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‘All Eyez on Me: The Writings of Tupac Shakur’ Exhibit Review

Ashley Velez |
February 3, 2015 | 3:50 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

A childhood photo of Tupac Shakur and his siblings sits in the new Grammy Museum exhibit. (Ashley Velez/Neon Tommy)
A childhood photo of Tupac Shakur and his siblings sits in the new Grammy Museum exhibit. (Ashley Velez/Neon Tommy)
Grammy season is underway but something feels like it is missing. The missing piece becomes painfully evident after taking a look the quality of Hip-hop nominations, or lack thereof. A nostalgic feeling hits the heart of any die-hard Hip-hop fan when projects like Iggy Azalea’s, “The New Classic,” get nominated for categories like Rap Album of the Year. That feeling of nostalgia represents a longing for better days, when poets like Tupac Amaru Shakur graced the rap game with their passions and politics. 

Despite the feelings of discontent that have swept across the Internet about this year’s nominations, the Grammy Foundation found a way to honor a portion of what many fans consider to be a Hip-hop Holy Grail in the brand new exhibit, “All Eyez on Me: The Writings of Tupac Shakur.”

The collection opened on Monday and sits on the fourth floor of the Grammy Museum. It is hard to ignore the rather limited space of the arrangement compared to some of the museum’s other exhibits, but the modest space packs a powerful punch. The museum gives visitors access to Shakur’s handwritten notes, lyrics and poems, as well as clothing worn by the Grammy nominated rapper, interviews and performance footage. 

Shakur’s estate and QD3 Entertainment provided a majority of the display material. Despite the array of personal items, the handwritten notes and drawings tell visitors more about the late rapper than their accompanying pieces.

“We really wanted to do something that represented him beyond this gangsta rapper, thug rapper,” says Nwaka Onwusa, Grammy Museum Associate Curator. “There’s so much more to Tupac than what the media has portrayed him as or what people may know him as.”

The notebook covers and pages contain scribbles and drawings that are impossible to ignore. One of the most distinct items on display is the royal blue, spiral-bound, notebook that Shakur used to pen his debut studio album, “2Pacalypse Now.” Under writing that reads, “Underground Railroad,” sits a hand-drawn image of a gun, outlined by the words “90’S N.I.G.G.A.” Shakur turned the historically derogatory term into an acronym standing for, “Never Ignorant Getting Goals Accomplished,” in an effort to reclaim the word. 

Onwusa found this to be especially important while curating the exhibit, due to the widespread misunderstanding of Shakur’s “THUG LIFE” narrative and tattoo, which was an acronym for “The Hate U Gave Little Infants F**cks Everybody.” 

(Ashley Velez/Neon Tommy)
(Ashley Velez/Neon Tommy)

The phone numbers and notes on the page corners humanized the talented poet, adding to the idea that his pen and pad were his constant companions, while everything else sat on the other side of the margin. 

The curator made a careful decision to also highlight Shakur’s early relationship with the fallen New York rapper, Christopher Wallace or “The Notorious B.I.G.” Visitors can watch and listen to Shakur and Wallace laugh and genuinely enjoy each other’s freestyles and company before their relationship took a tragic turn. 

“We want to break down that stereotype of him having all these beefs and not making amends.” says Onwusa. “We’re not getting into that but the fact that they were friends, had a chance to sit down at a table and freestyle… beautiful.”

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Shakur’s screenplay and business plan sketches help paint a vivid and multidimensional picture of the socially conscious poet. His most celebrated songs play in the background of the exhibit, while some of his most powerful lyrics decorate the borders of the walls and television screens. 

There are no plans to expand the exhibit, which will remain open to the public until April 22. 

Regardless of the size, the most important part of the exhibit is that it exists. Hip-hop has paved its way in to a historical museum, and Shakur lives through his writings, the most integral piece of the collection.

Reach Staff Reporter Ashley Velez here. Follow her on Twitter here



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