Tupac was a ballet and theater student alongside Jada Pinkett Smith

Yasmine Leung September 13, 2022
Tupac was a ballet and theater student alongside Jada Pinkett Smith
Photo by Al Pereira/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Tupac remains one of the most influential rap artists 26 years after his death, but he was a theater kid and ballet dancer as a teen.

On September 13, 1996, the hip-hop community lost one of its biggest influencers after Tupac – real name Tupac Amaru Shakur – died from gunshot wounds fired six days earlier. The rapper was placed on life support before the Las Vegas hospital confirmed his passing due to respiratory failure and cardiopulmonary arrest, reported LA Times at the time.

26 years later, fans continue to honor the groundbreaking artist, who used to craft to discuss police brutality and poverty with his unapologetic lyrics.

However, his teen years as a theater student contrasted immensely with his legacy.

Photo by Al Pereira/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Tupac auditioned for the Baltimore School For The Arts to hone his performance skills

Born June 16, 1971, in New York City, Tupac’s family relocated to Baltimore, Maryland in the 80s. He attended Roland Park Middle School for the eighth grade before beginning his freshman year at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School.

It was then that he met Dana Smith, a fellow student who shared the same interest in hip hop. The pair won a local youth contest, and it was clear that Tupac was destined, admitted Smith.

Determined to develop his performance skills, the rapper auditioned for Baltimore School for the Arts (BSA) as a theater major with the help of Smith. The former head of BSA’s theater department, Donald Hicken, recalled Tupac as “extremely charismatic” and could sense “he was the real deal”.

He was a ballet dancer at school

For the next two years, he focused on acting, poetry, jazz, as well as ballet dance. Shakespeare was one of his interests, revealed fellow theater student Jada Pinkett Smith: “Acting was a part of his spirit. He really loved it.”

The future hip-hop star portrayed the Mouse King in the school’s ballet production of The Nutcracker, while the school’s 1987 video yearbook showed his interest in the likes of Kate Bush and Stevie Wonder.

A viral clip dated 1986 shows Tupac and Jada performing Parents Just Don’t Understand, a song coincidentally by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, the latter being Jada’s future husband, Will.

Jada and Tupac knew they’d break into the entertainment

Although eventually becoming close friends, Jada noted that Tupac wasn’t the type of person she’d form a friendship with, judging from his appearance.

“It was the first day and he came over to me and introduced himself and in high school, Pac was a little funny looking,” the actress admitted. “Definitely from looking at him, wasn’t necessarily the type of cat that I would even like, deal with. But as soon as he approached me, he was like a magnet.”

“Once you paid attention to him he kind of sucked you in. And we hit it off from that moment on… I don’t think either one of us thought we would have made it in the way that we did, but we knew we were gonna do something.”

“He was one of my best friends, he was like a brother.”

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Yasmine is a third-year Anthropology and Media student at Goldsmiths University with a new obsession with League of Legends, despite being really bad. She's always on social media keeping on top of the latest news and trends and is HITC’s expert in Korean pop culture. She also loves music, TV and fashion - her favourite things to write about.