Live by the Gun . . .

Tupac Shakur's murder leaves behind a formidable legacy--and disturbing questions

Last Christmas, Shakur and Knight gave away an expensive toy to every child at a Compton elementary school.

"It's important to bring a little light through the rain of sadness, pain and violence," Shakur said that day. "Having been a part of the rain, it's important for me to become a part of the light." Someone mentioned the public relations value of the giveaway. Shakur shrugged. "But the children don't know about that," he said.

A couple years ago, Shakur seemed to start rethinking extremism of his lyrics and lifestyle. Once he tearfully apologized to the youth of America for "falsely representing them." In an interview with Vibe magazine, he proclaimed, "Thug Life, to me, is dead. If it's real, let somebody else represent it, because I'm tired of it."

But Shakur seemed emboldened by his association with Death Row, bent on retribution for insults from his former East Coast comrades while he was in prison. "Fuck Biggie, fuck NAS, Mobb Deep, Puffy, and anybody down with that Bad Boy clique!" Shakur snarled during his House of Blues show. "I say fuck 'em all! Whip they muthafuckin' asses! I say Snoop for president! He represents the gangstas!"

Snoop Doggy Dogg heard about the attack in Las Vegas while at the home of rapper Warren G. The men were watching a closed-circuit broadcast of the Mike Tyson-Bruce Seldon heavyweight fight, accompanied by Death Row security guards in walkie-talkie contact with Knight and Shakur, who attended the bout. Snoop and Shakur had become close friends: Shakur frequently turned out for Snoop's trial to show support, and Snoop appeared prominently on Shakur's last album. After the shooting, Snoop went to visit the unconscious Shakur at the University Medical Center in Las Vegas.

"Snoop stayed with Tupac for a while, prayed with him, kissed him on the forehead when he left," says Abrams. "Snoop took it bad. He took it hard. None of us could really believe he was gone."

Ricky Harris, who directed Shakur in the video for "Cradle to the Grave" and appeared with him and Janet Jackson in the John Singleton film Poetic Justice, never expected Shakur to die, despite the severity of his wounds.

"That cat already had been through so much trauma, I just knew he was going to pull through," Harris says. "It kinda blew my mind. I don't even think he realized his potential, what he could have done. I shed some tears for the young brother, my love goes out to him and I hope he has a safe journey, wherever."

The day Shakur died, there was another tribute, sentimental but ominous, on the answering machine of Dat Nigga Daz, a rapper and producer with Tha Dogg Pound:

A sad time keeps tickin',
and the world keeps spinnin',
Tupac rests in peace
when niggaz keep livin'.
Money makes the world go 'round
outta town, Homie,
money makes the world go 'round.
It's Friday the 13th
I lost a homie that's close to me,
D-A-Z from the D-P-G,
Death Row 'til I die
and so you suckaz out there
beware
it's on
do or die
I mean, I don't cry,
no way,
don't shed a tear.
I do what I got to do
whatever,
I'm on a mission.

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