Tupac Shakur was arguably as good an actor as he was an MC. Through six motion picture roles, ‘Pac shared the screen with Oscar-nominated actors Tim Roth, Mickey Rourke, Oscar winner Adrien Brody, and starred in a film by Oscar-nominated director, John Singleton. Unlike the droves of rapper-turned-actors who followed in his footsteps, he was never typecast—playing formidable villains (Juice, Above the Rim), a postal clerk (Poetic Justice), a heroine-addicted musician (Gridlock’d) and a crooked cop (Gang Related). Though ‘Pac showed range on the screen, he’ll forever be remembered for his two most gangsta roles: Bishop—a rebel without a cause in Juice and Birdie—a notorious drug kingpin—in Above the Rim. Sadly, the rebellious MC’s riveting on-screen performances may have turned into a case of life imitating art.
The release of Juice in 1992—’Pac’s movie debut—coincides with the beginning of the rapper’s perpetual legal woes. He’d been arrested for resisting arrest and filed a lawsuit against the Oakland Police Department in ’91, but Shakur’s antics soon began to rival that of his infamous on-screen characters. People close to ‘Pac even said the MC obsessed over the “juice” Bishop longed for. By the time Shakur played Birdie in late ’93 (the movie came out in ’94), he’d assaulted Menace II Society directors Allen and Albert Hughes, shot two off-duty police officers in Atlanta and added a sexual assault to his rap sheet.
Clearly, there was a bit of ‘Pac in both Bishop and Birdie, but who’s more gangsta? XXL compares the two memorable characters.—XXL Staff