There have been any number of documentaries about legendary rapper and urban poet Tupac Shakur, to the point where he had become one of the all-time favorite subjects of the musical documentary genre, but this one stands alone, and far above all the others. Why? Because this version managed to pull off the astonishing feat of having flawlessly convincing posthumous narration by the man himself.
By editing together old interviews and soundbytes, and occasionally repurposing a line by changing the context (e.g., the line ‘referring’ to his death, which obviously originally referred to the earlier shooting attack which he actually survived), they have woven together a seamless narrative on the man’s life, from his tragic ghetto upbringing, to his unpleasant experiences with the criminal justice system, to the undeserved flack he took at the time by misguided old-school moralists (as he puts it in the film, “I didn’t invent thug life…I diagnosed it”).
The narration technique is only made more potent by the fact that Shakur was a powerfully fatalistic man to begin with: the number of times he predicts his own downfall, and the accuracy with which he does so, is so uncanny it seems almost impossible outside of fiction—indeed, if the film were not narrated by the man himself years after his death, the filmmakers would probably have been accused of embellishing for effect.
This is one of the most fascinating and unique documentary films of the decade, arguably of all time, and it manages to make every other documentary about Shakur look utterly redundant. If you have any interest in the rap genre at all, it should be considered required viewing.
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