebrating his freedom and partying across LA and the US wherever his career took him. While on the set of Gridlock’d where he starred alongside Tim Roth on Vondies Curtis-Hall’s movie about heroin junkies trying to kick their habit while being caught in a social trap of bureaucracy. His personal bodyguard was a very professional body-builder, Frank Alexander. The pair were tight, homies as well as keeping to their professions respectively. He was hired by Knight’s Wrightway Security force and always assigned to looking after Tupac. He would score copious amounts of dope for the star and kept Tupac out of fights and made sure he was where he needed to be with appointments, acting as his driver as well. Alexander’s niece was disabled and confined to a wheelchair. She was awarded by a program that allowed her to have one dream come true for her. As she was a huge Janet Jackson fan she wished to meet her and spend a day with her. As Janet became increasingly busy and scheduled with appointments she was unable to fulfil her dream. Alexander vented his frustrations to Tupac who offered his condolences and suggested the girl spent time with him while he was on the set, filming Gridlock’d. Tupac and the girl spent the next three days together, dedicating his whole time to her, he behaved like a father-figure and showed her around his home and took her to the recording studio while he worked on tracks for his album. What the girl experienced was more than her dream coming true, she took a strong liking to Tupac and tore down her Janet posters at home, replacing them with Tupac’s imagery. Frank Alexander had never expected such attention and devotion as shown by Tupac and this is a side to Pac that is rarely shown in them media.
Tupac’s final movie was to be Gang Related starring alongside James Belushi as a crooked detective framing suspects in order to gain profits from drug dealing. In between this filming, Pac enjoyed his fast-paced lifestyle and red carpet treatment using LA and Vegas as playgrounds. He was slated to star in another John Singleton South Central LA movie, Baby Boy as Jodie, a local thug struggling to find work and balance personal issues with his babys’ mamas, starring alongside Omar Gooding and Snoop Dogg. Due to his death he was replaced with Tyrese Gibbons.
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