Do you have your own theories about who killed Biggie and Pac? For years, Tupac Shakur has been the hip-hop community’s Elvis in terms of the conspiracies surrounding his death. Many still believe Shakur is somewhere in Cuba with his aunt Assata. Old heads in barbershops across America swear that his body wasn’t in the casket, that his funeral wasn’t open to the public, and that he faked his death like Niccolò Machiavelli (there’s no proof that Machiavelli either faked or suggested faking his death, fyi, btw) only to return to bomb on his enemies. These types of conspiracy theories don’t surround the death of the Notorious B.I.G. Maybe that’s because we all saw his casket ride down St. James Place in Bed-Stuy, or maybe it’s because we were sure Biggie’s death was in retaliation to Pac’s murder.
By now you’ve probably watched the painfully-mid biopics Notorious and All Eyez on Me (we deserve better) and we got better—somewhat—with USA’s first season of their true crime anthology series Unsolved. Trust me, I’ve watched the first four episodes. The Murders of Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. goes in a different direction than those horrible biopics I mentioned. Instead of focusing on the lives of the two rap superstars, the series delves into the investigations surrounding their murders while checking in on Biggie and Pac as they each tried to navigate their respective meteoric rises and the pressures that came with that sort of thing. Notorious and All Eyez on Me only covered the main bullet points of their lives and careers, there was no substance really. Unsolved delves deep into the investigations of their murders and sheds a light on how difficult it's been to solve this two-decade-old case, and hints at a cover-up by the LAPD.
The filmmakers try to show how their friendship started and how it began to slowly deteriorate due to ego and paranoia. I also dig how they seamlessly transition from the original investigation to when the case was reopened about a decade later in 2006. This all makes for good television, mainly because they have some good people involved in the project.
Overall, the acting is greatHood cinema staples like Bokeem Woodbine (Strapped, Crooklyn, Jason’s Lyric, and Dead Presidents) and Omar Gooding (Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper, Smart Guy, and Baby Boy) play LAPD cops, the former legit, the former dirty. Wendell Pierce of Bunk from the Wire fame plays a hard ass cop that likes to do things the old-fashioned way while Josh Duhamel plays Detective Greg Kading who heads up the unit tasked to solving Big and Pac’s murders 10 years later. Then there are the multiple black directors at the helm, most notably, Ernest R. Dickerson who directed Tupac in his breakout role in 1992’s Juice. So I feel like, as a culture, we have to support a project like this. Hopefully, one day someone will get the chance to do Tupac and Biggie justice like they did Ray Charles and Johnny Cash.
It’s OK to be skeptical. I was, too. The third episode, in particular, is the one that got me. It starts off with David Mack (played by Gooding) effortlessly robbing a bank of $700,000. And it just so happens that Mack is an LAPD officer with ties to both the Bloods and Suge Knight. When Detective Russell Poole (played by Jimmi Simpson) makes this connection, he’s told by his boss to back off. I’ve heard these stories, watched numerous documentaries on this very subject, and am old enough to remember when Big and Pac died, but it’s still very interesting to see these things play out in cinematic form.
I’m not sure if the series will end with some kind of conclusion. However, what we do know is that the real Russell Poole retired from the LAPD in 1999 because they took him off David Mack’s case and was still investigating the murders of Big and Pac until his untimely death at the age of 58. Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G. is a good show and you should give it a spin. You won’t be disappointed. There are five episodes left; there’s still time.