What to Read and Watch to Understand the Death (and Life) of Tupac Shakur

The September 1996 murder of Tupac Shakur was so seismic, tragic, and culture-shifting that it’s never really left the public consciousness. But the September arrest of a 60-year-old Las Vegas man named Duane “Keefe D” Davis, a key suspect and one of the last living eyewitnesses to Shakur’s killing, has brought renewed attention to one of the most infamous unsolved crimes of the 1990s.

An entire cottage industry of books and films has grown up around Tupac in the thirty years since his death, from deeply reported investigative journalism and thoughtful portrayals of the rapper and poet to salacious true-crime tales that lose sight of the very real 25-year-old man who lost his life. (Many of the works covering Tupac’s death are intertwined with the March 1997 murder of friend-turned-rival The Notorious B.I.G., and the animosity between Bad Boy and Death Row Records.)

Earlier this month, Davis’ arraignment was delayed for a second time, but a resolution to this decades-long saga still seems closer than it’s ever been. With that in mind, we’ve put together a short list of what to watch and read in order to understand both Tupac’s mysterious death and his remarkable life.

Dear Mama

Allen Hughes’ acclaimed FX docuseries about Tupac and his mother, the political activist Afeni Shakur, isn’t as focused on the mystery of Pac’s death, but it’s crucial viewing if you want to understand both the man Tupac became and the most important person that shaped him. Shakur’s social consciousness—and his fiery temperament—were directly influenced by Afeni, a member of the Black Panthers and a fierce advocate for racial and economic equality. Hughes had a contentious history with Tupac during the MC’s life, and this five-part series doesn’t gloss over the details of that relationship, including a 1993 incident in which a group of ‘Pac associates assaulted Hughes after he passed the rapper over for a role in Menace II Society. Essential, whether you’ve loved Pac for decades or are just learning about his life and times.

Murder Rap

Mike Dorsey’s feature documentary– largely shaped by a 2011 book of the same name by former Los Angeles police detective Greg Kading, who headed an LAPD task force investigating the murder of The Notorious B.I.G.—explores the deaths of the two rap legends in the context of the East Coast-West Coast rap feud, with a specific focus on the rumored involvement of Sean “Diddy” Combs in the death of Tupac. “The confession that alleged Puffy was involved in Tupac’s murder was and still is the most surprising element in all of this. It’s difficult to believe, really, except that Keffe, the confessor, could have easily left Puff out of it and just said Tupac’s murder was just revenge for the beatdown of Keffe’s nephew, Orlando Anderson, and nothing more—the investigators would have probably believed it,” Dorsey wrote in a Reddit AMA.

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