I remember hearing the announcement of Tupac Shakur’s death while sitting in my parent’s bedroom. It was breaking news in a time when the words breaking news actually meant something. I was eight years old, but had indulged in a healthy dose of his music thanks in part to older family members sneaking me his cassette tapes coupled with, “Don’t tell your mom I let you hear this.” Although I couldn’t fully comprehend his lyrics at the time, I knew he had a message. I knew he was important. While sitting in front of their bed, the news of his passing flashed across the screen and there was this innocent bit of sadness. Semi-aware journalists reported on the story in general terms, while those directly impacted knew he deserved more.
As much as I can say I grew up on Hip-Hop music, I also grew up on Hip-Hop journalists like dream hampton (spelled without capital letters), Kim Osorio and a host of others. Their talent and in-depth approach to stories and interviews reinforced my love for the genre in ways words truly can’t describe. The 90’s was an important time for Hip-Hop and these journalists and others played an important role in pushing music forward. While the substantive writers produced thought-provoking stories, there were opportunists in the media who capitalized on the drama.
Although no one person can be blamed for Tupac’s death, I believe there was a powder-keg created through sensationalistic story-telling that inflamed an already tense East Coast/West Coast situation. The mid-nineties were a profound time for Hip-Hop heads and music lovers alike. It’s just sad that in the process we lost a man who had given so much at an early age.
I knew someone would eventually make a film about Pac’s life. It was one of those forgone conclusions that it would happen one day, but the thought always gave me pause. With growth comes an interesting take on the past, as I took the opportunity to decipher his lyrics for myself. What I found was a man heavily conflicted, part revolutionary, part thug, part playboy; but ultimately misunderstood.
From the people he surrounded himself with, to his complicated relationship with women, one could say Tupac was a walking contradiction. I could say that, but I have always gone to bat for him. In his 25 years he did more for the world than many will do in 100 lifetimes; imagine being that age with the world at your feet? I’d assume we all would have trouble. His life played much like a movie, so the undertaking of producing a film that somehow shed light on his story would be interesting to say the least.
I checked out “All Eyez On Me” this past weekend and from an idea standpoint, I was excited. The film gave me the chance to rehash all those memories. Some were a bit more rugged than others, but were a solid look into his life before his untimely death. I thought the transitions were a bit forced, as well as the intentionally dropped Shakespeare quotes, but I could totally see Tupac interacting in such a way. I would have liked to see them dig deeper into his state of mind and into the subtle nuances we have all read about, but seldom seen visualized. I’ve read stories about his cluttered mind and lifestyle, a telling sign of his genius as the mundane parts of life tended to fall by the wayside. I’m glad the film touched on his role as Bishop from Juice, as I too believe he never let that character go.
If you listen to rappers these days, too many of them get away with mumbling through a verse. Not Tupac. Pac rhymed from the pit of his stomach in a way people could feel. His delivery and style may not have been comparable to that of artists like Notorious B.I.G, Nas and Mobb Deep (rest in peace to Prodigy) but it was his passion that rang out in headphones and airwaves. While Demetrius Shipp Jr. (or Lil Meech) did a wonderful job playing the role, I feel there could have been better character development of those surrounding Tupac.
I think about the people he left behind and can only imagine how this film rehashes old memories. There were real people affected by that shooting on Koval St. in Las Vegas, real people who wish they could have done more, real people who undoubtedly will have a hard time watching this film.
As I grew up his words began to resonate with me, as I have also felt that sense of internal conflict. As someone who never had the opportunity to meet him, the idea of Tupac and what could have been is at times more inspiring. But the truth is, he was just a man with an extraordinary gift. As excited as I was to watch the film, Tupac Shakur is a man that can never be duplicated (although there are some rappers who have made a career off trying).