Pearce illuminates the kaleidoscopic aspects of Shakur’s life ... The oral history format is an appropriate way to convey such a complicated life, but it’s also only as good as its sources, and (as Pearce notes) there are a lot of other Tupac book projects that limited his access. He gamely attempts to turn this into an asset, and sometimes he scores remarkable details...But too many important details (album releases, arrests) are handled in footnotes, and there’s too much reliance on other reporters to flesh out the narrative ... The life of a figure as magnetic and incendiary as Tupac Shakur, though, can’t help being gripping.
... timely and noteworthy. Candidly told through the voices of people with whom Shakur interacted—both closely and less so—the book provides insight into his personality and details the circumstances that influenced and motivated him. In almost cinematic fashion, these accounts create a nuanced portrait of Shakur’s story ... Culminating with a poignant discussion of who Shakur might have become had he not been killed, the work leaves its readers, and its interview subjects, to imagine how he might have used his art to comment on issues like police brutality ... With 2021 marking both the 25th anniversary of Shakur’s death and what would have been his 50th birthday, this is a strong addition to public, academic, and research libraries, especially those with hip-hop collections.
... riveting ... Each section opens with an interlude that adds to Amaru’s story, suggesting parallels to the indelible impact of these two celebrated individuals. The insights in this absorbing narrative contribute to a deeper understanding of Shakur’s complexity as a person and an artist. With the resurgence of interest in Shakur’s music and the impending anniversary of his murder, this is a timely addition to the fascinating story of Shakur’s legendary, ubiquitous, and enduring legacy.
... lacks the polyphonic vitality of the best oral histories, a format that better serves the story of a collective endeavour than a single life. With so many key players dead, incarcerated or otherwise inaccessible, Pearce’s principled refusal to plug the gaps with archive material can be frustrating. He does, however, track down unfamiliar voices, including doctors, journalists and a jury member, to elaborate the broader context of gang warfare, racist policing and moral hysteria around hip-hop. Tupac made some horrendous choices but he had good reason to be paranoid ... Strikingly, he is compared to James Baldwin, Fred Hampton, Barack Obama and Malcolm X but no other rappers, as if it would be disrespectful to imagine him ending up, like former Death Row labelmates Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg, comfortably mainstream. Whether he would really have become a thought leader who reawakened black power for a new generation can never be known because he died during the most chaotic period of his life, when his worst instincts were nurtured and his best ones stifled. The wisest voices in Changes avoid grand claims and say simply that Tupac – so young, so conflicted – was robbed of the chance to rewrite the script.
Tupac Shakur is movingly captured as the people’s gangsta in this kaleidoscopic commemoration of his life ... Shakur’s celebrated passion for social justice is much praised but little evidenced here, and is complicated by accounts the beatdowns he administered, an altercation involving gunplay that killed a child, and his conviction for sexual abuse. (A highlight of the book is a juror’s account of jury-room shenanigans that undermines that verdict’s validity.) There’s much hagiography here, but also genuine insight into Shakur’s musical facility and the quiet, understated “genius” of his acting. Tupac’s multitudes of fans will eat this up.
There’s a Tupac Shakur–sized hole in the middle of this compelling oral history about the revered rapper and actor and his legacy—and that’s by design ... Conspicuously missing are conversations with his Black Panther mother Afeni Shakur or Death Row Records co-founder Suge Knight ... The success of that balancing act will depend on the reader. Shakur fans looking for new details about how their hero approached his biggest albums and movie roles won’t find much new here. However, Pearce’s interviews provide interesting background on the East Coast–West Coast rap rivalry and offer more clarity about who may have killed Shakur in Las Vegas in 1996 at age 25—even though no formal charges have ever been filed. Those are the times when this book feels like essential Tupac reading rather than a nice supplement ... Having relative unknowns document Tupac’s meteoric rise and abrupt end is risky, but Pearce demonstrates his impact.