Tupac Shakur, popularly known as 2Pac, is considered a West Coast rapper for several reasons, despite being born in East Harlem, New York. First, his musical career began in earnest when he moved to California, joining the West Coast hip-hop group Digital Underground as a backup dancer and rapper. This marked his entry into the West Coast rap scene, making an indelible impact on the genre and establishing his reputation as a force in the industry.
Moreover, 2Pac’s association with Death Row Records, the label that arguably defined the sound and image of West Coast hip-hop in the 1990s, further anchored his identity as a West Coast artist. After his release from prison in 1995, 2Pac signed with Death Row, and his subsequent work on the label, notably his album “All Eyez on Me,” became some of the most iconic in the genre, solidifying his place in the West Coast rap pantheon.
The lyrical content of 2Pac’s music often highlighted the social realities and struggles associated with life on the West Coast, particularly in inner-city Los Angeles. He wasn’t shy about discussing the violence, poverty, and systemic racism faced by many in the region, thus resonating with the West Coast audience. This identification with the West Coast’s social context helped cement his association with the region.
In addition to his music, 2Pac’s involvement in the notorious East Coast–West Coast hip hop rivalry of the mid-’90s played a substantial role in his identification with the West Coast. As a prominent figure on the Death Row Records roster, 2Pac found himself at the heart of this feud, facing off against East Coast artists, particularly those associated with Bad Boy Records.
Finally, 2Pac’s untimely death in Las Vegas, Nevada, after a Mike Tyson boxing match, further tied his legacy to the West. His death, widely believed to be a result of the East Coast–West Coast rivalry, left an enduring impact on the hip-hop industry. 2Pac is remembered today not only for his immense talent and profound lyrics but also for his embodiment of the West Coast hip-hop identity. His legacy continues to shape the genre, proving that his association with the West Coast extends beyond his life and career.