The killings of Tupac Shakur and Christopher “The Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace more than 20 years ago not only left a gaping wound in hip hop but also exposed a seething underbelly in America evident to this day. Both the wound and the underbelly are skillfully dissected in USA Network’s Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G., which debuts February 27, and the results are truly drop-the-mic for what maybe one of the best new shows of the year so far, as I say in my video review above.
Weaving together the tale of the two legendary rappers — played note-perfect by Marcc Rose and Wavvy Jonez — with LAPD investigations of the case over the decades, the 10-part limited series created and written by Kyle Long and mainly directed by Anthony Hemingway is a big swing in a new direction for USA, the home of Suits and last year’s The Sinner.
With strong performances from Westworld’s Jimmi Simpson as a detective trying to get to the bottom of what really went down when Tupac was shot in Las Vegas in 1996 and Biggie was gunned down in Los Angeles in 1997, and Josh Duhamel as a task force cop in the same pursuit, Unsolved puts the needle down on all the right grooves. It’s an accomplishment unto itself for a tale you may already know how it ends (or doesn’t end), and even more so when you see how Long and Hemingway use the cold case as a Trojan horse to break into a way bigger picture.
Among various cultural rising tides, true crime and hip hop took hold of the collective conscious in the early 1990s and have only increased their influence since. Which is why it is kind of amazing, despite all the other projects on the big and small screen, it has taken so long for the era of Peak TV to definitively take on the defining generational moments that the deaths of Tupac and Biggie were. To really give a big up to Unsolved is the fact that even if Tupac and Biggie mean nothing to you, or how well you might or might not know the real players, the series reveals its subversive hand and never fails to deliver the goods as real life blends with myth and myth-making to create a whole new POV — or two.
In that vein, look out for brawny turns by Bokeem Woodbine as the LAPD partner to Duhamel’s Detective Greg Kading; The Wire alum Wendell Pierce; the always compelling Aisha Hinds as Biggie’s relentless mother, who took the LAPD to task; and Underground vet Amirah Vann as an FBI agent on the case.
Click on my video review above to see more of my mix on Unsolved, and get ready for it to get heavy next Tuesday. Will you be watching?