Afeni Shakur, mother of 1990s Hip-Hop superstar Tupac Amaru Shakur, has died early this morning (May 3). She was 69 years old. While a cause of death has yet to be released to the public, the onetime Black Panther and inspiration to 1995 Interscope Records single “Dear Mama” has been confirmed deceased by the Marin County Sheriffs Office, in Northern California. In the early 1990s, both Afeni and Tupac lived in this vicinity, outside of the Bay.
For nearly 20 years, Ms. Shakur (who was born Alice Faye Williams in Lumberton, North Carolina) has controlled her son’s estate, along with its corresponding arts center and record label. The passing comes just as Tupac’s biopic, All Eyez On Me, was finishing its filming in Las Vegas, Nevada—the same metropolis where the Rap star’s life ended tragically in September, 1996.
Even before her son’s death, Ms. Shakur had become a figure of pop culture. Due to her son’s meteoric rise to fame and “Dear Mama,” her life was celebrated. During early 1971, she spent much of the time leading up to her first born son’s death in prison—charged with conspiracy surrounding 1969 bombings. Just prior to ‘Pac’s June 16 birth, she was acquitted and released. At trial, she would reportedly serve as her own defense. The mother and son would spend much of the 1970s and early 1980s traveling across the coasts, and even reportedly enduring bouts of homelessness. Tupac would later praise his mother’s revolutionary thinking, while also publicly criticizing her later battles with drug addiction. She would also have a daughter, Sekyiwa Shakur. For much of the 1980s, Afeni was involved with Mutulu Shakur, who Tupac would refer to as his stepfather. In recent weeks, Mutulu was denied parole while serving at United States Penitentiary, Victorville for a 1988 conviction of bank expropriation.
Since Tupac’s murder, Afeni launched The Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts just one year later. Built in Stone Mountain, Georgia, the museum would eventually close in 2014. In 2007, Afeni would also win a lawsuit surrounding control of her son’s unreleased music from label Death Row Records. The company her son was signed to at the time of his death, (under co-founder Suge Knight) had released a number of albums—several allegedly without Afeni’s consent. Working with Interscope Records, where 2Pac was affiliated for nearly all of his career, Afeni would help see the release of official posthumous efforts including R U Still Down? (Remember Me), Loyal To The Game, Pac’s Life, The Rose That Grew From The Concrete, Tupac: Resurrection, and multiple greatest hits compilations. With Death Row, Amaru Entertainment would partner on two multi-platinum double discs: Until The End Of Time and Better Dayz, as well as the diamond-certified 1998 Greatest Hits 2LP. Afeni and Death Row Records staff collaborated on 1999’s sole 2Pac & Tha Outlawz album, Still I Rise, though neither Death Row nor Amaru would be listed as the official label, reportedly due to legal disputes at the time. She would also be instrumental to the release of the Tupac: Resurrection documentary and The Rose That Grew From The Concrete poetry book. In 2014, with actor Saul Williams, Afeni produced Broadway music, Holler If Ya Hear Me, about her son’s life and music.
As controller of the music and estate, Afeni Shakur a strong and involved executor of her son’s image after his death. On albums such as Still I Rise, Until The End Of Time, and Better Dayz, Shakur reportedly insisted changes by made to guest vocals, along with edits to her son’s music, causing some controversy with pockets of fans. On later works, she connected the music of her son with superstars of the 2000s, including Eminem, T.I., and Nas. The last of the three was a onetime rival of Shakur near the end of his life. Nas and Tupac (thanks to Afeni) released 2002 Top 20 hit, “Thugz Manion,” with different mixes appearing both on Better Dayz and Nas’ God’s Son. One year later, on Tupac: Resurrection, Shakur would reach the Top 20 again, with the Eminem-remixed “Runnin’ (Dying To Live)” which retooled a 1994 collaboration between Tupac and then-friend The Notorious B.I.G.
In her time away from the arts center and label, Ms. Shakur had made lectures and public appearances at various educational and arts institutions—as a revolutionary, a mother, and more specifically, Tupac Shakur’s mom. Alongside Will Smith and the mother of Biggie (Violetta Wallace), Shakur famously promoted peace in the music industry at the 1999 MTV Music Awards:
In 2011, Afeni gave a multi-part, in-depth interview regarding her son and their relationship: