Tuesday, July 10, 2007

BIGGIE AND TUPAC - guns don't kill rappers, rozzers do

BIGGIE AND TUPAC is another of Nick Broomfield's investigative documentaries. As with KURT AND COURTNEY, his imagination has been caught by the infamous and officially unsolved fatal shooting of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls. The theory doing the rounds before the documentary was made was that Biggie and Tupac were caught in the cross-fire of an East coast/West coast gang war. The on-stage and on-record verbal histrionics - as a well as a punch-up at the MGM Grand - attested to the rivalry.

But Broomfield uncovers a more complicated truth. First off, neither Tupac nor Biggie were the ghetto thugs they pretended to be in their rap videos. Tupac attended a school for the performing arts and Biggie went to a private school. Both, however, were drawn to the "thug life" and "glamourised" their personal histories.

Second off, while the middle-class media might portray rap as the inspiration of all manner of social ills, it is clear that Tupac was himself influenced by gangster films. Still, he only started behaving like a violent mafiosi when he drifted into the orbit of record producer and alleged gangster, Suge Knight.

Third and most importantly, Broomfield uncovers what seems to be common knowledge on the streets of Compton. A number of people allege that Suge Knight killed Tupac to avoid paying him millions of dollars in royalties. He then arranged a hit on Biggie to make it seem like an East-West gang war. Knight was apparently able pull the double-hit off because he had a number of LAPD rozzers on his pay-role.

It's a fantastic and credible story, not least because Broomfield's witnesses aren't a bunch of nut-jobs, as in KURT AND COURTNEY, but an apparently honest cop and guilt-ridden middle-man. And I do rather like Broomfield's documentary style, which makes the difficulties in uncovering the story as much a part of the film as the final information itself. The most impressive example of this is Broomfield's final interview with Suge Knight in prison. Broomfield's normal cameraman is too fearful for his life to film Suge, so a free-lance photographer is brought in. The guy is so nervous he can barely keep the camera on the subject. This, more than any filmed interviews, is testament to the menacing power exerted by such men.

BIGGIE AND TUPAC went played Sundance and went on release in 2002. It is available on DVD.

No comments:

Post a Comment