The did-he, didn’t-he mystery that surrounds the death of Tupac Shakur is one of modern music’s most enduring myths. Since vanishing from the public eye in a hail of drive-by gunfire (and following a week-long hospital stint) on September 13th 1996, fans have doubted the validity of Tupac’s supposed demise at every opportunity.
Those same fans, however, have never been able to settle on a go-to story for Tupac’s disappearance. Whether it’s an FBI cover-up, or a self-made attempt by Tupac to leave the limelight, there’s a myriad of rumours and theories surrounding where the rap icon really is. Just this week, Death Row Records founder Suge Knight’s son has claimed he’s alive and well in Malaysia. For some reason. Below, we round up the many, many conspiracies surrounding Tupac’s death, from his supposed hideouts in foreign lands, to a particularly barmy theory surrounding the number seven.
He’s living in Malaysia
So, yes, this is the latest rumour, and the one that’s kicked all this ‘he ain’t dead, folks’ chat back into life. The son of Death Row Records founder Suge Knight (somewhat unhelpfully also called Suge Knight) claimed on October 2 that the rap legend was alive, well, and living in Malaysia. As you do.
In a series of increasingly eerie messages, the younger Knight claimed that “Tupac is alive”, before posting a screenshot of a text message conversation, in which an unnamed individual tells him, “You said to [sic] much. Time for you to go.” Subsequent posts then featured a middle-aged guy, supposedly Tupac, hanging out with 50 Cent and Beyoncé, before Suge then posted a video of himself in his car, saying “they” were following him. “I can’t even fucking sit in the light,” he said. “Fuck this, I gotta go.” Creepy stuff, and fits in with the prevailing theory that whoever helped facilitate Tupac’s disappearance will stop at nothing in their attempts to keep it under wraps. Sounds like a crap action film, really.
Suge Knight himself doubts it
Papa Suge Knight also doubts the validity of his death, for what it’s worth. The former rap tycoon – who is currently behind bars due to a separate hit-and-run incident – spoke out from jail in a recent documentary, stating: “When I left that hospital, me and Pac was laughing and joking. I don’t see how somebody could turn from doing well to doing bad.”
The man’s got history of making such statements – in 2014, he stated on camera that “Tupac’s not dead” and is “somewhere smoking a Cuban cigar.” What’s more, just six months later, Suge Knight was shot six times in a nightclub attack. More attempts to silence naysayers, perhaps?
And Suge got away scot-free
Suge Knight is further implicated in the story, too, as he was in the car with ‘Pac when the drive-by shooting took place. Despite 14 shots being fired, not a single one hit Suge himself, who was sat next to Tupac – Suge got away with a light grazing. Seems a bit convenient, right? He also reportedly dodged questioning about the shooting.
Some conspiracy theorists have pointed to this implicating Suge in Tupac’s murder, though that doesn’t account for a further fact – at the last minute, Tupac asked his bodyguard and girlfriend to travel in a separate car to himself and Suge.
The bulletproof vest (and lack thereof)
Further evidence of the shadiness surrounding Tupac’s shooting comes from the simple fact that Tupac wasn’t wearing his bulletproof vest. Shakur was obsessed with protecting himself after another shooting two years prior, so for him to leave his vest behind for a high-profile public event like a Mike Tyson fight is bizarrely out of character.
The shady cremation and cancelled memorial
The events shortly following his death have been equally contentious. Tupac was swiftly cremated the day after his shooting, in a private ceremony that Suge Knight reportedly paid $3 million to secure. The cremator listed Tupac’s body as being 72 inches, or 6ft, and his weight as 215 pounds – while his driver’s license identified him as 5’10 and 168 pounds. Said cremator then retired, vanished, and has never been heard from since.
A planned public memorial for Tupac – which press were banned from – was also shelved at the last minute, leaving Knight and that long-since-vanished cremator as the sole person to have seen Tupac’s dead body.
He’s been partying in Cuba with Rihanna
This is where things get really wacky. A 2010 interview with Treach, a fellow rapper and friend of Tupac, found him answering a supposedly off-the-record question of “Is Tupac really dead?” with a seemingly assured statement: “Last time I saw him he was in Cuba, man.”
Fans lapped up this drop of information, which was widely circulated in September 2018 after images appeared to show Tupac partying with Rihanna in a Cuban bar. While the photos seem to show clear signs of editing, that didn’t stop countless Tupac devotees believing in them.
His aunt is in Havana (ooh na na)
The Cuba connection runs in his blood, too. Tupac’s aunt is political activist and former Black Liberation Army member Assata Shaku, who was granted political asylum in Cuba in 1984, after fleeing prison in the States. The story goes that Tupac went to join his aunt in Cuba to escape the high-profile life of a rapper, which is wholesome, if true.
The Cuba theory is so ingrained in hip-hop lore that Kendrick Lamar even referenced it on ‘Element’ from his ‘DAMN.’ LP: “Fake my death, go to Cuba, that’s the only option.” Maybe he knows something, too? Someone get K-dot on the blower.
The Machiavelli-Kasinova theory
We’re gonna get a bit intellectual now. Tupac was reportedly a big fan of Niccolò Machiavelli, a Rennaisance philosopher and politician who advocated the faking of one’s own death to gain an advantage over their enemies.
In 1996, Tupac’s final album ‘The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory’ was released, not under the Tupac name, but under his new stage name – Makaveli. Not only a reference to his supposed love of Machiavelli, the new moniker harbours yet another secret. Rearrange the letters, and you get a hidden message: “AM ALIVE K”.
Still with us? Good. More than just a cheeky, offhand shortening of ‘OK’, that K is thought to be another hint towards Tupac’s present day whereabouts – it’s believed to be short for Kasinova The Don, a rapper who is widely believed to be a new alias for Tupac. The vocal similarities between the two are indisputable, in fairness. What’s more, Kasinova The Don has collaborated with Hussein Fatal and Young, both of whom are members of Tupac’s rap crew, The Outlawz.
Kasinova The Don released ‘Mystery’ in 2012, 16 years after the supposed death of Tupac. The lyrics to that song are pretty cut and dry:
“It’s been sixteen years
Still stuck in a dark cage
Living in my mind of that fateful day
9-7-96 I remember like it was yesterday
I got a lot to say
Thug nigga love, Thug nigga cry
How the media said that I died but I’m still breathing
Who do you believe in?
Everything that was said was lie, see listen
We were in Vegas getting faded
In the city of sin
I had a bad feeling that night
After the fight at the MGM, can ya feel me?
We left the telly on the way to the club
These hoes pulled up right beside us
My adversaries steading on plotting my death
Squeezing bullets to the name on the chest
I heard gun shot, but it got weird
Instead of bullets only smoked appeared
Next thing I knew
Some man in a suit just standing there
They opened the door
Grabbed the nigga by the feet
Let my head hit the concrete
It was a nightmare
Dragged on the street
Scars on my back
Looking at the white Cadillac
Before the black back
Over my head, I couldn’t believe what I happened to see
A nigga who looked just like me
Dressed like me, in the passengers seat
But it can’t be me
Sitting here next to Suge
Another four shots and it can’t be good
I gotta find a way, that is what I say
Next thing I know, a blow to the head…”
Earlier this year, a second part to ‘Mystery’ was promised, though it’s yet to emerge.
The theory of 7s
Of course, it wouldn’t be a good conspiracy theory thread without a bunch of amateur mathematics, would it? This time, it’s the lucky (or not so lucky, if you’re ‘Pac) number seven.
Fans have long cited the number seven’s frequency amongst the details of his murder as evidence of… something. As they point out, Tupac was shot on 7th September, aged 25 (2+5). The star officially died at 4:03pm (4+0+3=7), and his birthday was the 16th June (1+6).
Look, we never were particularly great at maths, but it’s probably fair to chalk this one up to coincidence. Let’s just wait for ‘Mystery Part 2’, shall we?