Lovers of the lyrics and legacy of Tupac Shakur have been clamoring to set their eyes upon All Eyez on Me ever since the project was first announced back in January 2016.
Today, we sit on the eve of its world premiere and critics are alluding to what just may be another Hip-Hop biopic blockbuster. Starring actor Demetrius Shipp Jr, the film tells an intimate tale of Pac that only individuals who are culture-kin to him can properly convey. One of those people is director Benny Boom.
Another is the film’s producer, L.T. Hutton.
The former head of A&R at Death Row Records holds the distinction of being the only individual to hold a position at both Death Row and Ruthless Records. Recently, Hutton was in New York participating in a roundtable discussion at the Maysles Cinema viewing room in Harlem. The insight expressed and concern he conveyed reverberated throughout the space. Somewhat perplexing to me was how this project about an American icon could face any resistance at all.
“What kept me going was I was tired of begging for a seat at the table. We made our own table and our own meal,” said Hutton. “I had to stop trying to teach Hollywood to respect our thoughts when they’ve been ripping us for years and depicting the way we’re seen as a culture.”
All Eyez On Me Narrative
Though love for Tupac Amaru Shakur spans borders, race, gender and ethnicities, his message was often willfully misinterpreted by the media. For this reason, Hutton said it was important that the project was handled by people who knew Pac.
“Perception is reality,” said Hutton. “The biggest definition of perception is visual, he who controls the visual dictates perception. So, as long as Hollywood keeps telling us what we think of each other and how we see each other then it’s easy to turn a kid with a bag of Skittles and an ice tea into a thug or a gangbanger. Not to get deep, but I just wanted to take on things that had a greater responsibility of how we depict and tell the stories of our heroes. We see picture after picture and the pond gets smaller and smaller. We’re in 2017 and we’re still hearing ‘the first black, the first black…’ in 2017 because the opportunities are not there.”
“As a producer, seeing them do picture after picture, I said, ‘I think someone needs to pay attention to the content for once and actually care about what they’re telling,'” he continued. “Some of these people do stories for monetary gain and you end up with imagery and messaging that’s so far off the beaten path of what that person really was. We can focus on the wrong parts of somebody and actually reshape all the great things they did. Especially with Tupac being so overpersonified with this imagery of the bad things that you forget what he accomplished in such a short time.”
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Straight Outta Compton earned $200 million at the box office and is an instant classic, but Hutton told attendees that there may not have been a Straight Outta Compton if it were not for All Eyez on Me.
“Straight Outta Compton was on my original slate,” said Hutton. “Tomica (Eazy E’s widow) is a good friend of mine and Straight Outta Compton had been sitting in turn around. Turn around means it’s in a holding pattern. They couldn’t quite put the pieces together. The scenario that Tomica said was that the entire industry told her there was not a market for this.”
“With that being said, we helped her do things on the business side,” he continued. “I talked to a few different people and the ball got rolling because of All Eyez on Me. They didn’t get All Eyez on Me, so they wanted to have a competing project. They actually wanted me to go against Straight Outta Compton. With the pond getting smaller and smaller, why would I go against Straight Outta Compton by putting us in the same category and on the same day? Straight Outta Compton deserved its space and All Eyez on Me deserves its space, and I wasn’t going to feed into that.”
All Eyez on Me premieres Friday, June 16. Come back for more in-depth conversations with star Demetrius Shipp Jr and director Benny Boom as well as my exclusive review.