In honour of Tupac, I’m writing this piece
‘Bout a lil’ bit of his history and All Eyez on Me.
We start at the beginning, when he’s in the womb
And eventually end up in the courtroom, the tomb
Then we see how his career blooms
And all the stories that are picked up by the newsrooms.
But we need to take a breath and start in the classroom.
It’s where his mother put a lot of emphasis,
Teaching him a good education will have a lot of benefits
To give him the voice to inspire his people’s persistence, resistance
Because they have faced struggles since Genesis.
His eloquence and excellence inspired by Shakespeare,
But that never stopped society to fear, sneer, and steer clear.
But his flow never stopped at each premiere
Of every movie, every album that people consume
Each track and thing he says becoming evidence in the courtroom.
Prejudice against him becoming more prevalent
And this feeling of helplessness, reaching the precipice
But Pac’s music is light years ahead and mentions the elephants
That others are worried will create tension, “It’s too much recklessness!”
But his life influences his flow – severe, sincere – no silence
It’s all at the height of his excellence, revered by his peers
When he uses his intelligence to created a rap frontier.
Hope you enjoyed that rap, but since I can’t actually review the entire film in rap form (because I don’t have the flow of Tupac), I’m switching to a medium that I’m more comfortable with. I’ll start off by saying that All Eyez on Me is a movie for the fans, not critics. Because it’s been a long time coming that the fans are finally getting a movie about Tupac Shakur, a master of his flow and controversial for his rivalry with The Notorious B.I.G. I’ll be the first to tell you that I know very little about Tupac and his life, so watching the film was a new experience for me. (I’m totally not the target demographic for this film. I know this. And if you read my byline, you can safely make this assumption as well. I won’t be offended.) I’m not that familiar with his music, yet I respect and can appreciate the messages in any of his raps – the lyrics are a powerful depiction of his life and the struggles that he’s gone through. It’s raw, real, and smooth.
Unfortunately, I can’t use any of those words to describe this film. All Eyez on Me, the album, is one of the most acclaimed records of the 1990s, but All Eyez on Me, the movie, doesn’t stand up to the album it’s named after. While I can appreciate that Tupac’s life was filled with important milestones, both personally and professionally, I wasn’t a fan of the way the film structured those life events. The first half of the (unnecessarily long) film jumps back and forth between the early years of his life and his time at the Clinton Correctional Facility. Flashbacks can sometimes be very effective to tell a story, but in All Eyez on Me they are more distracting than anything.
The latter half of the biopic really gets into the height of his career and the East Coast-West Coast Hip Hop Rivalry between Death Row Records and Bad Boy Records. If you’re not familiar with the rivalry or didn’t really follow Tupac or Biggie’s careers, then you might be confused about how things unfolded. In general, there’s little explanation provided about any of Tupac’s relationships with other people or milestones in his life. And that’s just an overarching problem of the entire film. Unlike Tupac’s music, there was absolutely no flow between scenes and the entire film just seemed too sporadic with no real sense of direction of how the it should progress.
One redeeming factor of All Eyez on Me is the casting and acting. Demetrius Shipp Jr. was a very convincing Tupac and I was especially fond of Danai Gurira, who played Tupac’s mother. The scenes where she’s mentoring Tupac and telling him that his voice is important were some of the strongest moments in the film, but again, those moments are over before we even get a chance to fully digest the significance of them. Special shout out to Jarrett Ellis, who gave a hilariously accurate portrayal of Snoop Dogg, getting his mannerisms just right, even down to the calm, slow way he speaks.
But in general, All Eyez on Me doesn’t do Tupac’s career or life justice. If you really wanted to learn about Tupac and understand his journey, you’d be better off just listening to his entire discography and paying attention to his lyrics (and maybe read some Shakespeare on the side since Tupac admired the playwright so much). But then again, if you’re a real fan of Tupac you shouldn’t really care about this review. You’ll still be able to appreciate what the film is trying to say, which is that Tupac was one of the best hip-hop artists ever and that it’s due time that there was a movie that showcased that, even if it’s flawed.