Tupac: Resurrection Movie Review
The answer, according to Lauren Lazin's documentary Tupac: Resurrection, is you struggle. The movie is not a glorified big screen version of Behind the Music, but a thoughtful and smart examination behind the street swagger and angry posturing that makes rap music so hated and so popular. Through interviews, photographs, and other footage, Tupac tells his story. The longer he talks the more one realizes how familiar his story sounds.
And that is the movie's biggest, most important strength. There is a prevalent ignorance that rap musicians -- specifically gangsta rappers -- step right out of the ghetto or prison and into the recording studio. Everyone in the rap community should be shaking Lazin's hand right now, because through one special example she explains the importance and purpose of rap music in universal, human terms.
Growing up poor in New York, Tupac explains to an interviewer that he was a quiet boy who liked to read, write poetry and watch television. He tells the interviewer about how watching Dif'rent Strokes he realized that if he could act like Gary Coleman, he could escape his environment, at least for a short while. "If I could act like (him), I could have some joy," Tupac says.
In Baltimore, he attends a prestigious performing arts school (with Jada Pinkett Smith) and gets "exposed to everything." But his home environment has not improved. He still lives in a ghetto and bemoans the fact that his school isn't teaching him "how to live." So, he moves off to California, where he encounters more poverty, lives on the streets and gets his paternal influence from drug dealers.
The following few years sound like a rejected movie script. Tupac gets hired as a roadie for Digital Underground (the guys behind "The Humpty Dance"), shows enough skills to rhyme with the crew and through dumber luck gets a record deal. He releases his first solo album and gradually becomes a superstar.
Even though Tupac says he is just telling the truth in his songs about street life, the troubles start and escalate -- problems with cops, sexual assault charges and an 11-month jail stint, a near fatal shooting, the ensuing East Coast-West Coast feud, and the pressures of being a young man who is an icon among millions both black and white. And that's only part of it, as we see a young man struggle with himself and the persona he projects as a poetic tough guy. "I didn't create T.H.U.G. life," Tupac says of his mantra, adding that it describes the urban disenfranchised rather than an actual gangster or hoodlum. But with his escapades and association with music industry heavyweight and convicted felon Suge Knight, one got the impression that Tupac was in no great hurry to shrug off this misconception. The controversy and the image are popular, so why not embrace it? If it's one thing we learn about Tupac is that the man was smart, fiercely opinionated on social issues, and a smidge paranoid - he made to sure to record three songs a day because he felt his days were numbered.
These kind of psychological contradictions make Tupac: Resurrection so compelling. Even if you don't agree with the lyrical content of Tupac's songs, the movie gives an idea of what's behind those words. Take away the typical lush life or hard life images you associate with rap, and Shakur's struggles are common. He died still figuring out who he wanted to be, though most everyone else already thought they had a pretty clear idea.
The DVD includes commentary by director Lauren Lazin, Tupac's mom, and "surprise guests" (read: lots of rap stars), plus deleted scenes (er, isn't this entire movie composed of deleted scenes?), interviews, and other oddities like a five-minute deposition from 1995 and a 30-second diatribe against bootlegging, delivered by Tupac's mother and her lawyer.
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