Tupac: Resurrection

Guess who's got a messiah complex?

Well, it's not Tupac, because he's dead. But the makers of the documentary Tupac: Resurrection do go out of their way to portray him as such. I thought I would gain a newfound appreciation for his music, but I just watched an intelligent young man killed in his prime. And I don't feel sorry for him.

Let's start from the beginning. Tupac: Resurrection is a documentary from Paramount subsidiary MTV Films, about the life and death of rapper Tupac Amaru Shakur. It's "gimmick" is that Tupac himself narrates the movie, even though he was killed in September of 1996. The voiceover is culled from the numerous interviews he gave throughout his career, and is actually pretty effective in giving the film a base in reality. When you hear the subject of a documentary describing the events of his life, its way more effective than a disembodied voice staple like Bill Curtis or James Earl Jones.

I won't get into the whole story of Tupac's life here, as that's what the movie's for. To sum up, he came from humble beginnings, worked his way into the rap industry, and became a self-made millionaire. Unlike many other celebrities, though, Tupac felt a strong need to give back to his community, and was unafraid to call out others who didn't. He did time, he faced racial discrimination, he was wildly successful, and now, over 8 years after his death, he's still one of the most popular rappers in the world.

Personally, I'm pretty picky when it comes to rap music. I like the stuff that falls outside of the norm, like De La Soul, The Roots and Outkast. When I hear some generic rapper going on and on about how much money he has, or how many girls he has, etc. etc., I just get bored. I like my music with lyrics that matter, whatever the genre. Throughout this film, Tupac states his noble intentions over and over, that he wants to end the violence, cleans up the streets, give African Americans a chance to succeed. In fact, most of Tupac: Resurrection is spent trying to convince the viewer that he was a man on a mission, namely helping his fellow man. As his career progresses, though, he seems to be more focused on money, and dissing his former friend, Biggie Smalls. As shown in the movie, he cut a record bragging about having slept with Biggie's wife, then he goes on MTV with Snoop and says the media has blown the East Coast-West Coast beef out of proportion? It's hypocrisy.

There's a couple examples of this in Tupac: Resurrection, but since the filmmakers are so interested in portraying Tupac in a positive light, they're not really discussed. After an women's group protests his (and other rappers) excessive use of "bitch" to describe a female, Tupac goes out his way to explain that not every woman is a bitch, just some of them. This sounds rational enough, until you hear the lyrics of his song (in the next scene, no less!), which are more or less:
"To my bitches on welfare, Tupac understands you, don't nobody else understand you."

To me, this context does not seem to fit his rationale. Oh well. Also, later in the film, after he starts to become a little paranoid that something might happen to him, he says he feels trapped, and he whines a little. Well, engaging in numerous battles with a lot of prideful angry men is a good way to trap yourself, I would say. His murder in unsolved, and will likely remain so indefinitely, but I can't help but feel he brought his tragic end upon himself.

I know that's harsh. What do I know? I'm a white kid from the suburbs. To see Tupac's drop from his idealistic freedom fight, to pretty bickering with another rapper eventually resulting in his death? That's not martyrdom, that's just sad. Nobody deserves to die in the manner he did, and I'm not trying to be cruel here, but the film only presents one side of the story. I don't blame them for that, I mean, would a biography of George W. Bush financed by the GOP highlight his booze and coke days down in Texas? Hell no. So to the detractors of Fahrenheit 9/11 who denounced it as one-sided: you're right. Duh. But so is Tupac: Resurrection, and it got an Oscar nod.

What I would like to see is a doc about the roots of violence in rap music. Why is so cool? Hey, check me out, I have a gun, and you don't. It sounds like the NRA, which would probably lambast any rapper who claimed allegiance to them. Sigh. Anyway, what I got is Tupac: Resurrection, which, while entertaining, did not provide me with the in-depth look into the WHY of Tupac's demise. And I think that WHY is the crucial question for a documentary, so this one gets a C.


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