September 02, 1997
Rapper Leaves Legacy of Litigation
NEW YORK (AP) -- Tupac Shakur, incarcerated before his birth
and murdered before his 26th birthday, spent much of his
too-short life outside the law. His tattoos proclaimed his
philosophy: "Outlaw" on his left forearm, "Thug
Life" across his torso.
His death has changed all that.
The gangsta rapper's unlikeliest legacy, forged in the year
since his still-unsolved slaying, is legal, not musical -- a
litany of coast-to-coast litigation that could drag on for years.
Shakur lives on in the staid world of courtrooms and
countersuits, law offices and legal papers. His posthumous alter
ego is a white Manhattan attorney -- Richard Fischbein,
co-executor of the Shakur estate.
Even Shakur's unreleased music -- more than 150 songs, valued
at $100 million -- is tied up in a court battle. Fischbein says
he expects more "vultures" to "come out of the
"Tupac has an estate," Fischbein explains bluntly.
"He's dead. People see a payday."
Fischbein and Afeni Shakur, who gave birth to the slain rapper
one month after her acquittal in a 1971 conspiracy trial, became
co-executors on Oct. 23, 1996. Since then, the flow of lawsuits
has been as hard and relentless as Tupac's lyrics:
-A $7.1 million suit by Death Row Records, demanding
reimbursement for cash advances that Shakur allegedly used for
cars, houses, jewelry and other expenses. The estate filed a
41-page countersuit, accusing Death Row of looting $50 million
from Shakur to maintain the extravagant lifestyles of label head
Marion "Suge" Knight and other executives.
More important than cash is control of at least two unreleased
Shakur CDs and 152 additional unreleased songs. Death Row
currently has custody of the master tapes. A Death Row spokesman
and label attorney David Kenner both declined to comment on the
legal fight; Knight is serving a nine-year jail term on a
-A $10 million lawsuit by C. DeLores Tucker, a virulent
opponent of gangsta rap. Tucker, who once labeled Shakur's music
"pornographic smut," claimed lyrics on Tupac's 5
million-selling album "All Eyez on Me" were so
demeaning that it affected her sex life.
Two songs derisively mentioned Tucker by name. On one,
"How Do U Want It," Shakur rapped: "DeLores
Tucker, you'se a (expletive)/Instead of trying to help a nigga,
you destroy a brother."
Tucker did not returns calls to her Washington office. But in
her lawsuit, she alleged Shakur had caused her "great
humiliation, mental pain and suffering" -- and damaged her
sexual relationship with her husband, William.
-A contentious lawsuit filed by the rapper's father, William
Garland, seeking 50 percent of Tupac's estate. Afeni Shakur
angrily charged that Garland was a gold-digger who ignored his
son for 18 years; Garland blamed her nomadic lifestyle for making
it impossible to find Tupac.
"I'm the only person in here who lost somebody," Ms.
Shakur snapped in early August. "He don't even know my son's
Garland's lawyer, Leonard Birdsong, rips Ms. Shakur as
"an egomaniac" upset by publicity for Tupac's father.
He also mentions her past crack addiction and alcohol problems;
Tupac had said those woes forced him to leave his mother's house
at age 17.
Fischbein dismisses Garland as "a deadbeat dad" who
gave his son "$500 and a bag of peanuts over the course of
his life." Birdsong indignantly charges Fischbein with
"rewriting history to vilify my client." Garland only
filed suit after Ms. Shakur twice submitted legal papers saying
Tupac's father was dead, Garland says.
This parental struggle could give birth to another lawsuit. If
he wins, Garland wants to be named the estate's co-executor.
-A November 1996 court award of $16.6 million to Jacquelyn
McNealey, who was shot and partially paralyzed at a 1993 Shakur
concert in Pine Bluff, Ark. Fischbein is vigorously trying to set
aside this judgment; the estate's Arkansas court papers carried
the names of 17 attorneys, and asserted that Shakur was never
even notified of this lawsuit.
-A successful lawsuit by the estate to gain merchandising
rights to Shakur's image. Previously, it received nothing from
the lucrative sales of Shakur T-shirts, hats and other
There remain a handful of "smaller, irrelevant"
lawsuits - including a libel suit stemming from another lyric on
Shakur's last album, "The Don Killuminati" -- that are
unresolved, Fischbein acknowledges.
What the plaintiffs lined up at the Tupac trough may not know
is that the rapper, whose last two albums sold more than 8
million copies, left very little behind.
Tupac's bank account contained $150,000 when he died at 4:03
p.m. on Sept. 13, 1996, six days after he was shot on the Las
Vegas strip. "He owned no real estate," the estate
claimed in court papers. "He owned no stocks and bonds. He
owned two cars."
Where was the money? The estate's lawsuit against Death Row
alleges the label should have provided him with $12 million
royalties on the album "All Eyez on Me" and a $5
million advance on his next album.
Instead, with Shakur locked up by a handwritten three-page
contract that he'd signed in prison, Death Row refused to provide
Shakur with any financial accounting, the estate says.
Even worse, Death Row allegedly charged Shakur for items that
the rapper never owned or knew about: $115,000 for jewelry,
$120,000 in rent for a Malibu home, $23,857 for Porsche repairs.
Shakur didn't own a Porsche; Knight did.
While Fischbein is bemused by some of the lawsuits -- "C.
DeLores Tucker? Who ever expected that?" -- he takes the
estate very seriously. And he expects the battles to rage for
Afeni Shakur, he says, is "very, very tough and
"She never expected her son to die before she did,"
Fischbein says. "She's never going to give in on any of this
stuff -- never. From her point of view, this could go on