In one of the most infamous crimes in music history, Tupac Shakur was shot four times on September 7, 1996, after attending a Mike Tyson fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The unconscious rapper, his lung pierced by a bullet, spent several days on life support in the intensive care unit at the University Medical Center Of Southern Nevada, before dying from internal bleeding on September 13. He left behind a legacy as an artist, activist, and a global icon that continues to fascinate 20 years later, inspiring everything from street murals to big-screen biopics to holograms.
He also left behind a document of what would turn out to be his final performance, recorded at the House Of Blues in Los Angeles on July 4, 1996. Released in 2005 as both album and DVD—to middling critical reception yet platinum sales—Live At The House Of Blues captured Tupac at the height of his fame, having just scored the biggest sales of his career to date with the double-album smash All Eyez On Me just months before.
Nevertheless, he was still overshadowed that night by Snoop Dogg, who was headlining with Tha Dogg Pound in tow. Lineup orders aside, the show was very much a family affair, with Tupac backed by Outlawz and dueting with Snoop and Jodeci, respectively, on their shared hits “2 Of Amerikaz Most Wanted” and “How Do U Want It,” which peppered a short yet ferocious set of songs like “Ambitionz Az A Ridah” and “So Many Tears.” With Tupac, Snoop, and the Death Row roster all riding high that year, the whole night felt like a celebration, a feeling that’s captured in the official film—and even more so, in the unedited amateur video available on YouTube.
Still, the specter of the bitter feud between Shakur and New York rapper Biggie Smalls—which had turned into an entire East Coast-West Coast rivalry—couldn’t help but hang over the proceedings. In a separate clip from near the end of the show, Shakur paces a stage choked with fellow performers and assorted hangers-on while boasting about his war with Smalls and other East Coast hip-hop stars. As in “Hit ’Em Up,” Shakur brags about outselling Biggie and having sex with his wife, Faith Evans. And hauntingly, given the outcome, he scoffs at the idea of ever making peace with the East.
Nigga shot me five times. I came out of jail and sold 5 million. The niggas can’t fuck with us. That fat fuck only sold 2 million. He had half of New York rapping on his shit. I fucked his bitch and sold 5 million. That’s Death Row style. You know the players is on the West Side. Fuck that peace shit. I ain’t even trying to make peace. Fuck ’em all.
Shakur would be dead two and a half months later; Smalls was dead by March of the next year, the victim of another homicide. Their deaths remain unsolved.