5 Wild Theories About The Unsolved 1996 Murder Of Tupac Shakur
To date, the murder of Shakur remains unsolved, and theories about the crime run rampant.
On September 7, 1996, hip-hop icon Tupac Shakur was reportedly gunned down in a drive-by shooting after leaving the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Police say Shakur was inside a vehicle with Death Row Records head Suge Knight at a stoplight when a white Cadillac pulled up alongside them, and someone in that car opened fire.
Authorities reported that Shakur got hit by four .40 caliber rounds fired from a Glock. After being rushed to a hospital, the rapper reportedly died from those wounds on September 13. He was 25 years old.
To date, the murder of Shakur remains unsolved, and theories about the crime run rampant. Among the unsubstantiated speculation is the linking of Shakur's death to his East Coast rival Biggie Smalls and competition between their two respective record companies, Death Row Records in Los Angeles and Bad Boy Records in New York.
Police actively looked into that link, especially after Smalls himself was shot to death on March 9, 1997, roughly six months after Shakur. Smalls' murder also remains unsolved.
On the 20th anniversary of Smalls' demise, a Business Insider report gathered numerous theories about the two murders and listed various parties publicly associated with the investigations.
Although no definitive answers have emerged, contemplation regarding the killings of both Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls continues to captivate the public.
Each September, with the anniversary of Shakur's shooting, talk of the case naturally seems to intensify. In 2019, the usual chatter took on a new angle after toy giant Hasbro acquired Entertainment One, which in turn acquired the Death Row Records catalog.
Below are five intriguing — and entirely unproven — theories found online. Some of them, of course, contend that Shakur is still alive (our best sources indicate, however, that he is not).
1. Conspiracy Theory Book: The FBI Allegedly Set Up "Hits" To Combat So-Called Violent Rap Culture
In 2008, author John Potash published a book whose title bespeaks the project's essential thesis. It's called, "The FBI War on Tupac Shakur and Black Leaders: U.S. Intelligence's Murderous Targeting of Tupac, MLK, Malcolm, Panthers, Hendrix, Marley, Rappers and Linked Ethnic Leftists."
According to an Amazon description of the book, Potash used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain Shakur's FBI file and other materials. The book reportedly details the author's purported belief that the FBI was involved in the two high-profile rapper shootings — as well as many, many more incidents.
Talking to the website HipHopDX in 2016, Potash said: "As savvy and brilliant [as] Tupac was, he was manipulated by Death Row [Records], which was funded by U.S. Intelligence, to promote his most negative lyrics … When Pac tried to get away from that and was leaving Death Row Records, they had to kill him. I do show how these kinds of tactics were used against John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix. Believe it or not, Kurt Cobain as well." [HipHopDX]
2. Suge Knight Allegedly Claimed His Ex-Wife Killed Tupac
According to a 2017 Daily Mail report, Suge Knight's lawyer, Thaddeus Culpepper, said the hip-hop mogul signed an affidavit. In it, Knight supposedly alleged he was the intended target of the shooting that killed Tupac Shakur.
In the affidavit, Culpepper allegedly wrote, "Knight has known for many years that Reggie Wright, Jr., and his ex-wife Sharitha were behind the murder of Tupac and attempted murder of Knight."
Culpepper reportedly further claimed that that Knight also knew of Wright's alleged involvement in the Biggie Smalls case.
In 2018, Suge Knight reportedly received a 28-year prison sentence after pleading no contest to voluntary manslaughter connected to the 2015 hit-and-run death of Terry Carter, the co-founder of Heavyweight Records. [CrimeFeed]
3. Speculation Reportedly Continues To Surround Orlando Anderson
Just three hours before Shakur's shooting, Anderson and the rapper allegedly got into a physical altercation. According to MTV, "Anderson was beaten by Shakur and Death Row Records chief Suge Knight in the Las Vegas MGM Grand in September 1996. Ever since then, law enforcement officials, gang informants, and even members of the Shakur family have cited Anderson as the prime suspect in Shakur's murder, but Anderson always fiercely denied those claims, and no official charges were ever brought against him."
On May 30, 1998, Anderson reportedly died after a gang-related shootout. Even after his demise, though, investigators claimed to find connections between Anderson and the Shakur slaying.
In 2002, Los Angeles Times journalist Chuck Phillips wrote, "The shooting was carried out by a Compton gang called the Southside Crips to avenge the beating of one of its members by Shakur a few hours earlier. Orlando Anderson, the Crip whom Shakur had attacked, fired the fatal shots. Las Vegas police discounted Anderson as a suspect and interviewed him only once, briefly. He was later killed in an unrelated gang shooting."
In 2011, former LAPD detective Greg Kading authored the book, "Murder Rap: The History of the Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur Murder Investigations by the Detective Who Solved Both Cases."
According to The Source, "Kading believes that Orlando Anderson was the gunman linked to Tupac’s murder after he received a confession from Anderson’s uncle and renowned Crip gang member Keith ‘Keffe D’ Davis.” In transcripts of interviews conducted by Kading and published by the LA Weekly, Davis reportedly indicated that Anderson was the shooter. [LA Weekly]
4. Questions Reportedly Arose Around Shakur's Cremation
Suge Knight reportedly claimed Tupac Shakur's cremation was strange. The process allegedly took place on September 14, 1996, one day after he died.
In a roundup of Tupac conspiracies, NME reported the crematory recorded Shakur's height as six feet and his weight as 215 pounds. The rapper's driver's license listed him as 5-foot-10 and 168 pounds.
In 2012, TMZ reported that Knight told a radio station: "The person who supposedly cremated Tupac ... this guy got about three million dollars ... personally from me ... cash ... and next thing I know I never heard from the guy or seen him again ... he retired and left."
TMZ also quoted Knight saying, "Nobody seen Tupac dead," and adding, "Maybe the question is ... Pac's not really dead ... Pac's somewhere else." [TMZ]
5. Highly Unsubstantiated Claims: Tupac Is Alive In Cuba Or Malaysia
According to Esquire magazine, the website Holla Back posted a video in 2002 in which a man shows footage of someone he says is Tupac Shakur alive at the time in Cuba.
Although that clip failed to "prove" anything, Esquire reported another video surfaced online two years later that alleged to show Shakur and Suge Knight on the island in 2004. Nothing definitive resulted from that video either.
In October 2018, Suge Jacob Knight Jr. — the son of Death Row kingpin Suge Knight — reportedly posted images of Shakur on Instagram and claimed the rap hero was alive in Malaysia and ready to make new music.
Reportedly, Knight Jr. doubled down in January 2019 and wrote online that he was looking for producers to work with Shakur. Later in the year, though, Yahoo reported that the younger Knight conceded that Shakur was dead, but still claimed that new music might be forthcoming. [Yahoo]
For more on Tupac Shakur, watch the “Death of a Warrior Poet” episode of “Vanity Fair Confidential” on discovery+.