Tupac Shakur: The Life and Times of an American Icon
Fred L. Johnson, Tayannah Lee McQuillar. Da Capo Press, $15.95 (276pp) ISBN 978-1-56858-387-7
Since his untimely death in 1996, rapper Tupac Shakur has been memorialized in a wide range of books and documentary films, but few are as exhaustively researched and contextualized as this latest, unauthorized biography from author McQuillar (When Rap Music Had a Conscience) and history professor Johnson. Seeking to understand the enigmatic performer, McQuillar and Johnson have enlisted a psychologist to profile Shakur, looked into a century of his family history, and paid particular attention to the political background of his mother, Afeni, a former Black Panther. The result is insightful, enjoyable and expansive, even if it doesn't answer the questions that still linger regarding Shakur's celebrity lifestyle and still-unsolved murder. For casual fans with no prior exposure to Shakur's life, this biography will prove thorough and accessible, with lengthy but informative tangents that cover seemingly all of Tupac's collaborators and associates. Readers looking for glitzy speculation will not find it here, and Tupac enthusiasts may not learn much new, but this undeniably solid biography will deepen anyone's appreciation of the hip-hop legend.
Reviewed on: 01/25/2010