History won’t soon forget Tupac Shakur. The brightest star of West Coast hip-hop scene (even though he was born in New York City), Shakur helped make hip-hop a mainstream cultural staple whose impact goes beyond popular music into art, fashion, media, sport, and politics in the ’90s. Born to Afeni Shakur, a former member of the Black Panther party who was accused of plotting to blow up department stores in 1969, Tupac Shakur had activism in his blood (and in some of his music). He was a poet and an art school kid who trained in Baltimore as an actor and dancer while growing up. Shakur would have loved to see the fruits of his labor and the broad spread of his influence because it surely matched his own ambitions, but he was shot dead at the age of 25 in September of 1996 just before, as co-star and friend Marlon Wayans explained to ESPN, he had the chance to undergo a great shift.
“I think Pac was about to come to his come-to-Jesus moment where he actually became the philanthropist and the teacher that he honestly could have and should have been.”
As an actor, Shakur ached to be challenged and avoid standard issue “crazy fool with a gun” bad guy roles. His work as Bishop in Juice and Lucky in Poetic Justice revealed captivating potential. But it’s in Above The Rim where the power of his acting talent, influence, and experience was most clearly evident as the film effortlessly merged basketball culture, ’90s gangsta rap and G-funk (by way of its landmark soundtrack), and a fresh take on being caught between an abundance of choices.