Earlier this week, Afeni Shakur Davis, mother of rap icon Tupac Shakur, former member of the Black Panther Party and principal decision-maker in her late son’s estate following his death in 1996, died at the age of 69. As the world mourns a political revolutionary who helped inspire her son to look at the world with a critical eye, questions swirl as to what Afeni’s death means for the future of Tupac’s estate.
Afeni’s attorney Howard King tells Billboard that Tupac’s estate is largely unaffected by his mother’s death and will continue to be overseen by Tom Whalley, former chairman and CEO of Warner Bros. Records and current head of Loma Vista Recordings, who was first appointed trustee of Tupac’s estate in 2013 and worked with Tupac at Interscope Records when the rapper was alive. (Whalley declined comment for this story).
Those close to the family have complete confidence in Whalley’s ability and intentions to guide Tupac’s estate going forward. “Tom is someone who actually cares about Tupac’s legacy,” says Gobi M. Rahimi, friend of Afeni and one-time videographer for Tupac who directed two of the rapper’s final videos: “2 of Americaz Most Wanted” and “Made Niggaz.” “Someone who actually had an authentic relationship with Tupac is in a position of power now. Things seem more hopeful and positive than they have in the last 20 years.”
It’s a notable change from the past: Rahimi, who was with Shakur in Las Vegas when the rapper was gunned down, says for a long time he felt that those in charge of Tupac’s estate were taking advantage of Afeni. “She would try to have people represent hers and Tupac’s interests, and in the past I don’t think a lot of those people necessarily gave a fuck about the estate or the legacy; they saw it more as a cash cow. A lot of people took advantage of her.”
What does the future hold for unreleased Tupac material? Rahimi says he’s aware of a great deal of unearthed Tupac music he hopes will soon see the light of day. The filmmaker himself for the past several years has been working on a documentary, 7 Dayz, recounting the rapper’s final days. “There are a plethora of stories that have yet to be shared about him from his family members and contemporaries,” Rahimi says. “It will help paint a picture of Tupac with a lot more color than what’s out there.”
“In a bad situation, everything is taken care of to assure that [Afeni’s] wishes with respect to her son’s intellectual property get honored and the business of managing that goes on really without interruption,” King says. Whalley, King adds, worked closely with Afeni in recent years, describing Tupac’s mother as “fully-informed and engaged and opinionated” in the affairs of the Tupac estate up until her death.
Many have additionally speculated as to whether Afeni’s ongoing divorce proceedings with her husband Gust Davis would impact the future of the Tupac estate. King says while the North Carolina courts — the state that Afeni was principally residing in when she died — will ultimately determine what marital property Davis is entitled to, “it won’t affect the operations of the [Tupac] business” or “Tom’s ability to implement decisions, which I’m sure he’ll do consistent with the knowledge of what Afeni wanted.” Afeni’s sister, Gloria Cox, King adds, has and will continue to play a large role in helping guide Whalley’s decisions as it relates to all things Tupac. “Gloria has always been deeply involved and I’m quite sure will continue to be involved,” King says. “Tom takes Gloria’s counsel seriously.”
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