‘All Eyez On Me’ Costume Designer Reveals What It Was Like To Style Tupac In The ’90s

Capturing the look and essence of ‘90s hip-hop style can be challenging—especially when it’s for a movie like All Eyez on Me, the film about Tupac Shakur. But Kenya Ware, the costume designer for All Eyez on Me (out in theatres on June 16), was there and lived through it. She even styled Tupac himself before he was killed in 1996.

Ware, an L.A. native, married and started a family with Tha Dogg Pound member and Snoop Dogg’s cousin, Daz Dillinger, in 1991. Helping in any way that she knew how, she began to shop for Death Row Records’ artists, including Snoop, Tha Dogg Pound, The Lady of Rage, Nate Dogg, often hand-delivering wardrobe to the set of music video shoots and TV appearances. From there, she became Death Row’s West Coast marketing representative. 

All Eyez on Me
Image via Lionsgate

She credits Suge Knight for supporting her passion for styling. “Suge always told me that beauty was only temporary, but your intelligence is forever,” she says. “He inspired me to get my own. He wanted me to succeed and that’s stayed with me to this day.” 

In her 20-year career, Ware has worked as a costume designer for films and TV shows like The Hunger Games: Mockingjay—Part 1, Ride Along 2, Entourage (film), and Straight Outta Compton.

In this exclusive interview, Ware talks about what it was like working with Tupac, what she wanted to accomplish with the wardrobe for All Eyez on Me, and why Tupac’s style will always be imitated.

Kenya Ware with Tupac
Kenya Ware (left) with Tupac. (Image via Kenya Ware)

How did you meet the guys from Death Row?
The first person I met was N.W.A. member MC Ren backstage at a 1989 New Edition concert. N.W.A.’s bodyguard approached me and said one of the members wanted to talk to me. I was frightened because I had heard they were gangbangers. Ren asked me for my number and on the first date I almost got kicked out of my house because he walked into my Baldwin Hills estate with a black trench coat, khakis, and Crip slippers. My mother went ballistic!

From there, I was invited to several N.W.A. concerts where I met Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and the rest of the gang. Years later, when Death Row was forming, I met Suge Knight and Snoop Dogg.

How did you meet Tupac?
[My ex-husband] Daz [Dillinger] would always write letters to the Clinton Correctional Facility to try to keep Tupac's spirit up while he was in jail on the rape case. Once he got out and signed with Death Row, I threw him a party at our place. We invited Method Man, Redman, Rage, Snoop, Kurupt, and a few other people to celebrate Tupac being released from jail and also signing with Death Row Records. 

Kenya Ware with Dr. Dre
Kenya Ware (center) with Dr. Dre and Sam Sneed at Suge Knight's 662 Club in Las Vegas in 1995. (Image via Kenya Ware)

What was it like shopping for Tha Dogg Pound?
Shopping for Tha Dogg Pound and Snoop was always fun because I got to create something different than gangster wear. They were in love with Guess shirts but still wanted the baggy Karl Kani jeans. It was a slow process to get them away from the Dickies uniform. I had to make sure that whatever I bought for them was oversized and was in either blue or grey, which were Tha Dogg Pounds’ and the Crips’ colors.

Did you shop for Tupac?
‘Pac had his own style. He wasn't interested in clothing right away. He said the only thing he wanted to do was stay at the studio and make as much music as possible. I often pulled boxes of Karl Kani clothing for the boys and let them pick out what they wanted to wear for events.

All Eyez on Me
Image via Lionsgate

What did you buy for Tupac? What was he into at the time?
I tagged along with Suge Knight and ‘Pac during the [boxing] fights in Las Vegas. Shopping at Caesar's Palace during the fights was the best. It was kind of like a status quo. That's where you got to showcase how much money you really had because all the ballers were watching. Tupac wasn't that into fashion but at that point, in the ‘90s, you had to dress to impress. He slowly transitioned away from the gangster clothes to Versace. Suge was about to hire me as ‘Pac’s personal stylist, but then ‘Pac got killed.

Speaking of Versace, Tupac walked in a runway show with Kidada Jones for the Italian fashion house in 1996. How did that happen? Whose decision was it to have a bodyguard walk with them?
During those days, if you were an artist on Death Row Records the rule was you had to always wear your bulletproof vest and keep a bodyguard at all times. The bodyguard was definitely Suge Knight’s call.

All Eyez on Me
Image via Lionsgate

What did you want to accomplish with the wardrobe for All Eyez on Me?
This film needed to have Karl Kani and Walker Wear to be authentic because those were two designers that Tupac wore religiously. I wanted to make sure that all of the replicas were right. Sometimes getting information from third parties or Google aren’t that accurate, so[All Eyez on Me producer] L.T. Hutton figured it would be better to hire a person who actually knew Tupac and was around him a lot.

How would you describe Tupac's style?
A revolutionary gangster. He set the tone for the durag on your head, the body tattoos, and the oversized baggy jeans.

Are there any specific Tupac looks you tried to copy for the movie?
Yes. Tupac did an advertisement for Karl Kani and we remade that look. The actor who plays Tupac, Demetrius Shipp, went to Karl Kani's studio and we made sure that he looked and wore the clothes just like Tupac. We also copied the Black Panther Party look because his mom was a Black Panther.

All Eyez on Me
Image via Lionsgate

What do you think of Demetrius Shipp Jr.?
Ironically, Demetrius' father used to work with Death Row back in the days, so it was like working with family. It's just amazing that his son looks just like Tupac. Demetrius Shipp was the best choice [for the role]. It’s funny because before he started acting he worked at Walmart.

Did he stay in character on set?
He had Tupac's demeanor down to a T.

What was the vibe like on set? Did any celebrities stop by?
I did most of the shopping in Los Angeles but the few times I did visit the set in Atlanta and saw Demetrius it was like seeing Tupac reincarnated. I think every celebrity in Atlanta stopped by the set in hopes of getting a cameo. Snoop’s dad, Vernell [Varnado], and Daz were on set during the entire time.

tupac
Image via Getty/Ron Galella

Where did you source the wardrobe from?
Since I grew up in L.A. in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the shopping came naturally. One of the stores I went to is called Greenspan in South Gate. If you really need gangster clothes, this is the one-stop shop for your ‘80s and ‘90s looks.

Why did All Eyez on Me take so long?
It was a couple things. Tupac's estate and a lot of the people they wanted to do the movie held it up. There were also issues with clearing the music since Death Row’s catalog was sold.

What's your favorite Tupac look?
I love the Versace blue and gold shirt he wore. I actually have a picture of me and him in that shirt at Suge Knight’s daughter's third birthday party. 

tupac
Image via Getty/Steve Eichner

Do you remember where you were when you heard Tupac was killed? Walk us through that moment.
I was actually in Vegas with Tupac and Suge when he was killed. I was with Tupac downstairs at the Luxor Hotel after they got into a big fight at MGM Grand. I spoke to him right before he took that car ride to Club 662. I made the first call to [Suge’s ex-wife] Sharitha Knight and Daz and let them know what had just happened. One minute I was walking into Club 662 wondering why it was taking Tupac so long to get there and next thing you know we were told that something had happened to him. I drove like 100 miles an hour trying to get to the crime scene. It was the craziest night of my life.

Why do you think Tupac's style was copied so much in the years after his death? What do you think he would've thought of that?
Tupac was a pioneer of rap, period. This man created history and set a tone in just 24 years of life. He will forever be copied because his style was genuine. If he were alive today, at age 45, he'd probably teach the youth to be original and create their own style.

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Funk Flex Explains Why He’s Still Talking About 2Pac

Funk Flex isn’t done speaking about 2Pac.

Earlier this week, the Hot 97 DJ faced a wave of backlash after ranting about the late rapper on social media. It began during an Instagram Live broadcast, in which Flex felt the need to speak “the truth” regarding 2Pac’s 1994 Quad Studios attack. He claimed Pac actually shot himself by mistake, and went on to blame Diddy and Biggie for the ambush as he was too afraid of the actual assailants. Of course, fans of Pac were quick to call out Flex, accusing him of disrespecting the legendary rapper. Even T.I. spoke out about Flex’s comments, suggesting the remarks were inappropriate.

“Respectfully Bruh… on G-Code…regardless of what YOU THINK the validity of your statement is, I was taught never to speak down on a dead man,” T.I. said on Instagram. “Considering they ain't here to speak up for themselves.”

On Thursday, Flex responded to his critics and explained why he continues to speak about 2Pac, more than 20 years after his death.

“Pac, of course, is from New York […] So people that’s trying to make this an East Coast-West Coast thing, that ain’t what it is. I was just speaking on a situation,” he said in a video. “I know everybody got a little testy, a little up in arms. I get it.”

He admits he brought the wrong energy when speaking about Pac, and agrees the rapper made huge contributions to the rap world; however, he maintains Pac used Biggie as a scapegoat for the Quad robbery, which ultimately started the deadly rivalry.

“Notorious B.I.G. did not set [Pac] up in that studio that night to get robbed. That is my only issue,” he said. “[…] There is no disrespect in anything I've said so far […] We're having a conversation about the truth.”

This was Flex's biggest point when it came to T.I. “Back to G-code. You a G, T.I. So you know…we ain't supposed to call false names on anything that happens to us in the street… He was screaming Biggie's name. 2Pac lied, bro.”

Flex continued to make more claims about Pac throughout the video, including that there was a period where he was “scared to come to New York.” 

Toward the end of the 40 minute video, Flex got extremely emotional. “He lied, and Biggie died. That's my only issue,” he exclaimed. Flex also talked about Suge Knight, saying, “In New York, he didn't have no weight. He was no tough guy in this town.” 

You can watch all 40 minutes and 58 seconds of the video above.

 

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Funk Flex Rants About 2Pac, Says He Shot Himself Like ‘Cheddar Bob’ at Quad Studios

Funkmaster Flex took to Instagram Live recently to discuss one of hip-hop’s most infamous moments: The night 2Pac was robbed and shot at NYC’s Quad Studios.

According to the Hot 97 DJ, not all of the late rapper’s gun wounds were caused by his enemies; the first was actually self-inflicted. Funk, who was reportedly in the building at the time of the shooting, claims Pac accidently shot himself when he attempted to pull out his gun during the ambush.

“You Pac fans always talking that talk,” Flex said in the broadcast. “Cheddar Bob. Came in there, popped himself in the leg. Popped himself first. That’s what happened.”

Funk continued: “He knew who approached him. He had a steel on him, because he knew he had a issue out there, and when get got there, they was just gonna take his jewelry. They didn’t even touch him. He panicked, pulled out the steel, shot himself.”

The shooting took place on Nov. 30, 1994, right after Pac arrived at Quad Studios to record a feature. The rapper was reportedly ambushed, beaten, robbed, and shot five times at the studio; however, it’s been widely speculated Pac unintentionally shot himself.

“In the haste of getting his gun out of his waistband, I believe he pulled the trigger,” said former LAPD investigator Greg Kading. “I think the wounds to his head were superficial lacerations from being pistol whipped. If [his three aggressors] went there to execute him, they could have certainly done that.”

In 2011, Dexter Isaac came forward admitting he was involved in the non-fatal 1994 shooting. He told authorities he was paid $2,500 by Jimmy “Henchman” Rosemond to carry out the attack.

Funk’s broadcast arrived shortly after several Pac theories resurfaced. Just last month, Suge Knight made headlines after he accused his ex-wife of killing the rapper. A few weeks later, an interview with Pac’s former bodyguard made its way onto YouTube; the man, named Mob James, said he believes Pac was fatally shot by Crips member Orlando Anderson. The case is still unsolved. 

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Troy Ave Claims He Was Going to Sign With TDE Despite Calling Kendrick a ‘Weirdo Rapper’

On his just-released NuPac project, Troy Ave claims he was ready to sign with Top Dawg Entertainment before “the whole shit just fell through.” On the 32-minute commentary track “Truth Be Told PSA,” Troy Ave opens up about his efforts to keep his career moving forward while in jail. During that time, Ave says, Kendrick Lamar indirectly reached out with some words of support.

According to Ave, Lamar said something to the effect of, “I see what you're going through, man. Send my love.” A couple days after receiving Lamar's words, Ave started pondering a future with Top Dawg Entertainment and gave then-manager Hovain a call. “I said, 'Yo, put the plan in action, man,” Ave recalled. “We gonna go out West when I come home and we gonna sign with TD.'” The story falls in line with the theme of Troy Ave comparing his career to 2Pac on NuPac, as 2Pac signed to Death Row after Suge Knight's assistance in posting bail in 1995.

Ave added that he always admired the Top Dawg brand. “I always liked what they was doing,” Ave said. “They kinda independent like us, but way bigger because they went and got with a major. They got shit that I like to see, like loyalty and unity, that type of shit. Cool. I give [Hovain] the whole play. Of course, he can't make that happen at all. At all. He doesn't make it happen. The whole shit just fell through.”

The TDE comments start at roughly the 14:45 mark in the clip below:

Interestingly enough, Ave once said Lamar was “just a weirdo rapper” in the Raekwon and N.O.R.E. collab “New York City.”

Ave later told Hot 97 the lyric wasn't intended as a diss. 

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Suge Knight Claims He Knows Who Killed 2Pac and Insists They Were Really After Him

Back in September of 1996, Suge Knight was driving the BMW that got riddled with the bullets that killed 2Pac. While it was always thought that 2Pac was the intended target (due to a scuffle that went down at the Tyson fight Suge and 'Pac were attending), Knight is now saying he was the one they were shooting at.

This new information comes from a signed affidavit that Knight's attorney Thaddeus Culpepper released. Knight says that it was his ex-wife Sharitha and former Death Row security chief Reggie Wright, Jr. who were behind the hit, and it was Knight, not 'Pac, who they were gunning for. This information is reportedly in the new documentary Tupac Assassination: Battle for Compton, and Knight says everything they presented in this doc is true.

A spokesperson for the film reportedly told Music News that “Culpepper told Carlin individually that not only did Knight confirm the events as portrayed in Compton, which portray Knight was the intended target and Shakur as collateral damage, as true, but also goes on to allege that these 1996 events may have been the first in a history of attempts on Knight's life, culminating in the recent attempted killing of Knight at the 1OAK Club in Los Angeles, where Knight was shot six times.”

Interestingly enough, Knight was adamant that he wouldn't tell the police who killed 'Pac if he knew who it was just two months after 'Pac died. On national television, no less.

Reggie Wright Jr. told AllHipHop in 2015 that multiple people have tried to connect him with 2Pac's death, and that “all these people are dropping dead. I keep telling people God don’t like ugly. I hope people learn a lesson from this.” That's eerie as f*ck, and can be taken a couple of different ways. Either way, there's currently no word on if authorities will be pursuing more with Wright.

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