Tupac: Resurrection Review
By Shawn McKenzie 11/14/2003
I’ve been a fan of Tupac Shakur for years, though I wouldn’t say I was an obsessive one. I own a few a few of his albums and I’ve seen a couple of his movies, but that’s about it. I’m not the type that gets into conspiracy theories, like that he staged his own death, a la Elvis Presley. I have had questions about the man, but I’ve never gone into great research to find the answers. Fortunately, the new documentary, Tupac: Resurrection, answers just about every question I might have had.
There have been many unauthorized movies about the life of Tupac, a.k.a. 2Pac, but this is the first one officially commissioned by his mother, Afeni Shakur. Tupac Amaru Shakur, born Lesane Parish Crooks, was born in 1971 to his Black Panther member mother. She had separated from his father while still pregnant. They moved all around the country, where he gained several musical influences. Many different artists, not just rap acts (Don McLean is mentioned several times), had influenced him. He was living the real “thug life” before being discovered by Shock-G of the group Digital Underground. His first taste of success was rapping on the Digital Underground song “Same Song” from the horrible 1991 movie Nothing But Trouble (which is where he also made his movie debut, in a cameo.) His first solo album, 2Pacalypse Now, came later that year. It didn’t garner any hits, but it sold decently, and it established his gangsta image. He had his first starring role in the 1992 movie Juice, followed by Poetic Justice a year later, both of which were praised by critics (I was in high school when they came out, but I remember liking both of them.) His second album, 1993’s Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z., had his first solo hits “I Get Around” and “Keep Ya Head Up.” It is around this time that he started getting into many legal scuffles. He was arrested after a fight with some police officers, served 15 days in jail for assaulting director Allen Hughes while filming the movie Menace II Society (which he was cut out of following the incident), and sentenced to 4 ½ years for sexually abusing a female fan (he only served eight months.) He began to start a dust-up with Sean “Puffy” Combs and the Notorious B.I.G., whom he accused as the people who orchestrated the shooting of him right before he began his eight-month jail stint. After getting out of jail, he signed with Death Row records and recorded his biggest hit, “California Love,” with Dr. Dre. In September of 1996, Tupac was leaving the Mike Tyson-Bruce Seldon fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas with Death Row Records label head Marion “Suge” Knight when they were the victims of a drive-by shooting. On September 13, 1996, he passed away at the age of 25, six days after the shooting.
The movie is structured very much in the way that last year’s The Kid Stays in the Picture was. They both overlap cutouts of the pictures of the subjects of the movie over archived footage. The main subjects of the movies narrate the movie themselves. The creepy thing though is that Tupac is dead and Picture’s Robert Evans is still alive. As I am writing this review, I am listening to Tupac’s Greatest Hits album, and I think I can understand how this narration came into existence. If you listen to some of his latter material, he predicted his own death. I don’t believe that he had a death wish, but I think he made a realization that his lifestyle would catch up with him eventually. The movie itself taps into his realization of this eventual occurrence. It only makes sense that he would have recorded a commentary on his life for a documentary he would have made himself some day.
It also answers the question many people have had (including me) about his post-mortem career: how has he released so much original material since his death? I’ll let the movie answer that question for you, but in my opinion, it is a satisfying answer.
Is the movie a gushy love letter to himself? No, fortunately it isn’t. While he does try to defend himself while discussing the negative aspects of his life, he also doesn’t hide from them. While it would have been interesting to see interviews from other people in his life (including his mother), I think it would have distracted from the flow of the movie. Lauren Lazin, a director for many projects for MTV and PBS, directed this film, and worked with Afeni to make a surprisingly balanced documentary.
If Tupac: Resurrection did anything, it reminded me of how much I actually did like his music, and how much potential was wasted. He wasn’t the first rapper to die of unnatural causes, but he was the first high profile rapper to die of gun violence. While there have been several rappers since to die of gun violence (including the Notorious B.I.G.), I think his death may have saved many others from the same fate by making them realize the dangers of their own lifestyles. If you are a fan of Tupac, or even if you want answers to the many questions about his life, check out this very interesting documentary.
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