“Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G.”

March 1st, 2018

Anna Wyckoff

When creating a look for Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G., Costume Designer Rahimah Yoba not only turned to period music videos and books on hip-hop, but also to her own personal experience. “I was twenty at the time, so some of the style also came from closing my eyes and remembering what we wore,” she explains. Additionally, she was inspired by the authenticity of her school alumni’s photos from the 80s on Facebook. But hip-hop culture evolves quickly and capturing the rapid changes in style proved challenging. Yoba found it necessary to think not in eras or decades but tried to make subtle distinctions between the years. “I’ve done design jobs with flashbacks,” she says, “but on this show you just never knew what time period it was going to, then, I had to find the differences between 2006 and 2007.”

To portray the characters’ progression over time, Yoba found color to be her most effective tool. Instead of typical police blues, she put Detective Poole (Jimmi Simpson) in sympathetic earth tones and gave him a tidy silhouette. “We always had him in a suit and tie, very put together. But as time progresses you see him falling apart and we showed that in his costumes as well.” To demonstrate the evolution of Suge Knight (Dominic L. Santana) she started him off in bold, dark colors but shifted to paler, aged clothes as he loses his money, so his life becomes both literally and figuratively less colorful.

When creating figures well known in the public consciousness, it was essential that Yoba strike a chord of reality in the costumes she created. Rather than simply copy a look from a photograph, her strategy was to pay attention to both what the character wore and how they wore it. Christopher ‘Biggie’ Wallace (Wavyy Jonez) barely tied his shoes and had loose shirts, dangling from the shoulder. For Tupac (Marcc Rose) she paid attention to every minuscule detail. “It was about zooming in and seeing, ‘OK, he wore four buttons open, he cuffed his sleeves one time, his pants were rolled.’ All of those subtleties really capture the individual.”

Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G. premiered February 27, 2018 on USA Network.

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