Biggie And Tupac Cover
Music and crime are strange bedfellows, aren't they. One is a form of entertainment that can move your soul. While the other one is a devilish deed that is spiteful and cruel. Well, that is what Nick Broomfield found out whilst making this 104 minute documentary on rival rappers, Biggie and Tupac. He made it in 2002.

Biggie And Tupac

Christopher Wallace (The Notorious B.I.G.) and Tupac Shakur (Tupac), were two rival black rappers, both gunned down during their musical prime. Biggie represented the East Coast, while Tupac the West Coast -- and together -- they are strangely linked by there respective deaths.

And why is that? Well, that particular question is what Nick Broomfield tries to answers within this documentary, chronicling their lives and their deaths.

TUPAC: Tupac was born in Harlem - he was estranged from his father - and his Mother had her own dubious connections with drugs and the Black Panther movement. Nevertheless, at an early age, Tupac still managed to utilized his natural charisma, and enrolled himself into 127th Street Repertory Ensemble, in which he developed his craft as a poet / rapper as well as his mimicry skills of those who he admired.

Now it is pretty safe to say that gangsters were a particular creed of being that took Tupac’s fancy, and this attraction helped him develop his music, plus progress his image through the music business till he met the like-minded producer of 'Death Row Records', Suge Knight.

Tupac hit new heights with Suge, because it enhanced his already existing gangster image, whilst at the same time giving him the gumption to delve into a laborious rapping regime that caused him trouble on a personal and physiological level. However, this all ended the night that a gunman’s bullet made him sing no more.

BIGGIE: Christopher Wallace was born in Brooklyn with an adoring mother - and brought up with a good code of ethics. He started his music career backing Tupac on stage, and, over time, like Tupac, gained a reputation as a loving performer and a talented artist.

'Biggie' put his Mother in one of his own music videos – and he respected his piers and his mentor, Pyffy Combs too. ;But alas, like Tupac again, he marginalized his upbringing, and conveyed to the public that his own beginnings were somewhat dubious - pretending that he had it harder than he did.

Now another thing that Christopher had in common with Tupac, was the way that he died - again, with a gunman’s bullet.

THE CONSPIRACY: Now the official police stance in Biggie and Tupac's deaths; was that Biggie arranged Tupac’s murder due to a dispute between their rival record labels, and that Biggies’s death was as a retaliation to this grisly deed. However, ex-cop, Russell Poole, knows better and he explains to Nick – after a couple of lawyerly fall starts – how the deaths of these two rappers was orchestrated by Suge Knight.

Cautiously, another more maverick cop substantiates this fact some time later, called Kevin Hackie. But its not only Hackie and Poole who help Nick develop this conspiracy theory, oh no, there’s also a number of other people whom corroborate their tale - such as colleges, friends, felons, and eye witnesses too - all making this conspiracy more than just a work of idol minds.

And, prey-tell, what is this tale? Well, it appears that Suge initially devised a scheme to set up a rivalry between his own record label, Death Row Records, and Biggies label, managed by Puffy. And then, when Tupac was threatening to leave Suge, he hired a number of ex-cops (who are named) to kill Tupac, and then Biggie, as if it was a retaliation.

Now what does Suge think about all of this? Nothing - as he is in jail for another crime. And his motive? Cash of course. Though money does not buy the loss of a son, and Biggies Mum - Marcia Wallace - is now working with Russell Pool to find the murderer of her son, as well as a dubious connection with the FBI, who where tailing Biggie and Tupac prior to their deaths.

Nick Broomfield does it again. He is able to entertain and inform us – the viewer – in yet another documentary, which he bumbles around in, picks up clues, and presents to us a slice of life wrapped within a sad tale of music, mystery, and mirth.

Biggie and Tupac
Now the structure of Nick’s chronicling is somewhat jumbled, plus on top of that, it unravels itself in a rather natural way that just defies belief. The pretext is set (Biggie and Tupacs deaths) – the background laid (their respective origins) – and from then on in, we are next driven down a long and winding road filled with bold characters, and revealing revelations.

All the people that Nick gets to interview – from Biggies Mother, Marcia, to the crooked accountant – come across as sincere in their words and honest in their tone. Granted, the odd one or two do come across as somewhat jovial – like Kevin Hackie or the gang-bang Latino girl. Nevertheless, Nick’s case is presented in a revealing and logical way, which I am sure now has legs to stand on for further investigations.

Biggie And Tupac

Now on a side note, I know that some of the subjects touched upon, was just that – touched. And am sure that they could have all been expanded in more detail. Though, I surmise the reason why Nick did not do this, is because this would have diverted away from the central core of the film – Biggie and Tupac’s deaths.

These ‘subjects’ which I am refereeing to, are the FBI stance in subverting the black’s race with dissension, as well as the whole Compton ghetto environment that Suge and one of the killers came from.

Personally speaking, I find that these pertinent issues could have given this documentary a much more fuller understanding in the background to these related people / institutions. Saying that though, I understand why it was left out - too much can sometimes be too much - and dilute the overall  through-line. Right Nick?

Good documentary. And it is highly recommended to those who like rapping, black American culture, or a murder-mystery. Make music online.


BIGGIE & TUPAC BIGGIE & TUPAC Reviewed by David Andrews on February 17, 2011 Rating: 5
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