The feud between Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. is one of the most infamous rivalries in the history of hip hop. The two rappers were initially friends and collaborators, but their relationship soured in the mid-1990s, leading to a series of violent incidents that ultimately ended in both of their deaths.
The origins of their relationship can be traced back to the early 1990s. Tupac was signed to Interscope Records, and in 1993, he released his critically acclaimed debut album, “2Pacalypse Now,” which achieved commercial success. Building on this momentum, Tupac swiftly followed up with another project that gained even more attention. His outspoken nature made him a prominent and controversial figure in the hip-hop scene, earning him widespread recognition.
Meanwhile, The Notorious B.I.G who was still an emerging artist in the East Coast became aware of Tupac’s achievements on the West Coast. In an effort to connect with him, Biggie arranged to meet Tupac at a party in Los Angeles through a local drug dealer. Their encounter was a success, and they quickly formed a strong bond, becoming close friends. Tupac frequently invited Biggie to join him on stage during performances, and whenever Tupac visited New York, they would often spend time together. Similarly, when Biggie traveled to LA, he would stay at Tupac’s house, as he was still establishing himself in the music industry.
According to Macadoshis, a member of Tupac’s Thug Life group, Biggie was supposed to join Thug Life but Diddy blocked him from teaming up with Pac and appearing on the Thug Life album.
“That would’ve been hella dope bro, I still think about that to this day like that would have been crazy… this is when Partying and Bullshit was out,” Macadoshis told DJ Vlad.
“If Pac and Biggie would’ve got together before he got with Puffy then it would have definitely been a go, but at the time he was already with Bad Boy so I think that kind of put a stall on going forward with bro being a part of the group. But it was official.”
This didn’t stop them from working together and they were both featured on the same song, “Runnin’ (Dying to Live)”, in 1993 and “House Of Pain” with Big Stretch (RIP).
In September 1994, Biggie released his debut album, “Ready to Die” via Bad Boy Records, the label run by Sean Combs, also known as Puff Daddy. The album was a massive success, and Biggie’s popularity skyrocketed. Pac and Biggie seemed destined to reign together, However, their relationship took a negative turn on November 30th, 1994 when 2Pac was shot five times in the lobby of Quad Studios in New York City. Although he survived, the shooting left him with a number of physical and emotional scars.
According to Lil Cease of the Junior M.A.F.I.A, Biggie didn’t know Pac was coming to Quad Studios that night and only became aware of his presence in the building after the shooting.
“He wasn’t coming there to see us… he was already coming there to record with somebody else, and we didn’t know that… when I went down there that’s the madness I ran into.”
Other reports say Pac went up to Quad Studios to link up with Biggie, Lil Shawn and Diddy. When he got to the lobby, he was ambushed by 3 gun men who tried to steal his chain. Pac attempted to fight back and one of the assailants shot at him 5 times.
There are a number of theories about who was responsible for the attempted robbery, but it is generally believed that Jimmy “Henchmen” Rosemond, who was managing Lil Shawn at the time was the one that set up Pac. On the eve of what would’ve been Tupac’s 40th Birthday, a man named Dexter Isaac who is serving a life sentence for murder said in a statement that Henchmen paid him $2,500 to rob Tupac that night.
“I want to apologize to his family and for the mistake I did for that sucka,” said Isaac.
After Pac called him out on “Against All Odds,” Henchmen denied his involvement in the shooting in an interview with Sway on MTV. “Absolutely never even knew about it, never heard about it. Before, afterwards, had nothing to do with it.”
The incident had a profound impact on Tupac. He became increasingly paranoid and distrustful of people, and he began to believe that Biggie and his crew, Junior M.A.F.I.A., were involved in the shooting. 2Pac believed that Biggie had prior knowledge of the attack and had failed to warn him, which led to a deep sense of betrayal and mistrust. He also believed that Biggie and other East Coast rappers were jealous of his success and were trying to sabotage his career.
“Half the rappers in the East Coast was there when I got shot and nobody knew a thing. That’s just like you coming to the hood and the police ask you ‘what happened’ and everybody acting ‘I don’t know.’”
This belief was further fueled by the release of Biggie’s song “Who Shot Ya?” in 1995. The song’s lyrics included lines that many including 2Pac believe were jabs at him over the Quad studio shooting.
“who shot ya? Separate the weak from the obsolete/Hard to creep them Brooklyn streets, it’s on n-gga,” rapped Biggie.
The song’s release only served to further escalate the tension between 2Pac and Biggie, and 2Pac believed a beef was on. Although Biggie denied that the song was about 2Pac, the damage had already been done.
“The story just completely got switched around. N-ggas saying I set him up and I’m the one that got him shot. They’re saying that my record ‘who shot ya’ is about him… shit is crazy.”
Despite Biggie’s comments, Pac felt the timing of the track was distasteful. “N-ggas talking shit all while I was in jail. Even if it ain’t about me n-gga, you should be like ‘I’m not putting it out ‘cause he might think it’s about him.’”
At the time, there was tension between West Coast and East Coast rappers. We’re going to talk about the highly publicized “East Coast-West Coast” rivalry in a subsequent beef explained.
The divide between the two factions played out in public at the 1999 Source Awards when Suge Knight got on stage and dissed Diddy.
“Would like to tell 2Pac keep his guards up, we riding with him,” said Suge. “Any artist out there who wanna be a artist and wanna stay a star, and don’t want to worry about their jaded producer trying to be all in their videos, all on the records dancing, come to Death Row.”
During an episode of Drink Champs, Diddy claimed he confronted Suge Knight about his comments at the after party and Suge cowered and told him he was referring to Jermaine Dupri.
A month after the Source Awards, a Death Row employee named Big Jake was shot and killed outside of a party in Atalanta. According to investigators, witnesses at the scene claimed Diddy’s bodyguard Anthony Jones was behind the shooting. However, no one was charged for it.
Meanwhile, Pac who was serving time for sexual abuse charges linked up with Suge Knight while in jail and agreed to sign with Death Row after Suge bailed him out.
According to people close to him, Pac started to change after the shooting and linking up with Death Row. He reportedly became more violent and was trying harder to to sell his tough guy persona. Biggie alluded to it when he ran into Pac at the parking lot of the 1996 Soul Train Awards. According to reports, Pac and Suge pulled up in a Hummer to Biggie and his crew, which forced a security crew to step in and keep them separated. Both sides eventually jumped in their cars and left the scene.
“I felt the darkness when he rolled up that night. Duke came out the window fatigued out screaming, ‘West Side Outlaws!’ I was, like, ‘That’s Bishop [Tupac’s character in the movie Juice]!’ Whatever he’s doing right now, that’s the role he’s playing,” Biggie told VIBE. “He played that sh-t to a tee. He had his little goons with him, and Suge was with him and they was like, ‘We gonna settle this now.’”
In 1996, Tupac made his beef with Biggie official with the release of “Hit ‘Em Up.” The song’s lyrics were extremely violent and explicit, and they included a number of personal attacks on Biggie, Puff and the entire East Coast.
In the song, 2Pac accuses Biggie of being a fake gangster who is afraid to confront him directly. He also claimed that he had slept with Biggie’s wife, Faith Evans, which further fueled the tension between the two rappers.
First off, f-ck your bitch and the click you claim/Westside when we ride come equipped with game/You claim to be a player but I f-ucked your wife/ We bust on Bad Boy niggaz f-cked for life/Plus Puffy tryin’ ta see me weak hearts I rip/Biggie Smalls and Junior M.A.F.I.A. Some mark-ass b-tches.Tupac – Hit ‘Em Up
The lyrics are filled with profanity and violent imagery, and they reflect the intense anger and animosity that had developed between the two rappers.
During an interview with Vlad TV, former record executive Lance “Un” Rivera said Biggie “cried like a baby” when he first heard Pac’s claim that he had slept with Faith Evans. Lance also said he was ready to clap back immediately, but Biggie told them not to respond, and allegedly threatened to cut ties with Junior M.A.F.I.A. if any member dared to say anything negative about Tupac. Apparently, Biggie didn’t want to make things worse and was leaving the door open for them to resolve their issues.
Unfortunately, this never happened as 2Pac was tragically killed in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas just a few months later, in September 1996. The circumstances surrounding his death remain a subject of debate and speculation, but many believe that it was related to the ongoing feud with Biggie and his crew.
In a Feb. 24, 1997 interview, Biggie said he was shocked by Pac’s death. “Pac is a strong dude yo, I know dude, like real strong, so when they was like ‘he got shot’ and I was just more like ‘again? He always getting shot or shot at, he’s going to pull through this one again, make a few records about it and it’s going to be over.’ But when he died I was just like ‘whoa.’ It kinda took me by surprise. Even though we were going through our drama I will never wish death on nobody, cause ain’t no coming back from that.
“But at the same time you gotta move on, I felt for his moms, for his family or whatever but things gotta move on. I felt him, I still feel him.”
While it’s unclear who killed Tupac, there are a number of theories about who was responsible for the shooting. Some argue he was killed by Orlando “Baby Lane” Anderson. According to reports, Orlando Anderson was jumped by Pac and his entourage at the MGM for stealing a Death Row chain from Death Row associate Trayvon “Trey” Lane weeks back at a Footlocker in Lakewood mall.
Orlando reportedly detailed the incident to his uncle Dwayne Keefe D and they drove around in a white Cadillac searching for Pac. They eventually found Suge’s black BMW at a red light and pulled over next to it. Thats when Orlando Anderson, who was sitting at the back seat leaned over and opened fire.
Despite confessions from Keefe D who admitted his cousin was the shooter, Anderson was never persecuted for the death of Pac.
Others believed that the shooting was carried out by members of the South side Crips gang, while conspiracy theorist believe the feds were behind it.
Following the death of Tupac, tensions between the East Coast and West Coast escalated. Biggie found himself caught in the middle of the escalating conflict and hired extra security to keep himself safe.
On March 25, 1997, roughly 5 months after Pac’s death, Biggie released “Long Kiss Goodnight.” The song produced by RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan was widely interpreted as a diss track aimed at Tupac, though his name was never mentioned. This is supported by the lyrics, which make several references to Shakur and his Death Row Records label. For example, Biggie raps about “the West Coast” and “the cowards” who “ran up out of here” after Shakur’s death.
“Slugs hit your chest, tap your spine, flatline/Heard through the grapevine, you got fucked fo’ times/Damn, that three-to-nine fucked you up for real though.”
However, members of Biggie’s camp, Including Puff and Charli Baltimore have argued that the song was not about Pac, but simply a reflection of the East Coast–West Coast hip hop rivalry that was taking place at the time. Others have suggested that the song is simply about Biggie’s own personal experiences, and not about any specific person or group.
In an effort to promote peace and diffuse the tension, Biggie traveled to Los Angeles in February 1997 in hope to quell the hostility and promote his album. While in LA, Big attended the Soul Train Awards, and also appeared on the Wake Up Show where he decided to perform Long Kiss Goodnight. It was obviously in bad taste as Pac was loved in Cali and is freestyle was deemed to be disrespectful. According to reports, Big was getting death threats at the time and was advised to leave LA. However, he ignored the threats and stayed in Los Angeles longer than intended.
This proved to be fatal as he was killed in a drive-by shooting in March 1997, just six months after 2Pac’s death. The details of his murder are also shrouded in mystery, but many believe that it was retaliation for 2Pac’s death and the ongoing conflict between the two rappers.
The deaths of Tupac and Biggie brought an end to the beef between them, but it also left a lasting legacy. The feud between the two rappers helped to fuel the East Coast-West Coast hip hop rivalry, which was one of the most destructive periods in the history of the genre. It also showed the dark side of hip hop, and the dangers of violence and gang culture.
Even though 2Pac and Biggie are no longer with us, their music continues to be celebrated by fans all over the world. They are two of the most important and influential figures in hip hop history, and their legacy will continue to inspire and entertain people for many years to come.