Entertainment reporter, BBC News
Tupac, named after a South American revolutionary, has the roots for a modern maverick legend.
Tupac is hailed by many as one of the few role models for black youth
His mother, Alice Faye Williams, an active member of the radical Black Panther Party, was pregnant with Tupac while awaiting trial in 1971.
She then married Mutulu Shakur, who later spent four years on FBI's most wanted list after helping his sister - Tupac's godmother - escape from prison.
With a cinematic defiance, Tupac became an accomplished performer in Harlem before studying jazz, poetry and acting at the Baltimore School of Arts.
But the hard times had not ended, and when the family moved to Marin City, California, Tupac was forced to live with friends due to his mother's crack addiction.
His 1991 debut album 2Pacalypse Now made an impact on the hip hop scene, not least for its fiery lyrics, but it was with the 1993 Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z that he attracted wider attention.
Paul McKenzie, editor of urban music magazine Touch, says: "He angered some people because he was honest. He didn't do it as a marketing ploy, he didn't do it raise his profile, he was that troubled genius.
"He did that thing that black America loves - he told it the way it was."
His star continued to rise both with his music but also in acting, with roles in movies like Juice, Above the Rim and Gridlock'd.
He translated acclaim amongst rap fans into both critical and commercial success, with his fifth original album, 1996's All Eyez On Me, debuting on the Billboard chart at No1 and selling 6 million copies in its first year.
Mr McKenzie adds: "There was something magnetic about the man, he just drew people in.
"There is no doubt he was supremely talented and he managed to pull off the most difficult of balancing acts, which is to sell all the albums he did and still retain every inch the respect of the street.
"He was considered an ultimate street soldier, he never played the white man's game and was always with the cause of his brothers and sisters," he says.
But along with this urban fairytale was a lifestyle that reflected the toughest of his songs.
2Pacalypse Now, 1991
Strictlt 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z, 1993
Thug Life Vol 1, 1994
Me Against the World, 1995
All Eyez on Me, 1996
The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, 1996
He was arrested in 1992 when a fight he was involved in resulted in the accidental death of a six-year-old boy, although the charges were later dismissed.
In October 1993 he was accused of involvement in the shooting of two plain clothes policemen - which was also dismissed - and a separate sexual assault of a female fan.
Despite vehement denials, he was found guilty of the sexual assault in November 1994, but the following day was shot and robbed in New York's Times Square.
This sparked the east coast/west coast feud between rival rappers after he accused Biggie Smalls (the Notorious B.I.G.), Andre Harrell and Sean "Puffy" Combs of being involved.
Shakur was sentenced to four and a half years in jail on 7 February 1995 for the assault but served only eight months of his sentence.
Under a new pseudonym, "Makaveli", Tupac reportedly took just one week to write and record his last, brooding, album The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory.
It sold over 600,000 copies in the same period.
Radio 1Xtra presenter Semtex says: "He will be listened to in 20, 30 years time. He is like the black Elvis in that people don't want to believe he is dead, he means that much to them.
"His body of work speaks volumes and that is how true artistes should be judged. From Bob Marley to Elvis, if you can still get number ones years after your death, it shows you how much of a great artist he was, he is."
On 7 September 1996 Tupac was driving in Las Vegas when he was shot from another car. Hit in the chest, he died six days later.
Conspiracy theories have flourished, but whatever the motive for the killing, it did nothing to stop Tupac's hold over urban music.
In the past decade there have been six albums of original material released, along with two greatest hits, two live albums, contributions to three soundtracks and a quantity of poetry.
He is acknowledged as the biggest selling rap artist in the world.
Semtex travelled to Los Angeles ahead of the anniversary and found parts of the city still affected by Tupac.
"It was weird because it is 10 years since his passing, but the people there are only just coming to terms with it.
"It was like he had a family of thousands, it showed you what an impact he had. This man was not just an entertainer, he was a role model."