Everybody’s A Critic: Why the Life of Tupac Shakur cannot be Contained in Two Hours

by Dom Jones

I was young when he passed away, but his impact on culture was pervasive enough that I was a fan, so when I heard tell of a biopic coming out, I blocked out all of the reviews, and went to see it of my own volition and on my own terms. Tupac Shakur’s life was complicated before he was even born. His mother, Afeni Shakur, was a part of the Panther 21, which meant she spent the majority of her pregnancy in prison – fighting a court case as her own representation – and was eventually acquitted. Tupac was born just a month later. Because the movie is fairly new, I don’t want to necessarily review it because I don’t want to give it all away for those who have yet to see it, but here are some reasons that this Tupac movie was going to displease many people.

Short Life, Long Legacy

He only lived to see 25 years old, but everybody knows who Tupac is, from children to older folks who never were into hip-hop like that. He was so talented and so distinct that whether you love or hate him, you acknowledge him, even in death. Think about it: 5 studio albums, 5 posthumous albums, 44 singles, 75 million records sold worldwide, his music sold so well that Forbes published an article in 2011 entitled, Tupac Shakur Earning Like He’s Still Alive,” six films, television appearances, and countless features on other artist’s songs and movie soundtracks. This was all by the age of 25. Of Tupac, legendary musician, producer, and composer Quincy Jones said:

“The tragedy of Tupac is that his untimely passing is representative of too many young black men in this country….If we had lost Oprah Winfrey at 25, we would have lost a relatively unknown, local market TV anchorwoman. If we had lost Malcolm X at 25, we would have lost a hustler named Detroit Red. And if I had left the world at 25, we would have lost a big-band trumpet player and aspiring composer–just a sliver of my eventual life potential.”

Afeni Shakur passed away before the film was released

Even though this film was being made without the main character’s input, Afeni’s presence offered some security that the film would be done right. She was and had always been very protective of her son’s memory, legacy, and art. With her gone, and someone who was not a relative named as executor of the estate, one could assume that all hell was going to break loose. In a letter posted on AllHipHop.com, Outlawz member Young Noble talks about the behind the scenes drama of bringing this life story to the masses through film. There were legal problems from the beginning, information was allegedly withheld from Afeni by those who were supposed to be protecting her in her efforts to protect Tupac’s story. Others who knew him, most notably Jada Pinkett-Smith, have popped up as critics of the film’s accuracy as well, which one would think would be mitigated by Afeni’s presence.

Two hours just isn’t long enough

Not for a comprehensive film about a rap legend’s life. Ali was almost three hours (and Muhammad Ali was alive during the making of the film), Ray was almost three hours (and Ray Charles was alive during the making of the film), Malcolm X was three and a half hours (and it was based on his autobiography). Not only did the three aforementioned films have the direct input of the main character, these films were long enough for the audience to get a satisfying glimpse of what life was like for the main character. Someone on a Facebook thread I started about the film mentioned a gaping hole in the film that I hadn’t even noticed. One of Tupac’s most notable roles (Poetic Justice) was completely left out of the movie. This is likely in great part due to the fact that John Singleton, who directed Poetic Justice, also wanted to direct Tupac’s biopic, but quit or was fired, depending on who you ask.

Ultimately, the making of All Eyez On Me seems to have become a tug-of-war of politics about who deserved to tell Tupac’s story, rather than the fact that Tupac’s story deserved to be thoroughly and accurately told. And at that point… the movie was already doomed.


About the Author

Dom Jones is a dual major in Music Business and Songwriting, and her work has been published in Huffington Post, Teen Vogue, Blavity and Ebony.com. She released her debut album, Wingspan, in 2014 and her follow up EP, Blackbird in 2016. Find out more about her at iamdomjones.com