Tupac Shakur’s Estate Is Now In The Hands Of The Man Who Signed Him
Late Monday (May 2), Afeni Shakur died in Marin County, California at the age of 69. The mother of Tupac and Sekyiwa Shakur had become a mainstream figure, not just because of her high-profile son’s life (and death), but also due to her years as a Black Panther, social activist, and educator—through periods of battling incarceration, addiction and homelessness.
Less than 48 hours following Ms. Shakur’s death, the state of her son’s music has already been addressed publicly. In 2007, Afeni led a legal battle against Death Row Records, where Tupac had signed less than a year before he was murdered in a September, 1996 drive-by shooting.
According to a report at TMZ, Shakur’s estate is a complicated one. Although Afeni was in an estranged marriage at the time of her death to Gust Davis, a trust is reported to exist, legally assigning the music and estate of Tupac Amaru Shakur to veteran music executive Tom Whalley.
“Afeni [Shakur] had set up a trust to control all of Tupac’s music rights, and a rep for his estate tells us the paperwork is flawless. She also named the perfect executor, Tom Whalley — former head of Warner Bros. Records — to handle Tupac’s valuable catalog,” writes TMZ.
The report states that Afeni’s assets will go to family and select charities.
A product of the 1980s Warner Bros. Records A&R Department staff, Whalley first gained recognition working with New Wave superstars like The Cure and Modern English. He would then take his talents to head the A&R teams at Capitol Records, and eventually the fledgling Interscope Records. In 1989, Whalley was one of the execs hired to launch the record label. Within his first two years at the label, Whalley signed Tupac Shakur, who had recorded a demo while working as a dancer and feature MC with Oakland, California’s Digital Underground.
After signing him, Whalley would A&R Tupac’s late 1991 debut, 2Pacalypse Now. The album would follow releases by Gerardo and Marky Mark & The Funky Bunch, legitimizing Interscope’s foothold in Rap music. The largely Shock G-produced LP included controversial views and accounts on police that drew criticism from then US Vice President Dan Quayle, among others. Whalley maintained his role for 1993’s Strictly For My N.I.G.G.A.Z., and 1995’s Me Against The World—which gave Shakur his first #1, a feat that no previous artist had experienced while incarcerated.
Although Tupac’s music at Death Row was A&R’d in-house at the label that included Dr. Dre, Daz Dillinger, and DJ Quik, Whalley was not far away. Following Shakur’s death, Whalley returned to A&R and executive produce a host of posthumous releases. Whalley served as president of Interscope from 1998 to late 2001. During that time, ‘Pac compilation releases included the eventually diamond-certified Greatest Hits, Until The End Of Time (both double-discs), as well as 2000’s The Rose That Grew From The Concrete. Even as Warner Bros. Records Chairman later in the mid-2000s, Whalley would step over to assist Amaru Entertainment and Interscope in releasing 2006’s gold-certified Pac’s Life. One year later, Whalley would help prepare and release 2007’s Best Of 2Pac double-disc—one of the final Death Row-involved compilations.
Although it has been nearly a decade since the last studio posthumous Tupac Shakur album released, the Hip-Hop superstar is known to be among the most prolific. Based on the popular late 1990s bootlegs of Tha Outlawz and Thug Life front man’s work, lots of material has not been released, or has been remixed from its original state.
In the 2007 injunction against Death Row, Afeni Shakur was reportedly awarded 152 songs in the label’s vaults. This material was recorded during ‘Pac’s most prolific period, in late 1995 and throughout 1996. The estate and Amaru Entertainment released 1997’s multi-platinum double-disc, R U Still Down? (Remember Me), which was material recorded prior to Shakur’s Death Row years.
Tom Whalley has yet to release a statement on this report.