It’s no easy feat trying to recreate the life and legacy of a global music icon like Tupac Shakur, but “All Eyez on Me” film director Benny Boom and producer L.T. Hutton managed to capture the late rapper’s life within a modest span of 2.2 hours, releasing the film on what would have been Shakur’s 46th birthday.
The biopic was also led by Shakur’s uncanny twin, California native Demetrius Shipp Jr.; his outstanding portrayal embodied the fervent,and relentless spirit of Tupac, his passion for music, and his candid ability to give voice to those who had none.
New-aged film critics and social media hecklers, however, claim that the recent film wasn’t an accurate depiction of the late rapper, activist, and poet, targeting the casting or piggy-backing on the mainstream opinions of Jada Pinkett-Smith, or 50 Cent, who essentially discredited the films’ authenticity. Hundreds of news agencies have since run with the demoralizing storyline like an Olympian with a burning torch. But in the words of the late Rodney King, can’t we all just get along?
According to Forbes, the film made a solid $27.05 million during its’ first weekend at the box-office, but even Shipp Jr.’s striking resemblance to Shakur wasn’t enough to tame the revolt of divisive twitter fingers that worked around the clock to dishearten the biopic. It was as if the masses wanted Shakur to resurrect or hologram his way through the movie.
Contextually, Tupac was no different than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Huey P. Newton, or any other Black revolutionary who involuntarily sacrificed his or her life for the people they were called to reach. Although the form of expression and path differed, their hatred for injustice, their martyrdom, their outcry remained the same. So, in times like these, how could our own people not at least band together to celebrate the artistry and activism of a Black man that stood for change? How can we not stand cohesively to support a Black film, in the words of Mary J Bidge, “without all the hateration in this dancery”?
At the Los Angeles premiere for the film held on June 14 at the Westwood Village Theatres, the Sentinel had an opportunity to speak with a numerous industry players, all of whom had nothing but affirming comments about the film, and many of which could personally speak to Shakur’s impact on them, personally.
For Young Noble and E.D.I. Mean, remaining members of Shakur’s Hip-Hop group Outlawz, the movie’s release was “bitter sweet” as they lamented about his death “wish he was still here”,they shared. Appearing in several scenes throughout the film, the artists went on to say that they believed the cast “brought it to life one-hundred percent”, and that “Demetrius did a great job bringing [Tupac] to life for this new generation”.
As it pertains to Shipp Jr.’s preparation for the film, he said that it was all about “diving in to the world of the man, from his childhood, to how he was raised … who influenced him.” Namely, the film zeros in on Tupac’s rocky relationship with his mother Afeni Shakur, passionately portrayed by actress Danai Gurira. Although flawed and afflicted by drug abuse, the late Afeni Shakur is showcased as a woman of fortitude, a Black Panther who stood for change, an educator, and a truth teller who saw the plight of her son as both a revolutionary and “threat to society”.
Yes, there’s also the fast life; the money, clothes, cars, women, shoot-outs and set-ups, but his testimony of strength seemed to outweigh the often-chaotic minutia and people that surrounded him. One testimony in particular, outside of his love for community, was Shakur’s love for women, so much that he dedicated “Keep Ya Head” up to women whose berry is black and juice is sweet and “I Get Around” to the women whose lustful desires matched his.
It was Kidada Jones, daughter of legendary music producer Quincy Jones, however, that appeared to be the full manifestation of “true love” for the rapper. Played by actress Annette Ilonzeh, Jones is seen playing hard to get, realizing that the very man who’s set his eyes on her has millions of eyes on him. Though the road of the love affair ends in Shakur’s untimely death, many believe the relationship would have stood the test of time, had he survived.
“The fact that I’m in it in super blessed, and I’m happy for everyone to experience this untold story that needs to be heard and seen and felt,” Ilonzeh said.
We also caught up with a new generation of entertainers who could attest to the late rappers’ legendary status and influence in their own music. For singer-songwriter Trevor Jackson, born just two weeks preceding Shakur’s death, Shakur set the stage for true activism through the arts.
“Aside from his music, the way he stood in his [actual] life, in interviews or just as a being, he stood his ground, and I feel like it’s so hard in this industry to do so,” Jackson said.
“I feel like he did that well, even though it came off sometimes maybe aggressive or disrespectful, you have to respect yourself first, and I feel like in this industry people try and put everyone before themselves, but if you aint straight, nothing you do is gon’ be straight,” he continued.
Jermel Howard, who plays Shakur’s step brother in the film, said that nowadays, it’s hard to identify artists in the hip-hop community who stand up for something meaningful. “You can’t really name four or five artists that you know would have stood up for anything. We know for a fact that Pac would have stood up for everything that’s going on right now as far as in the urban communities,” Howard said.
It’s quite clear that while perhaps a few scenes were utilized as creative fillers to add to the very decadence of Shakur’s legacy, several things are for sure as depicted in the film: Tupac was no dummy, he was wise beyond his years, and spoke his mind where it counted for a generation of Black people who didn’t have a voice.
Producer L.T. Hutton says he used the “Holy Trinity” concept to develop the film, including scenes that displayed “who 2Pac was, who he wanted to be, and who he had to be in order to survive the world he was introduced into”, he said. Hutton went on to say that the key takeaway lies in three things: inspiration, hope, and to take the excuses out of life. Hutton expressed, “One of my favorite poems is the ‘Rose that Grew from Concrete’, which is explaining that it doesn’t matter what your surroundings is, you can still do something beautiful, something great, in spite of.”
Tupac Amaru Shakur, simply known by the moniker 2Pac, went on to sell 75 million albums worldwide as of 2007, acted in at least 11 movies, and acquired numerous posthumous awards for his contribution the world as an activist, poet and music genius. “All Eyez on Me” hit theatres on June 16, 2017.