There’s a lot of pressure on Demetrius Shipp Jr.’s shoulders to represent Tupac Shakur the right way in the rapper’s new biopic.

Words: Emmanuel Maduakolam

Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Summer 2017 issue of of XXL Magazine, coming soon.

New actor Demetrius Shipp Jr. feels like he was born to play Tupac Shakur in the late great rapper’s much anticipated biopic, All Eyez on Me. Not only did Shipp’s father produce “Toss It Up,” off Tupac’s final studio album, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, but ever since high school, friends told the 28-year-old Carson, Calif. native that he looked a lot like the iconic hip-hop figure. Prior to playing Tupac, Shipp had no acting experience outside of his high school improv classes and spent his days installing satellite cable for Dish Network. He didn’t find out he landed the role until 2015, four years after he auditioned for it. XXL recently caught up with the rookie actor to talk about playing Tupac Shakur.

What have you learned about Tupac Shakur that you didn’t know before getting ready for this role?

For me, I knew the music but I didn’t know the revolutionary part. I would say, honestly, I’m more of a fan of Tupac the man, knowing everything that he was doing and he’s been through and his work ethic. How he was the definition of real as far as he’s going to be himself at the end of the day. He doesn’t care what everybody says, he’ll take responsibility for his actions and still be a powerful man at such a young age. That was a strong-minded man and I’m just really a fan of how he impacted the world in such a positive way.

How did you prepare? Did you talk to Tupac Shakur’s close friends and family?

My [acting] coach was adamant about [me] reading the books Tupac read, learning Shakespeare because Tupac did Shakespeare, research on the Black Panther Party and learning his interviews. Researching him and watching Tupac all day, every day.

Did you talk to your pops about ’Pac? Was he involved with the preparation process for your role?

He just gave me intimate details as far as his experience with Tupac when they were in the studio. Tupac felt good enough to tell my dad some intimate things that was going on concerning his family, which I can’t say the details on that. But, they had a very good relationship and my pop told me about those things and stuff that [Tupac] was going through that nobody really knew about.

Did you listen to Tupac when you were growing up?

For me, musically, it was a different feeling than everyone else because my father produced for Tupac, so that was a different type of thing. It was more like pride and just excitement. So that was around that period, it was very big. Tupac was the biggest artist at the time. Growing up, you hear Tupac’s music, it’s kind of like...it goes without saying that everyone likes Tupac.

Check out more from XXL’s Summer 2017 issue including the cover story with the 2017 XXL Freshman class featuring A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie Kamaiyah, PnB Rock, Madeintyo, Playboi Carti, Aminé, Kap G, Kyle, Ugly God and 10th Spot winner XXXTentacion.


See Exclusive Photos From Tupac Shakur Biopic All Eyez on Me