Documentary on the deaths of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls and the East Coast/West Coast, hip-hop/rap rivalry that culminated in late 1996 and early 1997.Documentary on the deaths of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls and the East Coast/West Coast, hip-hop/rap rivalry that culminated in late 1996 and early 1997.Documentary on the deaths of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls and the East Coast/West Coast, hip-hop/rap rivalry that culminated in late 1996 and early 1997.
Documentarian Nick Broomfield is a one-man crew with this film, lugging around microphone, which is attached to a lengthy boom, as well as strapping himself of several recorders and mixers in order to capture and record audio, as well as his camera to document all the impromptu interviews he is obtaining with this project. He tirelessly works to interview people who knew Wallace and Shakur personally, as well as their family members, and even those attached to Bad Boy Records and Death Row Records, which were Wallace and Shakur's affiliated record companies, respectively. Broomfield tries to piece together a plausible thesis for who killed the men, which requires illustrating the popular East Coast/West Coast rivalry that took place in the 1990's and shocked the hip-hop/rap world raw, as well as illustrating the numerous South Central Los Angeles gangs such as the Crips, the Bloods, and the Pirus.
We learn that both Wallace and Shakur had incredibly different upbringings from not only each other, but the personas they adopted in their music. For example, Wallace was a well-off young black kid, who grew up on the good side of the neighborhood, as opposed to the bad side. He worked as a bagger in a grocery store for his teenage years, and made solid money doing it, all the while coming home to a loving mother by the name of Voletta Wallace, who he kept close to her until his death. Voletta states that, contrary to his son's lyrics that stated "there wasn't food on the table," "there was not one second where the wasn't food on the table (in my house)." Shakur's lifestyle was violent and unpredictable, with a crack-addicted mother he still lovingly cared for, and an unstable home that changed every few months. However, Shakur had clearly notable talents, which consisted of acting and impersonating to being able to rap tricky verses at impossible speeds. Both traits would lead to his success as a performer and an artist.
Broomfield relies on one key person to formulate his ideas about who killed Wallace and Shakur and that person is ex-LAPD officer Russell Poole, who has analyzed both cases for years and pieces together an interesting theory as to why the killers of the men had to be LAPD officers themselves. For one, Poole states that if the shootings were just basic gang violence, there's no way they'd still be unsolved today; they had to be clearly-orchestrated, well-planned shootings that could only be covered up by people in power. Another theory is that Death Row Records CEO Suge (pronounced "Shug") Knight had ordered Shakur killed because he was looking at other labels and also owed him $10 million in royalties.
Biggie & Tupac makes a compelling case for Knight and the LAPD's involvement in both murders, especially by detailing Knight's known history of manipulating and humiliating artists as well as the frightening aura Knight bears. When this film was made, Knight was serving prison time for probation violation, and even as he walks with a cane in a baby-blue prison jumpsuit, Knight is a frightening presence, not just because of the way he has been built up in this film before the interview is conducted, but just because of the way he seems to bleed authority, with his swagger and thick cigar. Even Broomfield's cameraman can barely keep the camera still when he sees him, fearing for what he may do - and he's in prison, I'll just remind you.
Biggie & Tupac is an intriguing, if admittedly speculative, documentary concerning two of the music industry's most intriguing icons and their untimely and extremely questionable deaths. Broomfield is a fine documentarian, conducting amateur, investigative journalism in a very do-it-yourself manner, which gives the film the idea of citizen action. Throw in an inherently interesting murder mystery about two already charismatic icons and you have a memorable music documentary where the music isn't the most entertaining part.
Directed by: Nick Broomfield.
- Jun 15, 2014