Tupac Shakur Exhibit Opening: Chuck D, John Singleton, YG on Biopic, Hologram More

Chuck D and Cheo Coker

Chuck D and Cheo Coker at a Q&A session for the opening of the Grammy Museum exhibit “All Eyez on Me: The Writings of Tupac Shakur”

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'Tupac's soul would come back and haunt my ass if it wasn't done right,' Singleton says about taking his time with the film.

Tupac Shakur fans awaiting director John Singleton’s biopic about the late rapper may be waiting a bit longer.

That was one of several tidbits revealed during an illuminating panel session/Q&A (Feb. 2) kicking off the same-day opening of the Grammy Museum’s latest exhibit, All Eyez on Me: The Writings of Tupac Shakur. Singleton was part of a seven-member panel comprised primarily of collaborators and close friends of Shakur.

“I’m going to dodge that right now,” Singleton said when an audience member asked about the biopic’s status. “I’m a very passionate person who wants to make the movie I want to make. Tupac’s soul would come back and haunt my ass if it wasn’t done right. His journey was so specific, but it affected billions of people.”

Asked what it will take to make the right movie, Singleton — who directed Shakur in 1993’s Poetic Justice — replied, “It has to be as bold as him. There were things he did that some people were offended by and others not. His soul was so deep. But I don’t want to say anything else about this.”

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Another panelist, Public Enemy frontman Chuck D, wondered what Tupac would have thought about his hologram performing at the 2012 Coachella festival. “I don’t know if Pac would have been all right with that,” he said. “Would he have been smiling or swinging with a stick?” Earlier, to enthusiastic applause, Chuck D noted why there won’t be another Tupac Shakur: “It was his boldness, like with the single ‘Brenda’s Got a Baby.’ He was doing some mountain-moving shit with his words and movies.”

Given that Shakur’s former Death Row label boss Suge Knight — who was with Shakur when the rapper was murdered in a 1996 drive-by shooting — is currently in jail on a murder charge, it wasn’t surprising that a question was raised about Shakur’s Death Row ties. When another audience member asked panelist and Outlawz member Edidon what Shakur’s future plans were concerning his Death Row tenure and the rapper’s own Makaveli Records, Edidon gave a short, pointed answer. “I don’t like to get into what he had planned — he didn’t get to do it. But there was life after Death Row. Feel me.”

Among those joining Singleton, Chuck D and Edidon in sharing recollections and insights about Shakur’s life, legacy and influence were Digital Underground’s Money B (“All the people who loved Tupac also had to argue with him, or you didn’t really know him”), producer QD III (“He made you feel you could do anything when you were around him”) and rapper Ray Luv (“He wanted to be a voice for the lowest common denominator in our society”). Film and TV writer/producer Cheo Coker moderated.

Among the special guests in the audience: Shakur’s mother Afeni Shakur, sister Sekyiwa Shakur, stepbrother Mopreme Shakur and rapper YG. Brought onstage to talk about Shakur’s influence on his craft, YG noted, “If it’s not true, it won’t work.”

Encompassing everything from Shakur’s prolific writing of poetry and songs to his social consciousness, acting projects and hard-driving work ethic, the 90-minute program paralleled the Grammy Museum’s newly opened exhibit, All Eyez on Me: The Writing of Tupac Shakur. Coordinated by the museum’s associate curator Nwaka Onwusa, the exhibit features artifacts from his career breakthrough with Digital Underground through his fame as a solo artist. In addition to Shakur’s handwritten notes, lyrics and poems, the various displays include a Versace suit he wore at the 38th annual Grammy Awards in 1996, interviews and performance footage, and the original tape box and studio notes from his first recording after his prison release.

Working in cooperation with the Estate of Tupac Shakur, the Grammy Museum is the first music museum to focus squarely on Shakur’s creative legacy. “It’s about erasing pre-conceived notions that Tupac was just a gangsta or thug rapper,” says Onwusa. “He was so much more than that: a poet, screenwriter, entrepreneur and a businessman.”

All Eyez on Me: The Writings of Tupac Shakur will run through April 22.