Tupac & Afeni Shakur "Dear Mama" Doc: Episode 1 Review

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The docuseries "Dear Mama: The Saga of Afeni and Tupac Shakur" sheds light on the history and background of the infamous West Coast legend by interweaving his story with his mother's.

Tupac & Afeni Shakur's Dear Mama documentary recently premiered, and it has fans buzzing. It has been nearly 27 years since the unsolved murder of Tupac Shakur, and the mythology has continued since. This Allen Hughes docuseries sheds light on the history and background of the infamous West Coast legend. Hughes is best known for his scripted films, such as Menace II Society and Dead Presidents, which offered insightful depictions of Black men. His introduction into documentary filmmaking with his twin brother Albert, American Pimp, did not live up to expectations.

However, since pursuing solo projects, Allen has found his stride with The Defiant Ones, a Grammy-winning and Emmy-nominated docuseries chronicling the successful partnership between Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine. Allen Hughes's impressive documentary work has solidified his status as one of his generation's most innovative and skilled filmmakers.

Hughes & Dear Mama

Hughes returns with his latest project, Dear Mama: The Saga of Afeni and Tupac Shakur, a five-hour docuseries that examines the role of Black activism in Shakur's life and its blend into his music. In this ambitious series, Hughes parallels the lives of Tupac and his mother, Afeni, an outspoken leader in the Black Panther Party. Hughes delivers a complete account of the rapper by interweaving his story with his mother's. Dear Mama offers real insights into the impact of the Shakur family across movements and generations. The series constructs an experience that offers an intimate and nuanced portrayal of their relationship. With Dear Mama, Hughes again proves his gifted and imaginative approach to documentary filmmaking.

Episode 1: "Panther Power"

At 17 years old, Tupac faced many challenges, including poverty and familial struggles. He pursued his dream of using poetry and music to spread his mother's message of social activism. At the same time, Afeni, a well-known Black Panther activist, was haunted by her past. She worried about how it might impact Tupac's promising future. Despite his difficulties, Tupac remained committed to his goals and continued using his art to advocate for vital issues.

The first episode of Dear Mama, "Panther Power," starts with the impactful story behind one of Tupac's most beloved songs. The rapper's activism and revolutionary spirit, inspired by his mother's involvement with the Panthers, drove him to intervene during a violent incident. He witnessed two white men harassing a Black motorist in Atlanta in 1993 on Halloween night.

Despite the victim attempting to calm the situation, one of the men hit the motorist and pointed a gun. Tupac witnessed the event, grabbed his weapon, and shot both assailants. It was later learned that the attackers were off-duty police officers. As law enforcement surrounded the hotel where Tupac and his friends stayed, he attempted to comfort the tense room by playing a song he had just recorded: "Dear Mama." The song showcases Tupac's musical talent and deep love and appreciation for his mother. Although the show portrays the shooting incident as legendary, it also exposes Tupac's troubled past and struggles as a young Black man.

Lawsuit Against Oakland Police

The first episode concludes just as powerfully as it began with the jaywalking arrest of Tupac. Following his arrest and beating for jaywalking, Shakur filed a well-known lawsuit against the Oakland Police. He sought $10 million in damages. The film emphasizes the poignant and heartwarming realization that even though he was enraged by the incident, he longed for his mother's counsel.

Unfortunately, she was undergoing treatment in rehab at the time. Regarding sensitive subjects like violence, it can be tricky to strike the right tone. That's undoubtedly a challenge Hughes faces when analyzing the tumultuous life of Tupac. While glorifying some of the more violent moments in his past may not sit well with some viewers, it's a reminder that Tupac's life teemed with complexities and contradictions. It's up to the viewer to grapple with that truth. By taking on this complicated subject matter, Dear Mama forces viewers to confront the darker side of Tupac's legacy, even as it celebrates his enduring impact on popular culture.

The premiere episode, which debuted on April 21, is now FX's most-watched unscripted series premiere in the network's history. The Dear Mama Hulu release date also performed exceptionally well.

Sweet Lady, Don't You Know We Love You?

Afeni's story is captivating, from her leadership in the Black Panther Party to her imprisonment while pregnant with Tupac. She also battled addiction and financial struggles that contributed to her family's constant displacement. What sets Dear Mama apart is its unconventional, non-linear narrative approach that weaves events from Afeni's and Tupac's lives. Through interviews with former Black Panther colleagues and family members, the film offers valuable insights into how Afeni's influence helped shape her son's myth-building approach to storytelling.

Despite her flaws, Afeni was a fierce advocate for justice and equality. She played a significant role in the movements of the late 20th century. The story of Afeni Shakur is one of courage and resilience. Her influence on her son Tupac's life is undeniable.

Personal & Poignant

The documentary takes a profoundly personal approach. It features a diverse cast of individuals who share their stories about the mother and son. From Tupac's peers and cousins to his former collaborators at Death Row Records, the film provides a multifaceted perspective on the complex and enigmatic figures. Ultimately, the purpose behind Hughes's documentary is the argument about Tupac's constant drive. Additionally, it sheds light on Pac's desire to protect people who are wronged, no matter the personal cost. The next Dear Mama Hulu release date for new episodes is April 28th.

Tupac's aunt and Afeni's sister, Glo, summarizes this mission by stating in the documentary, "Where did Tupac get the myth-building from? Afeni. And 'Feni wanted the story told. Correctly. That means blemishes and all, so people can understand that whole thing of what makes a human being."


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