All Eyez on Me, a film about the life of rapper Tupac Shakur, was released June 16. (Photo via alleyezmovie Instagram)
To be misunderstood is to be human. Sometimes people fully display who they are. Other times, though, people only reveal parts of themselves, perhaps not wanting others to see them so fully. But in director Benny Boom’s All Eyez On Me, a biopic on Tupac Shakur, Tupac (played by Demetrius Shipp Jr.) is portrayed as fully as a human can be. The holes are there, but that’s part of the mystery.
The movie focuses on giving audiences a broader picture of Tupac, while also giving small pieces of Tupac’s persona. In doing this, the film begins with Tupac in jail, serving time for sexual abuse of a woman he previously had relations with. A fictional journalist (Hill Harper) who has no name interviews Tupac, and the movie uses the interview setting to flashback to events that have happened in Tupac’s life before he was put in jail.
The interviewer starts with Tupac’s childhood. Audiences can immediately see how Tupac learned from his late mother Afeni Shakur (Danai Gurira) and stepfather Mutulu Shakur (Jamie Hector), both who were Black Panthers. As the family is celebrating Christmas, the FBI storms into the home looking for Mutulu. Shortly after, Tupac, Afeni and Tupac’s younger sister flee to Baltimore. The FBI saw Mutulu as a black militant. But Afeni tells Tupac that Mutulu is a revolutionary.
“I’m gonna be a revolutionary,” a young Tupac says to Afeni as they prepare to travel to Baltimore.
And a revolutionary he was.
From being a backup dancer for rap group Digital Underground to being a pioneer for West Coast rap at Death Row Records, Tupac was focused on being a voice for black people, but when he focused on something else — even for just a bit — people would say he was contradicting himself.
They came out when Tupac made “I Get Around,” a song about him having sexual relations with many women. The song came off as misogynistic, a value that did not hold up with Tupac’s desire to change the world. They came up when Tupac got the infamous “Thug Life” tattoo, which is said in the movie to be an acronym that stands for “The Hate You Give Little Infants F*** Everybody.”
The tattoo wasn’t supposed to project a gangster lifestyle, one the media and others willingly projected onto Tupac. If anything, it was about Tupac wanting to be himself in a world where people are constantly pushed to be anything but themselves.
When Tupac was released from jail in the film, he rose as a rapper. He signed with Death Row Records, a label that Suge Knight (Dominic Santana) led. Tupac created “All Eyez On Me,” the first double disc album in rap history. In the movie, Tupac gives the album this name because he feels everyone is watching him.
Well, they were. They were waiting for him to contradict himself, to destroy himself. He didn’t, but could he have done some things differently? Yes, but everyone wants a redo at something.
That’s what “All Eyez On Me” does from beginning to end. It shows Tupac’s vices, how they affected him and his eventual death. But while showing his vices, they show his virtues, especially his compassion for people.
The film portrays Tupac as angry, volatile even. But it displays him as happy. It shows him being critical of himself and of society. Tupac was complicated — a true human. “All Eyez On Me” couldn’t have portrayed him any better.