Nearly three decades after the murder of hip-hop superstar Tupac Shakur, Las Vegas police have reopened their investigation into the unsolved case. 

Police issued a search warrant on Tuesday in connection with Shakur’s death. They raided a house in Henderson, 15 miles southeast of Las Vegas. There is no statute of limitations – or time limit – for prosecuting a murder in Nevada. 

Shakur was gunned down on 7 September 1996 in what has become one of the most notorious unsolved murder cases in the US. Just 25 at the time of his death, he is considered “one of the most influential and versatile rappers of all time”, said The Associated Press

What’s happened?

As a result of the search in Henderson, police retrieved computers, hard drives, pictures and magazine articles, according to ABC News

The images seized were from the 1990s and “apparently show individuals who might have been connected to people directly or indirectly involved in the drive-by shooting”, said the US TV network. Copies of the book “Compton Street Legend” by Duane Keith Davis were also seized, added ABC. Davis has claimed he is one of two living eyewitnesses to the shooting.

The new evidence will be presented to a Las Vegas grand jury, ABC said, although “charging decisions” are “not imminent”. 

Who was Tupac Shakur?

Despite his professional career lasting only five years, Shakur is considered one of hip-hop’s greatest and most influential artists. He released five number one albums, three of which were released posthumously, was a six-time Grammy nominee and sold 33 million albums.

His top-ten hits include “Dear Mama/Old School” in 1995, and “How Do U Want It/California Love” featuring K-Ci and JoJo, released the following year, the year he was killed.

“In the early 90s, Tupac was hip-hop,” said Herb Scribner in The Washington Post

Writer Kevin Powell has compared Shakur to Elvis Presley, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, John Lennon and Bob Marley in terms of his cultural significance. “It’s that significant. He is one of the most important figures that we’ve seen in the last 25 years or so,” Powell told NPR in 2016. 

How did he die?

Shakur was shot several times when the black BMW he was travelling in came to a red light near the Las Vegas Strip. The car was being driven by Death Row Records founder Marion “Suge” Knight and was part of a convoy of about 10 cars. The group had just seen Mike Tyson beat Bruce Seldon in a boxing bout at the MGM Grand. A white Cadillac pulled up alongside and the BMW was riddled with bullets. Shakur was shot four times. He was taken to hospital but died a week later.  

No arrests were ever made, but conspiracy theories abound as to who was responsible for the rapper’s death. Police say the investigation stalled due to witnesses refusing to cooperate, according to The Washington Post. 

Why are there so many conspiracy theories?

The unsolved nature of Shakur’s murder and his huge popularity have sparked many theories around his death – some stranger than others. In 2019, a “Tupac truther” insisted that the rapper did not die in the shooting, but instead fled underground, hiding out in the sewers beneath Las Vegas. 

In 2020, another story surfaced to suggest that a body double helped the rapper fake his own death. “Pac is a very intelligent person so was confusing his enemies if you really do your research,” said an online commenter.

There is a long tradition of fans claiming that their music heroes had not actually died. Jim Morrison, for one, “supposedly faked his own death in Paris and ran off to Ethiopia”, according to Rolling Stone, while Elvis Presley was “frequently spotted at supermarkets and other public places all over America in the Eighties and Nineties”. 

What about the Notorious B.I.G.?

The murder happened against the backdrop of a bitter rivalry between Shakur and his rap rival the Notorious B.I.G., who was fatally shot six months after Shakur. His death also remains unsolved.

The East Coast-West Coast hip-hop feud began when Shakur was seriously wounded in another shooting during a robbery in a Manhattan hotel in 1994. Shakur accused B.I.G. and Sean “Diddy” Combs of knowing about the shooting, which both vehemently denied.

Shakur was no stranger to violence, with many of his songs being about drugs, poverty and personal conflict, and he served time in prison for a sexual assault conviction in 1994. 

In a foreshadowing of his own death, his 1995 multimillion-selling album “Me Against the World” contained the ominously titled tracks “If I Die 2Nite” and “Death Around the Corner”.