On the eve of All Eyez On Me‘s debut last week, I knew that the film would have its fair share of detractors.
Tupac Shakur was a larger than life figure who meant many things to many different people. To some who studied his work, he was a prolific, important artist, a rapper who had the potential to be so much more with a rawness and passion that was deemed endearing.
For folks who formed their opinions based on media accounts, soundbites and his encounters with law enforcement, he was either a reckless thug, a real G who was down for whatever, or a wannabe thug caught up in his Bishop character from the film Juice.
This is one of the most popular scenes from the film juice (1992) starring Tupac Amaru Shakur and Omar Epps and many more! This is the real uncensored version!
Among his friends and former teachers at the prestigious Baltimore School for the Arts, some of whom have personally spoken to me about him in the past, he was a gifted young man who loved Hip Hop music with an overflowing personality and a kid who moved easily between his boastful rhymes, studying Shakespeare and performing ballet.
Many of his fans, those who never had one personal interaction with him, both men and women, loved, identified with and adored him in ways that were perhaps irrational. On the opposite ends of the spectrum, he was seen by some as a hypocritical misogynist who only began acting like a gangster once he came under the protective umbrella of Suge Knight’s sinister Death Row machine.
Either way, for those who were around during his mercurial rise to fame, infamy, remarkable recording and film career and on through his violent and untimely death, it was undeniable that Tupac had become a cultural icon whose legacy would endure forever as a symbol.
What that symbol was depended on what you took from him. And those perceptions ran the complete gamut, from revolutionary to movie star to Napoleonic cornball to sensitive gangster.
Tupac was so many things, a young man with so many layers that I knew some would have problems with the way that he was depicted in the movie.
All Eyez on me the movie Trailer 2 – 2016 Tupac Shakur Biopic About the All Eyez on Me 2Pac Movie The film will focus on the career of Tupac Shakur all the way to the fatal drive-by shooting in Las Vegas in 1996.
I heard all of the negative reviews, saw all of the celebrities up in arms about his portrayal and the dramatic license that was taken, the jokes and harsh criticism heaped at the production team and director, and decided to suspend judgment until I’d seen the movie with my own eyes, through the lens of my own experiences as someone up in the thickness of the culture at the time, as someone who’d seen Tupac shooting dice with my neighbor Biggie in front of the liquor store on the corner of Fulton and Gates, who’d known people with ties to him in the club world and entertainment scene who shared various accounts – some glowing, some wretched.
And I’m very glad that I did. Because despite the avalanche of criticism that surrounded the film on opening weekend, I enjoyed it.
Was it flawed? Yes. Was creative license taken? Yes. Did it seem disjointed at times trying to walk through Pac’s life in its various stages? Yes.
But please find me a biopic of such a legendary, contradictory and talented artist where this is not the case. How can one seamlessly fit all of the nuance into a cinematic presentation of two hours.
All Eyez On Me is worth seeing because it takes us through Tupac’s journey, from a kid being raised in the crucible of the Black Panther Movement, from a teen who saw his mother addicted to drugs, from a gifted artist whose talents and force of personality propelled him to stardom.
“So Many Tears” I shall not fear no man but God Though I walk through the valley of death I shed so many tears (if I should die before I wake) Please God walk with me (grab a nigga and take me to Heaven) Back in elementary, I thrived on misery Left me alone I grew up amongst a dyin breed Inside my mind couldn’t find a place to rest until I got that Thug Life tatted on my chest Tell me can you feel me?
Demetrius Shipp, Jr., who played Tupac was mesmerizing. He was not some caricature or uncanny lookalike just eating up space. And the film captures something important about the young man that Tupac developed into, both good and bad, along with the times and unfortunate circumstances that he both found himself in, and knowingly and unknowingly put himself into.
For the sake of full disclosure, Benny Boom, who directed the film, is a friend and frat brother of mine. I’ve known him for the better part of 25 years. I was on the set in Atlanta for a brief moment during filming. But that doesn’t impact my view of the film. If it was an abject failure, like some would have you believe, I would not be writing this.
Whether my friend was at the helm of this or not, I would go and watch this movie again. I thought a commendable job was done, not merely in reminding those of us who were there, experiencing Tupac in all of his majesty and tragedy in real time, but in edifying this current generation who was either very young or not even born when this brilliant young brother was felled by a hail of bullets.
My teenage daughters know Tupac’s music. They grew up listening to it around the house from the time they were very little up through today. They took me to see the movie as a Father’s Day treat. And I was thrilled that they learned more about this great artist, talent and conflicted young man in ways that my musical playlist and antiquated stories could never convey.
Music video by 2Pac performing I Get Around. (C) 1993 Interscope Records
When we got back home, as I got some pots and pans humming for our Father’s Day meal while dancing to I Get Around playing in the background, I walked out into the living room to find them sitting quietly, reading through the various Tupac books that have long sat around on our bookshelves and foot rests.
To me, the movie did that. It took me back to a cherished time in my life. It took them to a place of learning. It gave both of us, from different generations and upbringings, either a new or greater appreciation of the man, the myth and the legend that was, and is, Tupac Shakur.
Don’t fall for the okey-doke and depend on someone else’s vision of who Tupac was and what this movie should have been. Go watch it and decide for yourself.
Was it perfect? No.
But did it succeed as well? Absolutely, without a doubt.
All Eyez On Me touched me. It made me dance. It made me laugh. It made me wonder at all that Tupac experienced and accomplished in 25 short years on this earth.
And it made me mournful and reflective, wondering what could have happened had this brilliant young talent survived to write the next chapters in his development as a thinker, as an artist and a man who had grown into his fullest potential.