Also known in his time by the stage names 2Pac, Pac, Makaveli and MC New York, Tupac Shakur has become a rap legend since his untimely death in 1996. Part of the legend has focused on what the California Love musician’s ‘real’ name was.

Tupac’s mother Afeni Shakur named him Tupac Amaru Shakur after 18th century Peruvian revolutionary Túpac Amaru II, but it has been widely reported that the rapper was in fact born Lesane Parish Crooks. Biographers have claimed that Tupac was renamed by his mother when he was one year old, and that Lesane Parish Crooks was his name at birth. The rapper’s history (and birth certificate), however, tells a different story.

Mother’s maiden name

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When Tupac was murdered in September 1996, fans and the music industry as a whole were shocked. But as the details of the killing trickled out through the press, one surprising detail surfaced.

In October 1996, the Las Vegas Sun reported on the arrest of Orlando Anderson in connection with Tupac’s death. The article added: “Shakur, whose family and relatives told homicide detectives that his real name is Lesane Crooks, was struck four times, in the chest and abdomen.”

Sure enough, a digitised copy of the coroner’s report names the deceased as “Shakur, Tupac A, AKA Lesane Parish Crooks”.

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Various biographies have mentioned this detail, with one author suggesting: “It is believed that his legal surname, Crooks, was his mother’s maiden name. Alice Faye married Jeral Wayne Williams, her second husband, when Tupac was a toddler.” Crooks, however, was not Alice Faye’s maiden name.

It is true that Alice Faye married a Mr Williams. However, her maiden name was in fact Williams, too. Alice Faye Williams was born in 1947, and her parents were Rosa Belle Williams and Walter Larry Williams, Jr. She later adopted the name Afeni.

Afeni became a political activist with the Black Panthers in 1968. Her first husband, whom she married in the same year, was an activist named Lumumba Shakur.

The Black Panther influence and Túpac Amaru II

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Shakur was a popular chosen surname among the Panthers. Coincidentally, when Lumumba and Afeni split, she would later marry another man who had taken the Shakur name: Mutulu Shakur (born Jeral Wayne Williams).

Between these two marriages, Afeni became pregnant with Tupac. The father was Billy Garland, with whom Tupac had very little contact in his youth. While pregnant, Afeni spent time in jail and was acquitted of more than 150 charges relating to an alleged Black Panther bomb plot.

Tupac was born on June 16, 1971, and his birth certificate names him as Tupac Amaru Shakur.

According to Tupac himself, his mother picked his name after a conversation with a Peruvian friend, who told her about a revolutionary named Túpac Amaru II. He would later recall the story of his namesake in an interview, and explained why this Peruvian figure inspired him.

“He was fighting the government and he was really winning, his little f***ing tribe was beating the government,” Tupac stated. “And they said…’Would you please cease the fighting, too many people are dying, we’re going to give you what you asked for.’ He said, ‘OK’, told them to ceasefire.”

“As soon as they said ceasefire, they cut his arms off, cut his head off, cut his legs off, they stuck him on a stick and put him in the middle of the village… Every time you say my name, that’s my reminder to never compromise myself and never quit,” Tupac said. “There is no such thing as a truce while people ain’t free, regardless of who it is.”

Where did ‘Lesane Parish Crooks’ come from?

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Several biographers have stated that Tupac was first named Lesane Parish Crooks, and that his mother changed his name to Tupac Shakur a year later. The official coroner’s report on Tupac’s death lists his name as ‘Shakur, Tupac A. aka Lesane Parish Crooks’. But some have suggested that ‘Lesane Parish Crooks’ may have always just been an alias, to protect Tupac from enemies of the Black Panthers. This has not been confirmed by family members.

The name Crooks has no apparent link to Tupac’s family, and it appears that the only solid reference to Tupac by that name remains his coroner’s report. The exact source of this detail remains a mystery.

Lesane, however, is indeed a related family name. Tupac’s mother Afeni had an older sister named Gloria, whose children bear the surname Lesane.

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Tupac’s first cousins are named Kendrick and Jamala Lesane, and another cousin, William Lesane, featured in the Tupac-centred episode of the documentary show Death Row Chronicles.

It appears that Tupac may have gained the first part of his alias from this family connection, although this has not been confirmed. The Lesane cousins have, however, talked publicly of growing up alongside Tupac, while Jamala Lesane and her daughter Imani even shared his Los Angeles home with him for a period.

As Jamala noted in 2018: “I learned from Tupac that you can do and be whatever you want to be in this world and you could really come and start from nothing. He proved that to me.”