Tuesday, February 15, 2011

InstaRapFlix #33: Tupac: Uncensored and Uncut: The Lost Prison Tapes

Here's one that doesn't suck! Ha ha That feels like a relief to say considering how many InstaRapFlix entries have been pure dreck. I try to check for the rarest and most overlooked, obscure hip-hop films, and I wind up discovering that they're not rare or passed over enough! And this one could've easily been the same... How many bajillion caash-in 2Pac releases have their been since the man died? Countless. And, in all honestly, this is sort of a cheap cash-in, too. But that's okay, because it's actually pretty good. So Tupac: Uncensored and Uncut: The Lost Prison Tapes (Netflix rating 3 stars) gets a pass.

So, what've we got here? Well, the title (a title with 2 subtitles separated by colons seems a little out of control, by the way, but we'll let that go) is a little misleading. I mean, it is 2Pac, and he is in prison. But the title suggests these are some kind of important tapes 2Pac somehow managed to record while in prison... like a mini self-doc or a secret message covered up by the FBI. I mean, you'd have to be pretty naive if you thought you're gonna wind up solving 2Pac's murder by picking up this DVD at Walmart; but nonetheless, this title definitely suggests and promises (but does not deliver) more than a single, sit-down interview of 'Pac promoting his latest album to some random journalist. And I don't know what could be "lost" about this prison tape, except that maybe the journalist put it in his closet and forgot about it until 2Pac died and became more marketable.

But it certainly is uncut, however. When a poster falls over, we watch as they stop, turn around, and stand it back up. When the cameraman zooms in to find focus, that's left in the film for us to see. There is really zero editing whatsoever except to put little title graphics at the beginning and end. This is just a single the interview tape uploaded directly into the computer from the camera, unaltered.

Wait a minute... I said this was good, though, didn't I? Yet I'm making it sound almost as bad as Lil Jon: Uncensored. But here's the thing: in this age where every rap interview is a repetitive, minuscule soundbite, this is actually a straight-up, unfiltered interview without a million cuts, computer effects, and all the substance removed. If you want to hear 2Pac speak for himself, at reasonable length and be able to make your own judgements, then here it is. Where most of these low-budget rap DVDs are a lot of bullshit trying desperately to cover up the fact that they have no substance (for example, see Trick Daddy: Thug Holiday Uncut, this is a DVD with just the substance. How refreshing. :)

Now that it's amazingly deep. When the interviewer keeps asking him about 'Pac's Thug Life ethos versus crime and community standards, 'Pac acquits himself reasonably well (though when he says he fails to see how he glamorized thug life, I couldn't decide if he was being deliberately obtuse or borderline retarded), but ultimately we're just left with the sense of folly in asking a musician about weighty issues that are clearly outside of his expertise. The whole interview is only forty-minutes (what, you expected feature-length?), and a lot of the time is devoted to stating the obvious - 'he loves his fans and thinks they shouldn't shoot people and generally do what they can to avoid going to prison' sums up the majority of it. Finally, it ends with him rapping along to a walkman of his latest song "Can U Get Away," which wouldn't've even been an exciting preview back in 1995 when it was filmed, because Me Against the World was already out.

Still, 'Pac is engaged, and has thoughtful answers to every question. Personally, I would've liked some more questions about his music; and it feels like a missed opportunity to find out some new info about him as opposed to rehashing his generic talking points (the interviewer actually asks him if he feels sorrow for mothers who lost their sons to violence... is there anyone on Earth who would actually have to hear his answer to that to know what it would be?), but maybe that's just me. It's certainly worth watching as a free instant viewing if you care at all about 2Pac. But don't go overboard and buy this DVD unless you're a die-hard fan who has his posters covering all four walls of your room, because I doubt you're going to want to revisit this multiple times. It's a good interview, not a great film.

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