“June 16, 1971
Mama gave birth
to a hell raisin’ heavenly son.
See the doctor tried to smack me
but I smacked him back,
My first words were “thug for life”
and “Papa pass the Mac.”
–Tupac, Cradle to the Grave
Today marks legendary rapper Tupac Shakur’s birthday. The controversial gangster rapper/revolutionary would’ve been 46 years old. And while I haven’t heard many Tupac tributes on the radio this morning he is still being honored in a major way. The Tupac biopic, “All Eyez On Me” hits theaters nationwide today.
Directed by famed video director, Benny Boom, “All Eyez On Me” delved heavy into what created Tupac. Born Lesane Parish Crooks in 1971, his mother, Afeni Shakur, changed Tupac’s name in 1972 after marrying Black Liberation Army member, Mutulu Shakur.
Afeni chose the name Tupac Amaru in honor of a famous Inca who fought for the rights of his people.
Tupac’s mother, Afeni Shakur was given a lot of attention in this film. The former Black Panther was unrelenting in her defiance in the face of injustices that black people were facing. It was she who pushed Tupac to speak his mind and challenge authority.
While the entire cast of the movie did an excellent job, the standout was Danai Gurira who played the complicatedly stoic Afeni Shakur. Portraying the vocal political activist and prisoner, turned drug addict (who eventually became sober after her son sent her to rehab) couldn’t have been an easy feat. Gurira gives some of the most poignant lines in the film that while sometimes seem a little heavy handed give insight into where the rapper got his spark.
Demetrius Shipp Jr. played Tupac convincingly enough. His physical likeness to the rapper did most of the heavy lifting required of a role of this caliber. Shipp did a great job of portraying the poetic and intellectual side of Tupac. However, when it came to the fiery and passionate ’Pac that would dominate courthouse stair press conferences, that energy was lacking for me. Tupac was a person that got people excited when he spoke. He was charismatic and exuded passion and wisdom beyond his years. Those are traits would be hard to reproduce so one couldn’t be too upset about that.
The rest of the cast supported the lead characters nicely. In a post Straight Outta Compton and New Edition Story world, the bar for urban biopics has been set pretty high. And while even with the movie having an 180 minute run time it feels a bit rushed at times but overall I think it did Tupac’s legacy justice.
While “All Eyez On Me” is well made and deserves to be seen by the masses I don’t feel that this is the definitive Tupac movie. His life was so rich and complicated many other angles could have been explored and were merely touched on in this film.
I do wish that the movie would have talked more about the rappers political side as John Singleton said, “[His story] is not about just some rapper. It’s about a dude who was raised to be a revolutionary. He may not have been the next Malcolm X, but he had the potential to be a great leader in this country. He didn’t want that responsibility and was taken down by a lot of different forces that a lot of people really don’t know about.”
The movie concludes as we are all aware it would with Tupac in Vegas on that faithful night back in 1996. And although we know what’s coming it still hits hard if you’re a fan of the man as well as the musician.
This movie makes you think about what could’ve been had Tupac made different choices or a different set of circumstances. What is undisputable is that Tupac was a young black man who managed to impact the world in such a way that we are still talking about him 21 years after his death. Add to that; the man was only 25 years old when he died, and one can’t help to think about the possibilities of where he would’ve taken his people and culture.
Happy Birthday, Pac! All Eyez On Me in theaters everywhere June 16, 2017.