Tupac Shakur is hip-hop’s greatest gift to the world. In 2015, one year shy of the 20th anniversary of his death, the icon’s legacy will reach a cultural climax.
Kicking things off, today marks the 23rd anniversary of Juice, a film where ‘Pac’s breakout role as “Bishop” had both Hollywood and the streets clamoring for more of his magnetic presence. Released in 1992 when urban movies were blossoming, Juice was gritty, steeped in hip-hop and a perfect platform for an aspiring teenage actor like ‘Pac to showcase his natural acting chops.
Two weeks from now, the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles opens All Eyez On Me: The Writings Of Tupac Shakur, an intimate exhibit sanctioned by Afeni Shakur. “Tupac Shakur was one of the most original and important of all hip-hop artists. His writings are both powerful and provocative,” Grammy Museum Executive Director Robert Santelli said in a statement. “It is an honor to be the first music museum to acknowledge Tupac’s legacy and to bring context to what was an incredible career.” From February 2 to April 22, the exhibit will feature ‘Pac’s handwritten notes, lyrics and poems, interviews and performance footage plus outfits he wore (like the Versace suit he rocked to the 1996 Grammy Awards).
“It means a lot to me that Bob Santelli and the Grammy Museum have chosen to honor my son with their upcoming exhibit of his works,” Afeni says. “Tupac’s writings are an honest reflection of his passions for, and about life. His timeless messages have instilled hope for those who have little, and for others, they serve as a catalyst for change. His words continue to motivate and inspire new generations.”
While numerous films and documentaries have been dedicated to the memory of ‘Pac—with Afeni’s Tupac: Resurrection from 2003 the absolute standout—this year we’ll see the first biopic based on his life. Nervous fans, including myself, are keeping a hawk eye on the developments surrounding TUPAC (working title) to be directed by his real-life collaborator, John Singleton. I interviewed the film’s co-producer LT Hutton last year about the project, who calls ‘Pac “America’s son” and vows to do his legacy justice. “There is no way I would let this film go out without doing the greatest service that I possibly could for the respect of the culture and this man,” Hutton says.
After numerous false starts, the biopic (Afeni is now on board with extensive creative control after going to court a number of years back with the film’s initial producers) is finally set to begin production in June. A release date is yet to be confirmed.
If you look at the social media accounts of today’s most popular female stars (Rihanna, Lauren London and countless others) no other male sex symbol from the hip-hop generation is shown as much love as ‘Pac. He’ll forever embody that unicorn-like creature women look for, a handsome rebel with intelligence, street smarts and a social conscious. His equally as passionate male fans (J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Freddie Gibbs and more) look up to a leader who was openly defiant and sensitive. Rap acts before and after haven’t captured the global audience the way he did and his influence and social reach are untouchable to this day, hence the importance of this upcoming biopic. As Hutton says, “This is not the LT Hutton story. This is not the Morgan Creek story. This is not the John Singleton story. It is the Tupac Shakur story. His voice has to be heard, and only his voice. Tupac wrote this movie.”