This week Tupac Shakur, 22, was accused by an unidentified woman of forcing her to be sexually assaulted by three of his friends in a smart New York hotel. The woman alleges he was 'rewarding' his friends for taking care of him and that she was told by Shakur other women would be happy to be in her place.
Already accused of shooting two police officers in Atlanta in a scuffle last month, Shakur has denied the woman's allegations and the Atlanta charges. 'How can I be a magnet for such trouble?' he asked incredulously yesterday. 'It's so unlike my character and my songs.' His lawyer called the New York woman who made the accusations of sodomy an 'opportunistic gold-digger'.
Although he is known for raps with anti-police lyrics, Shakur has often spoken about the challenge to blacks growing up in blighted inner cities, and his latest single, 'Keep Ya Head Up', criticises the mistreatment of black women.
Tattooed across Shakur's stomach are the words, 'THUG LIFE'. He says they represent his status in Am erican society. 'I'm a thug for life,' he says, 'I'm making a movement for all the have-nots, all the underdogs, all the niggas with no daddies, all the niggas that nobody wants. I think of me as fighting for the young black man. Until they drop me, until they take me out of the game. I'd rather die than go to jail.'
The son of the former Black Panther Afeni Shakur, he was born in the Bronx. He is a gifted actor with a promising film career. He played a sympathetic postman with Janet Jackson in Poetic Justice and contributed 'Definition of a Thug Nigga' to the soundtrack. He is at work on a film about a young basketball player.
Rappers who have received bad publicity include Snoop Doggy Dog, arrested last week in connection with the murder of a Los Angeles man allegedly gunned down by the performer's bodyguards, the rapper Ice- T for his 1992 song 'Cop Killer', and 2 Live Crew for their 1990 album As Nasty As They Wanna Be that resulted in an obscenity case. The group was acquitted.
Rap fans see their heroes as victims of an unjust society in which the media or the police are out to destroy rap and the public images of successful young black stars. Earlier this year, Shakur issued his second hit album Strictly for my NIGGAZ which has two singles in the charts.