Wake Me When I’m Free is a pop-up museum in Los Angeles honoring Tupac Shakur’s life, launching in January for a residency at L.A. Live. Opening to high attendance and acclaim, the museum has recently made two major announcements – WMWIF has now extended its’ residency through September and will also feature a weekend only culinary takeover inspired by one of Tupac’s life long dreams to open an organic soul food cafe, the Powamekka Cafe.
With these updates in mind, I booked my museum visit for July 4, unable to imagine a better occasion to dismiss the ‘holiday’ and instead celebrate a cultural icon and Black liberation activist.
Taking you through a visual timeline of Tupac Shakur’s life, the materials in the exhibition act as educational tools – the terror of America’s prison industrial complex, the power of Tupac’s creative visualization and musical expression and the life saving contributions and philosophies of the Black Panthers during the Civil Rights Movement.
Magnifying his presence in a way that was powerful, inspiring, and emotional, the completely immersive exhibit was a multi-hour experience with the warehouse spanning 20,000 square feet through countless gallery presentations. There were fabrications of movie sets from his most famed roles, 360 projection mappings of behind the scenes moments, and even a re-creation of his studio desk from the Death Row Records recording studio. Two sides of a floor to ceiling hallway dedicated itself to thousands of Tupac’s archived recordings that have yet to be released. Towering walls filled with hundreds of old notebooks, unreleased lyrics, personal letters and journal entries allowed an intimate and melancholic look into the brainstorms of a genius – future screenplays, creative direction notes for music videos, business ideas that spanned various industries and more.
Featuring a variety of multimedia stations and sensory elements that ranged from sound, sight and even smell, Wake Me When I’m Free was a truly unique and enriching commemoration to someone whose social impact will be felt for generations to come. Ending the experience was a mix of heavy emotions, from sadness to catharsis and ultimately, perseverance. Though Tupac’s life was tragically cut short, the artistic legacy he left behind holds power and relevance to racial and social disparities we continue to face today. The body of work that remains acts as a blueprint for those combating this harsh reality, for future revolutionaries to utilize their minds to spur action and change our world.
All photos by Taishona Carpenter