Tupac Shakur is widely considered one of the greatest rappers of all time, known for his socially conscious lyrics and thug persona. Though he’s closely associated with West Coast hip hop, there are persistent claims that Tupac was actually from New York City originally.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: While Tupac Shakur is known as a quintessential West Coast rapper, he did in fact spend time living in New York City as a youth. However, he always claimed California as his true home.

In this comprehensive article, we’ll analyze Tupac’s origins and upbringing to determine how accurate it is to say he came from New York. We’ll examine where he lived in New York, the time he spent there, and how it influenced him. Additionally, we’ll compare this to his formative years in California and Baltimore and see why Tupac always insisted he repped the West Coast.

Tupac’s Birth and Early Childhood

Tupac Shakur, the iconic rapper and actor, was born in New York City in 1971. He was born on June 16th in East Harlem, a neighborhood known for its vibrant music and cultural scene. His mother, Afeni Shakur, was an active member of the Black Panther Party and played a significant role in shaping Tupac’s worldview.

Moved around frequently as a child

During his early years, Tupac and his family moved around frequently. This was due to his mother’s involvement in various political activities and their constant search for stability. The family’s nomadic lifestyle exposed Tupac to different environments and cultures, which would later influence his music and artistry.

First years spent between New York and Baltimore

While Tupac was born in New York City, he spent a significant portion of his early childhood in Baltimore, Maryland. In Baltimore, he attended the Baltimore School for the Arts, where he honed his talents as an actor and rapper.

These formative years in Baltimore would shape Tupac’s artistic expression and lay the foundation for his future success.

Throughout his life, Tupac’s connection to both New York and Baltimore remained strong. He often referenced his experiences in these cities in his music, using them as a backdrop to tell stories of struggle, resilience, and hope.

Despite his untimely death in 1996, Tupac’s legacy continues to live on, and his impact on music and popular culture can still be felt today.

Adolescence in New York City

Tupac Shakur, the influential rapper and actor, is often associated with the West Coast and his affiliation with Los Angeles. However, many people are not aware that Tupac actually spent a significant portion of his adolescence in New York City.

During these formative years, he experienced life in the bustling metropolis, which undoubtedly shaped his perspective and artistic expression.

Lived in Harlem from age 12 to 17

From the ages of 12 to 17, Tupac resided in Harlem, a neighborhood in northern Manhattan, New York City. Growing up in this culturally vibrant and diverse area, he was exposed to a multitude of experiences and influences that would later contribute to his unique style and lyrical content.

Harlem, known for its rich history and contributions to African-American culture, provided Tupac with a rich tapestry of inspiration.

Attended high school in Manhattan

During his time in New York City, Tupac attended the prestigious Baltimore School for the Arts in Manhattan. This renowned performing arts high school offered him the opportunity to hone his artistic talents and develop his skills in acting, poetry, and music.

It was within this supportive and creative environment that Tupac began to explore his passion for rap music.

Emerged into music scene during these years

It was during his teenage years in New York City that Tupac first emerged into the music scene. He began performing in local clubs and talent shows, showcasing his undeniable talent and captivating stage presence.

This period marked the beginning of his journey as a rapper and set the stage for his future success in the music industry.

Formative Teenage Years in California

Tupac Shakur, the iconic rapper and actor, is often associated with the East Coast rap scene, particularly New York. However, his formative teenage years were actually spent in California, which played a significant role in shaping his identity as an artist.

Relocated to Marin City, CA at 17

At the age of 17, Tupac Shakur relocated to Marin City, a small community located just outside of San Francisco, California. This move came after spending his early childhood in East Harlem, New York, and Baltimore, Maryland.

Marin City proved to be a pivotal turning point in Tupac’s life, as he found himself immersed in a new environment that would greatly influence his music and worldview.

Considered this his true hometown

Despite his later association with the East Coast, Tupac considered Marin City his true hometown, often referring to it as such in interviews and songs. He embraced the California culture and connected with its residents, who became his extended family and support system.

The experiences and challenges he faced in Marin City played a significant role in shaping his artistic expression and the themes he explored in his music.

Where his rap career blossomed

It was in Marin City that Tupac’s rap career truly began to blossom. He started performing at local venues and quickly gained a reputation for his raw and honest lyrics. His talent and charisma caught the attention of the music industry, leading to his signing with Interscope Records and the release of his debut album, “2Pacalypse Now,” which catapulted him into the national spotlight.

Throughout his career, Tupac’s connection to California remained strong. He continued to represent the West Coast in his music and collaborated with fellow California artists such as Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg.

Even during his time on the East Coast, Tupac always held his California roots close to his heart.

It is important to acknowledge Tupac Shakur’s formative teenage years in California, as they played a crucial role in shaping his identity and artistic legacy. While he may be associated with New York, it was in California where he found his true voice and began his journey to becoming one of the most influential figures in hip-hop history.

Tupac’s Own Words on His Origins

Throughout his career, Tupac Shakur made it clear that he identified with the West Coast. His music, lyrics, and interviews consistently emphasized his connection to California and his love for the West Coast lifestyle.

Despite being born in East Harlem, New York City, Tupac always considered himself a product of the West Coast.

Always said he repped the West Coast

Tupac’s loyalty to the West Coast was evident in his music. In numerous songs, he proudly proclaimed his affiliation with the region. From “California Love” to “To Live & Die in LA,” Tupac celebrated the culture, people, and experiences that shaped him as an artist.

His lyrics were filled with references to California landmarks, neighborhoods, and the unique atmosphere that only the West Coast could offer.

California was his heart and inspiration

California had a profound impact on Tupac’s life and career. It was in California where he found his artistic voice and became deeply involved in the hip-hop community. The state’s rich musical history and diverse culture provided the backdrop for his rise to fame.

From the vibrant streets of Oakland to the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles, Tupac drew inspiration from the West Coast’s unique blend of urban grit and sunny optimism.

In his interviews, Tupac often spoke about the profound influence California had on his artistry. He described the West Coast as his “heart” and credited the region for shaping his identity as an artist and activist.

Rejected ‘East Coast’ label

Despite being born in New York, Tupac rejected the label of being an “East Coast” rapper. He felt that this label limited his artistic expression and misrepresented his true identity. In his autobiographical song “Old School,” Tupac explicitly stated, “I’m from the West, where the best rides and the sunset’s always red.”

Throughout his career, Tupac consistently emphasized that he was not defined by his place of birth but rather by the experiences and values that he absorbed while living on the West Coast. He wanted to be recognized as a representative of the West Coast’s unique culture and artistic legacy.

It’s important to remember that Tupac’s own words and music provide the most accurate insight into his origins and personal identity. While he may have been born in New York, his heart and soul belonged to the West Coast.

The Significance of Tupac’s Time in New York

Tupac Shakur, the iconic rapper and actor, was born in East Harlem, New York City. While he is often associated with the West Coast hip-hop scene, his time in New York played a significant role in shaping his music, politics, and public persona.

Influenced his music and politics

Tupac’s time in New York exposed him to the vibrant and diverse hip-hop culture that was thriving in the city during the 1980s and 1990s. He immersed himself in the local rap scene, collaborating with artists and honing his skills as a lyricist.

The gritty streets of New York also provided him with firsthand experiences of poverty, inequality, and social injustice, which deeply influenced his music and political beliefs.

During his time in New York, Tupac became involved in activism and joined organizations such as the New Afrikan Panthers, which advocated for the rights of African Americans. He used his platform as an artist to address social issues such as police brutality, racism, and poverty, which resonated with audiences across the country.

Contributed to his public persona

While in New York, Tupac also began to develop his larger-than-life public persona. He became known for his outspokenness, his confrontational style, and his willingness to challenge authority. These qualities, which would become hallmarks of his career, were shaped in part by his experiences in the tough neighborhoods of New York.

Tupac’s time in New York also exposed him to the influences of other prominent artists and intellectuals of the time. He crossed paths with figures such as Notorious B.I.G., Nas, and Spike Lee, who played a role in shaping his artistic vision and public image.

But California shaped his identity

While Tupac’s time in New York was undoubtedly influential, it was his move to California that truly shaped his identity as an artist and solidified his connection to the West Coast hip-hop scene. California, particularly Los Angeles, became the backdrop for his most significant musical achievements and the place where he became a cultural icon.

In California, Tupac joined the rap group Digital Underground, which helped launch his music career. He also became deeply involved in the gang culture and street life of the West Coast, which would later influence his music and contribute to the controversies that surrounded him.


While Tupac Shakur undeniably spent formative years in New York City, his heart and upbringing were firmly rooted in California. Regardless of his East Coast origins, Tupac always insisted he was a West Coast rapper. For him, California represented his true home and inspiration. While he never denied his time in New York, Tupac always made clear where his allegiance lay when defining his background and identity.

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