Industry Insiders Recall the Day of Tupac's Death


Fifteen years ago, the world of hip-hop lost one of its most talented contributors: Tupac Shakur.

To celebrate the life and death of the gone-but-never-forgotten rapper, XXL asked industry insiders to tell us about their personal experience the day they found out Tupac passed. Forever rest in peace, Tupac Shakur.—XXL Staff

Artie Pitt (manager)


"I was a huge 2Pac fan. I found out 2Pac had passed away through radio reports as we had all been keeping close tabs on his health. I was with a few friends after high school listening to "All Eyez On Me" and remember a feeling of disbelief because I truly believed he would survive and come back stronger. At the time, 2Pac was the voice of the streets and I think most of the youth of my generation assumed he would be around for a very long time. He was just hitting the p" too. It still saddens me to this day."

Birdman (rapper/labelhead)


"We were in New Orleans (when I heard Tupac died). Shit impacted the country. I was a big ’Pac fan. He was one of my favorite artists. In my whole career, we studied ’Pac. We kind of took his formula with the work ethic of him doing a lot. That’s the kind of thing I was teaching to Wayne and my whole team. It’s the way to do it. I took his formula of recording so much. When somebody that great dies so young, it just lives on forever. Legends live forever. The man could never die. Pac was a badd man. He did his thing. I still study him. Dude was just special. You can’t put this cat in words. Wayne kept going with it and always wanted to do a lot. We have so much music to where it’s amazing. I don’t think they have an individual that do more than Wayne, rap more than Wayne. I don’t think they have another soul on this Earth that has done as much as him, as many songs as much rapping. He’s an addict. He’s straight up an addict. That comes from the youthful pampering, the things that were taught to him at a young age. This is what we were taught to do. This is what I told him to do, ‘This is what we’re going to do, this is going to be our life. This is how much they have to do that to be the best at this shit.’ He took that formula and ran with it and now you got the Drakes and Tygas and Mack Maines, Twists, Nickis…all of em inherited this formula that we have and that’s why you see so much greatness in them. This shit is like any other professional sport. It’s what you put into it what you get out of it. The craft changes and with practice you get better. That’s just the formula."

Bokeem Woodbine (actor)

Bokeem Woodbine photo by:Frank Okenfels

"I didn’t find out til the next morning so I don’t remember exactly where I was to tell you the truth. Actually, the way it went down is I found out that he was hurt and then the night that he died… yea, I didn’t find out til the next morning that time too. Both times it hit me like it always the first thing I heard when I woke up. It was on the news and I turned it on…I really thought he was gonna pull through. He hung in there for a while. He was strong. People don’t know he was literally physically strong. He was not that tall or that muscular, but we had a scene in the video where he was supposed to push me and I flew and I had to have like probably 30 pounds on him at the time, 25, 30 pounds. I was like, “dude, you’re pretty strong.” He was like, “Yea, I’m a lot stronger than I look. I’m this height, but I’m actually much stronger. He was aware that he was much stronger than he looked, so I must not have been the first person to tell him that. He hung in there for a while, so I really, really thought that he was gonna pull through so when I found out the next morning that he had past. I think it was a Friday the 13th, I think… like everybody else it caught me by total surprise."

Common (rapper)


"I was in Chicago. They told me, and I just didn’t believe it. I think it was at home man, and I just didn’t believe it. I did meet him, he was doing a show in Chicago at a place called the China Club. It was in 91 or 92 maybe, and he was a real cool dude. He gave me a shoutout when I was in the crowd. I was all geeked, because being that Chicago guy, any rapper from outside of Chicago giving me love was…everybody and all of my homies were like, “Aw man, he gave you love!” At that point, 2Pac hadn’t even, what was his second album? He was still on the album which was probably his first album, he was on his “Down For My Homies” cause. It was super dope, he was real cool. I was just geeked. I had my niggas with me too, so I guess he could see I was a real guy even though I was a hip-hop guy. At that point, most of the hip-hop dudes was still real guys, everybody expressed it in their own way.

He influenced me in a way that he was always truthful with who he was, and where he was as an artist. I see the effect he had on people. He inspired nations and generations of people, and it made me know that music—I knew a hip-hop artist could affect us, but if you give your truth and your soul, that’s what you owe. That’s what he contributed the most, was what he gave his soul."

Cortez Bryant (manager)


"It was crazy cause I remember the day well. I was a junior in high school. I was on my way to the cafeteria for lunch. Everyone came running out of the cafeteria like, “Pac’s dead.” It was Friday the 13th, so I thought they was bullshitting because we had crazy superstitions for that day. We all ran to the only TV in the basement of our school, everyone surrounded it, just watching the noon news. My heart dropped to my stomach. I related to ’Pac so much because he understood the streets and was brilliant enough to teach and give us hope through his music. I thought the government finally assassinated him because he had too much power and influence over us as a people and actually was teaching and uplifting through his music. We lost our modern day prophet, our Malcolm and our Martin. ’Pac had a big influence on my life. He made me feel like being from the hood and being smart and loving is cool.”

DJ Clue (DJ)


"When I heard of Tupac's death I was in NY in the Studio. 1st thing I thought about was there's gonna be a war."

DJ Drama (DJ)


"I was on Clark Atlanta University campus. Word started to spread thru the school. I was stunned and shocked. I thought Pac was invincible. I thought he would always overcome whatever came his way."

DJ Scream (DJ)


"I was actually djin an event when I found out. The mood changed. It was a somber moment. It took me about a week for the reality of the situation to kick in."

DJ Skee (DJ)


"I was 12 years old and in Minneapolis, where I grew up. This was before the internet really was a factor, and I remember finding out he got shot from MTV, and from then on just being glued to the TV waiting for updated MTV News reports, as they were the only people really covering in a major way at the time. I was in shock as "All Eyez On Me" had just came out earlier that year and at the time was my favorite album ever, and one of the real inspirations that made me want to get into the music business and to become a DJ. I, like everyone else at the time, kept thinking he was going to pull through (like he had before), and was waiting for the latest updates every day. When the news came he passed away, I didn't believe it at first. To see my favorite rapper at the time pass away was just shocking, and I just couldn't believe it was true."

Dru Ha (co-CEO, Duck Down Music)


"I was actually djin an event when I found out. The mood changed. It was a somber moment. It took me about a week for the reality of the situation to kick in."

Karen Civil (Social Media Manager, Beats by Dre)


"I was like in the 8th grade... and it was such a high emotion day, because our parents didn't let us listen to rap music to much, except for certain uplifting tupac records..and I remember balling my eyes thinking 'damnnn now I'm never going to be able to listen to rap music again now that he's gone."

Kurupt (rapper)


"He got shot in Vegas and Foxy was working on Ill Na Na and she shut down her whole session to be with me because we saw it on TV. We ain’t go to Vegas with them."

Nakia Hicks (publicist)


"I remember it like it was yesterday. I was a freshman in college. And as a die hard hip hop fan, was aware of the troubles that had been surrounding him. I was listening to the radio in my dorm room when I learned of the shooting. Like most of us I assumed he would warrior through this. Days later he passed and I mourned like I was losing a brother. We as a people needed his voice and its fearless message. No one else has ever had the insight to fill those shoes."

Raekwon (rapper)


"I think I was up in New York handling some things and shit. I think I was probably in the city getting into something. Yeah, and when we heard it we definitely had to pull over and just listen to the radio and be like all praises due to his family, but yeah, that was tough times at that time. You don’t wanna hear a good brother get into shit and then next thing you know, that happened. But yeah, I was in the city at that time. It was a crazy time. [I got a] couple of phone calls here and there. You don’t try to believe everything you hear, until it really started getting big though. Everybody’s in the car on the way uptown or something and got the call and was like Nah, word? Shit was crazy though, crazy situation."

Wendy Day (founder of Rap Coalition)


"Pac. Heavy sigh. First of all, I called him "6 Pack" not Tupac. It was an inside joke we shared because he said white people always fucked up his name, calling him "2 Pack," like he was 4 less than a six pack. LoL. I was close to Tupac when he was incarcerated at Clinton in Dannemora, NY (by the Montreal border). After his release, I didn't see him much because he stayed on the west coast, rarely coming east, for obvious reasons, and I rarely traveled to L.A. So when he was shot in Vegas that September, I wasn't in his inner circle like I had been months prior. I knew he was leaving Death Row-- I noticed his chain switched to an angel with rubies in place of the Death Row pendant, and I knew he was about to start his own company--Euthanasia (I may have spelled it wrong), that I most likely would have been a part of. I wrote the business plan for it when he was locked down. I had heard that he fired his lawyer, David Kenner, but Pac hadn't told me yet himself. I had just missed Pac in NY, a few days prior to the shooting, because of my schedule. Needless to say, when he passed, I was devastated I hadn't rearranged my schedule to spend time with him while he was in NY. One of the guys from Death Row was even staying with me off and on while they were all in NY for the MTV Awards-- you see, it wasn't exactly safe at that time to be from Death Row running the streets of NY. My house was more than safe. Pac hadn't planned to go to Vegas, and decided at the last minute to go. He'd just gotten home from NY and wanted to work on music, not party in Sin City. He must have changed his mind at the last minute... I was extremely surprised to hear he was in Vegas for the fight. Extremely surprised, and worried about his safety. I was in my house when I found out he died a week after he was shot. Here's the weird thing though--when I heard he had been shot, I just knew he'd survive it. He'd survived EVERYTHING he'd ever been through before, and let's face it, in his short lifetime he'd been through and survived more than most!! It never crossed my mind he would pass away. When I heard about the shooting, I overnighted him a funny get well card to the hospital the next day, sent flowers, and made tentative plans to fly out to Vegas the following week when I knew he'd be healing from the multiple surgeries he underwent. My friend Freddie Foxxx (Bumpy Knuckles) was in direct touch with Pac's inner circle at this time, and he was my source for information. Well, around 11pm on Sept 12th, I got a call from Freddie and he told me the family took Pac off life support and Pac didn't make it. I dropped to my knees from the shock. I couldn't breathe!! It had never crossed my mind that Pac wouldn't survive. I immediately put on HOT 97 (I lived in Brooklyn, NY at the time) and the TV News. But, there was no mention of Pac's passing. Nothing. I was crying my eyes out, yet there was no mainstream confirmation, or news coverage, reporting it and I knew there would be. This gave me a glimmer of hope that Freddie was wrong. It turns out that Pac's death was reported the next afternoon (my assumption is that Freddie was told they were removing the life support and that Pac didn't actually pass until the next afternoon around 4pm NY time). Anyway, that glimmer of hope I had was both calming and cruel. It gave me time to adjust to the thought that he could actually die from his injury, so by the time it was announced, I had at least gotten past the initial shock. HOT 97 interrupted their programing and allowed people who were close to Pac to call on the inside line and share our memories and pain with the listeners. It helped to feel part of a community of people who cared that the greatest artist of our generation had died, and at such an obscenely young age. I wrote Pac's obituary for some of the rap publications (I might have even written the one for Billboard at Havelock Nelson's request, I can't recall), and got to speak to people close to him when he was shot. I became very "CSI" over his death trying to understand why it happened and who really killed him (I even spoke directly with Orlando Anderson-- Baby Lane, the weekend he was killed in L.A.). But I also went through a period where I couldn't look at anyone who reminded me of him or who was close to him (it took me years to stop avoiding Treach and Tha Outlawz). It has taken me a very long time to get over my friend's death. I still think about him and miss him regularly so maybe I'm STILL not over it. I remember going to How Can I Be Down in October (maybe 3 weeks after his death) in Miami. I got good and drunk (I don't really drink so this is odd for me). I took artwork I had designed especially for a 2Pac tattoo to the local tattoo shop on South Beach. My plan was to have this giant memorial tattoo tatted on the side of my left leg from ankle to knee. But the guy in front of me at the Tattoo Shop was screaming in pain from his tattoo and I wimped out and ran out of the shop--I never did get my Pac tattoo. I even left the artwork behind. I laugh about it now because I know Pac would have clowned me for days, not only for my cowardly retreat from the Tattoo Shop, but even for the thought of tattooing him on my body. Part of him would have been honored, but another part of him would have asked me "how you ever gonna explain to your man how you got some other man's name and face tatted on your body?" Pac had an amazing sense of humor and somehow was always able to hit the nail on the head with his insight. I miss him dearly."