12 months ago
On April 7, hip-hop fans will finally see the most influential rap artist of all time, the late Tupac Shakur, enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Somewhat ironically, the ceremony will be held in Brooklyn, the home borough of Tupac’s greatest rival, the Notorious B.I.G., who ruled the East Coast gangsta rap scene in the ’90s, in opposition to Tupac’s rival West Coast scene. The artist, who was slain in a still-unsolved shooting (mirroring his archnemesis), will be inducted by fellow West Coast rapper and former Death Row Records labelmate Snoop Dogg.
Superfans of Tupac, though, will have a second treat on the day of his induction: Brooklyn’s own Alexander Historical Auctions will be auctioning off a plethora of Tupac-related items as part of its “Black History Auction”—including a bullet-struck medallion that the rapper was wearing when he was murdered in 1996 (see above; the pre-auction estimate on the piece is $100,000–$150,000).
While we could be super morbid and end our story there, we’re going to with our gut and provide you with a much more compelling list of items. We picked through the contents of the auction, and came up with our shortlist of items. Take a look at our highlights below. (Note: Some of the content is so profanity-laced it’s NSFW.)
First Publishing Contract – Early hip-hop fans will get a kick out of this contract, not because it looks like anything special (this is just one of the three signed pages), but because of what it represents: In 1991, Tupac was listed as a co-writer on the Digital Underground’s “Same Song” and also appeared in the music video dressed as an African king. Of course, the Digital Underground would go on to score of the best-known rap hits of the era, “The Humpty Dance.” You gotta start somewhere, right? The triple-signed contract is set to sell for $12,000–$15,000. Bid on it here.
Handwritten Lyrics for “Let ‘Em Have It” (NSFW) – These are the type of song lyrics that would have made Tipper Gore’s blood boil had it come out during the heyday of the PMRC in the ’80s. The fourth track on Tupac’s third posthumously released album, Until the End of Time—which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200—is teeming with curse words and sexually explicit content. But if you look closer, say, at rhyme-level, it shows the true genius wordsmith that Tupac was. His words will cost you, though; the lyrics are set to haul in $15,000–$20,000. Bid on them here.
Handwritten Track Listing for All Eyez on Me – Fans will recognize most of this as the track list for Tupac’s final opus released before he was gunned down: 1996’s All Eyez on Me. It scored a pair of No. 1 singles in “How Do U Want It” and “California Love.” However, this wasn’t the final track listing. As the auction house notes, five of the tracks—”Can’t Fade Me,” “Ma Babiez Mama,” “2 My Unborn,” “Fair X Change,” and “Late Night,”—aren’t on the final release. (Likewise, four tracks—”No More Pain,” “Tradin’ War Stories,” “Ain’t Hard 2 Find,” and “Heaven Ain’t Hard 2 Find”—don’t appear on Tupac’s handwritten version.) This is one of the gems of the collection. Expect to pay $40,000–$60,000 for it. Bid here.
Death Row Records Medallion – Death Row might as well have been the Motown of hip-hop. Founded by Dr. Dre and several others—including Suge Knight, who infamously once dangled rapper Vanilla Ice out of a hotel window—the label spawned some of the most influential albums in hip-hop history, including Dr. Dre’s The Chronic, Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle, and the aforementioned All Eyez on Me. This is a memento Tupac picked up at a label event in 1996, and it’s 14-karat gold. It’ll put you back $10,000–$15,000. Bid here.
Tupac’s Personal Koran – One of the rap world’s brightest new stars at least identified himself, in some way, as a member of the Muslim faith, as is evidenced here. This is his personal copy of Islam’s holiest book, with his name inscribed on the inside. It can be yours for $10,000–$15,000. Bid here.
Handwritten Lyrics for “Why You Turn on Me” (NSFW) – Also a track from the posthumously released Until the End of Time, it’s a lyrical warning shot fired at controversial radio host Wendy Williams, who started a rumor in the ’90s that Tupac had been raped while in prison. He clearly didn’t take well to the suggestion, and put his beef into words. The lyrics should sell for between $20,000–$30,000. Bid here.
California License Plates for Tupac’s Rolls-Royce – One thing ’90s rappers didn’t have any problem doing was flaunting their wealth. And Tupac lived large while he was alive. This is one of two California license plates that the artist had on his 1995 black Rolls-Royce Corniche IV convertible (though the car was registered to Suge Knight). These might be the world’s most expensive license plates, coming in at $20,000–$30,000 for the pair. Bid here.
Tupac’s Prisoner ID Card – In November 1994, Tupac was ambushed at a New York City recording studio, and the following February convicted and sentenced to one to four years at the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York. He got out nine months later, and was immediately signed by Death Row Records. This is the prisoner ID card he had to carry around everywhere he went while incarcerated. He probably never guessed that it would someday hit the auction block for $20,000–$30,000! Bid on it here.
Diamond Earring and Nose Stud Worn on Cover of All Eyez on Me – These last two items are actually being auctioned off as separate lots, but they belong together on this list. That’s because Tupac actually wore them on the cover of his famous last album released before his death (see above). The diamond earring is about 0.75 carats and the nose stud is a 15-point diamond. The earring will fetch $12,000–$15,000, while the nose stud will rake in a little more at $15,000–$20,000. Buy the pair and recreate the iconic double-album cover. Bid here and here.
—Will Levith for RealClearLife