Demetrius Shipp Jr. Has All Eyez On Him

Photographed by Myles Pettengill. Styled by Wayman + Micah. Shirt by Coach 1941, Shipp Jr.’s own jewelry. Grooming: Autumn Moultrie at Exclusive Artists using Chanel Les Beiges.

The actor portraying Tupac tells us about his upcoming film

The following feature appears in the June/July issue of NYLON Guys.

On a November afternoon two years ago, Demetrius Shipp Jr. was standing outside his house in Los Angeles when his cell began to ring. It was producer David Robinson on the line, bearing good news that would instantly change the course of Shipp Jr.’s life. “They’re going to give you the role,” said Robinson. The part he was referring to was that of Tupac Shakur in All Eyez on Me, the definitive biopic on the hip-hop legend’s tumultuous life. “I broke down,” says Shipp Jr., recalling the tears of joy that cascaded down his face.

For the 28-year-old, the journey to becoming Shakur began in 2011, when his friend showed him an internet posting of the film’s national casting call. Uninterested in acting, he was resistant at first. “I wanted to produce music,” Shipp Jr. says. After battling through some procrastination, he uploaded his audition to Facebook at the last second. His father, a Death Row producer who worked on Shakur’s song “Toss It Up,” discovered Shipp Jr.’s monologue while scrolling through social media, and immediately shared it with one of the movie’s producers. It took nearly five years of fits and starts—“They’d have me audition every year,” he says—before director Benny Boom was ready to step behind the camera. Less than a month after receiving that fateful call from Robinson, All Eyez on Me—which is named after the last album Shakur released while alive—began principal shooting. Shipp Jr., a novice who had never acted before, was suddenly charged with carrying a big-budget studio picture, and he was ready for it. 

“I have to be honest, I was confident,” he says. “You work your ass off and you believe in yourself and you say, ‘I can do this. So let’s get this shit done.’” Doubt was never part of the equation. When he needed counsel, he turned to his acting coach. “She gave me confidence that I hadn’t had before to tackle things in life.” He also had the support of E.D.I. Mean, the Outlawz rapper who was a close friend of Shakur’s. “He gave me his input on what I was doing, and what Pac would do in a certain situation.” 

Photographed by Myles Pettengill. Styled by Wayman + Micah. Shirt by Coach 1941, Shipp Jr.’s own jewelry. Grooming: Autumn Moultrie at Exclusive Artists using Chanel Les Beiges.

The verisimilitude is evident in Shipp Jr.’s raw, electric performance. It’s easy to imitate the West Coast icon (see: Anthony Mackie in Notorious); it’s harder to disappear into the role. Although Shipp Jr. bares an uncanny resemblance to Shakur—“Ever since high school, classmates compared me to him,” he says—he had to lose 15 pounds for the part. He also had to shave his head bald and get his nose pierced.

But the biggest challenge wasn’t an aesthetic one. It was the rapping. “There was a freestyle scene and I wanted to get that down and I just wasn’t into it,” he says. Being that his only experience on the mic was spitting bars for fun as a teenager, he learned on the job. “It’s one thing to rap,” he says, “but it’s another to rap and keep the cadence that Pac had.” Dedicated to doing it right, he obsessively studied live performances and music videos, while listening to Tupac records on repeat. It was a steep learning curve, but Shipp Jr. considers himself a motivated student. When asked point-blank how he thought he did, he responds without a moment of hesitation. “I did great,” he says with a smile. 

There’s an impressive self-assuredness to how Shipp Jr. carries himself. A divorced father of two children, none of this seems to faze him. He’s calm while maintaining perspective. “I feel most certainly satisfied, man. Just overjoyed and happy,” he says. “I just want people to love the movie and hopefully that opens up more doors for me to help me into the next phase of my life.” 

Photo courtesy of Helen Sloan/HBO

"And now our watch has ended"

In a thoughtful tribute on Instagram, actress Emilia Clarke said goodbye to Game of Thrones, and her character, Daenerys Targaryen.

Clarke posted a gallery of photos including some group shots with the rest of the cast, as well as a closeup of Dany's intricately braided hair, and a still from the show. "Finding the words to write this post has left me overwhelmed with how much I want to say but how small words feel in comparison to what this show and Dany have meant to me," she wrote, continuing to say that "Game of Thrones has shaped me as a woman, as an actor, and as a human being."

"The mother of dragons chapter has taken up the whole of my adult life. This woman has taken up the whole of my heart," she wrote. "I've sweated in the blaze of dragon fire, shed many tears at those who left our family early, and wrung my brain dry trying to do Khaleesi and the masterful words, actions (and names) I was given, justice." She also gave a nod to her father, who died in 2016, saying that she wishes he was still alive "to see how far we've flown."

Clarke finished by thanking her fans, telling them that "without you there is no us... I owe you so much thanks, for your steady gaze at what we've made and what I've done with a character that was already in the hearts of many before I slipped on the platinum wig of dreams," she said. "And now our watch has ended."

Photo courtesy of HBO

Don't reusable cups exist in Westeros?

Apparently, no one could keep their drinks off-set during the final season of Game of Thrones. The show, which has been known for its meticulous editing, has featured a Starbucks coffee cup in an episode, and now, a plastic water bottle. Someone get these characters a reusable cup!

Yes, in the final episode of the series, there's a disposable water bottle hidden in plain sight in one of the scenes. If you look closely enough, you'll see the bottle peeking out from behind Samwell Tarly's leg in a scene where many characters were arguing about the fate of Westeros.

Another water bottle was spotted by someone else, hiding behind Ser Davos Seaworth's foot.

It seems that everyone was too parched on the set of the final episode to worry about a misplaced water bottle making it into the final shots. Some are speculating that the team left them in on purpose as payback to the writers for the series' ending.

We just really hope that everyone in the series recycles. If there are disposable cups and plastic bottles available in the fictional world, we hope that there's an ethical way of disposing of them. Otherwise, well, it might be more disappointing than the series finale itself.


Think about all the ways you've begged for ruin

I'll admit I can get a little possessive about full moons; I was born on a full moon, you see. I'll admit there's something that makes people go mad over a full moon and there's something in that madness that situates me, gives me a place to drop my anchor. I see the full moon, her one wide open eye, and think of the first gods—the cyclops and the titans—how they betrayed each other. The full moon reminds me that each of us walks this life having inherited the stories of the lives that brought us here, we carry moments of great suffering in our DNA and we carry moments of great joy too.

A Scorpio full moon is especially prone to these sorts of reminders, dancing partner to the Sun in Taurus, since both these stars are so devoted to the past, since both like to mine a wound just to see how deep it goes and how much they can stand to endure. It's true, too, that Taurus is the sign linked to the Hierophant in the Tarot. The Hierophant is a figure in service to Mysteries: guarding and teaching the sacred. The Hierophant is pre-occupied with devotion and desecration and so is Taurus. Steadied by worship and undone by violation, a Taurus knows that a cycle is a cycle, there's always a hunger that thrives in the devotional figure, that seeks to be defiled and, in that way, tested. What better consort, what better polarity, for an Earth sign like that than the watery depths of Scorpio? Scorpio, the sign of transformation, of the occult, of karmic debts, fertile and secretive darkness. Scorpio, the snake that eats its own tail, our sexual power and our sexual shame. Scorpio rules money and Taurus loves to feel wealth, to sense abundance, to roll around in the rich black dirt.

While the Sun goes down under the star of Taurus and Uranus activates Venus, so the planet of love can pour her light over the bull's horns, the Moon rises in Scorpio and we are tasked with acknowledging the many ways we begged for ruin. Is there a heaviness on your heart, dear reader? Wasn't there a time when, green as a new stem, you begged the world to give you something real to experience, to bring you to your knees with wonder and revelation? You must have known that you had to break the bud to bloom, you must have sensed—somewhere in that ancestral memory of yours—that to love something, to pour your life into something, is to prepare to lose it. That's the deal we've made with god, or what governs time.

Have you left a cup out overnight and awoke to find it brimming with memories of betrayal, of loss, of something you felt was owed to you and never retributed? You can drink from the cup of the past searching only for the taste of it, seeking only to sate your thirst for bitterness. It's your right to feel everything you feel, to remember everything that happened to you and everything you set into motion, everything you did. But, listen. The sun is warm and generous, calling new life out of the ground. You move over the Earth like a cloud heavy with emotion and memory, threatening pour, while night waits on the other side, smelling like freedom—sweet, sharp and ineffable—full of poison blooms. You can hold the truth of this wild living world, its sacred promise to consecrate you with beauty and ruin you with it too. You can sip from the cup of the past with gratitude for your past self—the one who gave her life so that you could rise again, three times as powerful and wise.

Asset 7
Screenshot via YouTube

It's so good

Lana Del Rey released a cover of Sublime's 1997 song "Doin' Time," and she made it completely her own. That means it's the perfect combination of trippy melancholia and full-out lust.

According to Rolling Stone, the cover will appear in an upcoming documentary which will "[outline] the history of the iconic California band." In a statement, Del Rey said, "Not a day goes by that I don't listen to at least one Sublime song. They epitomized the SoCal vibe and made a genre and sound totally their own."

Bud Gaugh, a member of the band, "We are so excited to be collaborating with Lana on this. The smoky, sexy, and iconic sound of her voice breathes new life into one of our favorite singles." It certainly does.

My personal favorite part of the cover is the fact that Del Rey doesn't change the gender of the person the song is about, like so many musicians often do. Instead, Del Rey's intonation of "me and my girl, we got this relationship/ I love her so bad but she treats me like shit" is gay rights.

Listen to Del Rey's cover of "Doin' Time," below.

Photo by JP Yim/Getty Images

Sounds fake, but okay

In a new interview for Australian Vogue, Kendall Jenner makes the claim that being associated with the Kardashian name was a setback in her modeling career. Hmmm, that's funny, because power and influence usually works in their holder's favor.

In the interview, Jenner addresses skeptics who doubted that she would make it as a professional model. "A lot of people assumed that because I came from a 'name' that it was a lot easier for me to get to where I got, but actually it's the completely opposite," she says.

"I've always been the person to prove [critics] wrong, even when I was younger," she says. "I've always been a hard worker: that's in my blood. My parents raised me and my little sister to be that way and the rest of my sisters, too." In the profile, it's revealed that Jenner used to attend castings "simply as 'K' or 'Kendall' to distinguish herself from her famous family."

But keeping her name off her portfolio wasn't going to fool anyone, really. Her face has been on television for years, and it seems unlikely that a casting agent wouldn't know who she was even if Kendall didn't come out and say it. Perhaps Jenner was more closely examined and more readily criticized by people who doubted her, but I'm not sure I believe that she had a harder time gaining a modeling platform or booking big jobs, even if she didn't use her last name.

After all, Jenner was likely able to get into those big casting rooms right away because of her family's connections, and she was able to devote her time to pursuing that career because of the wealth they have. She would've had a much harder time making a name for herself if she didn't come from an influential family. She probably wouldn't get to be so selective about which shows she walks, and she definitely wouldn't be the highest paid model in the world.