When the results of Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chuck Philips’s investigation into the ties between the Tupac Shakur and Christopher “Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace murders were published in the Los Angeles Times on September 6, documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield couldn’t have asked for better publicity. As a piece of investigative reporting, Biggie & Tupac is more earnest than Broomfield’s spiteful yet equally provocative Kurt & Courtney. Endlessly fascinated with the more devastating aspects of American pop celebrity, Broomfield has a way of using his deceptively sheepish British persona to wring answers from his scared subjects. No matter how weighty the subject matter, his projects feel less like documentaries than they do comedies. If Philips’s investigation pinpointed both the actual trigger man in the Tupac murder and Wallace’s possible involvement, Broomfield’s focus is much wider. More than tracing the roots of the East Coast/West Coast flame wars back to the ghettos of Los Angeles, Broomfield discovers and celebrates the subversive link between Hip-Hop music and the Black Panther movement. Slowly but surely, Broomfield pulls out his trump card: the possibility that members of the LAPD were involved in the Tupac and Wallace murders. Back in 1992, Dan Quayle’s racist crusade for “family values” accused Time Warner and Ice T’s “Cop Killer” of celebrating the death of police officers. Quayle’s inability to see the link between Ice T’s song and the legacy of slavery and white aggression in America was his white man’s burden. Curiously and ironically, Quayle launched his fight some three months after the Los Angeles riots and while Broomfield doesn’t address the three-day revolt in South Central he does expose an incestuous connection between Los Angeles gangs and police officers and, more importantly, the LAPD and members of Death Row records. After countless cable specials on the subject, Biggie & Tupac’s greatest achievement may be that it tells us something that most of us didn’t already know. Chuck Philips may have found Tupac’s killer but Broomfield may have found Wallace’s. More importantly, though, he reveals an ironic manifestation of institutionalized slavery that ties a black-owned record label with a white-empowered police force.
- Lions Gate Films
- 107 min
- Nick Broomfield
- The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac Shakur, Marion "Suge" Knight
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