Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Hip-Hop Homicide

East Coast VS. West Coast

The East Coast-West Coast feud had largely been a war of public insults and nightclub brawls until November 30, 1994. Death Row superstar Tupac Shakur and Bad Boy newcomer Notorious B.I.G. had been friends despite the bitter rivalry between their labels. Shakur, a wiry bantam weight, had been brought up in New York, Baltimore, and San Francisco, and though he declared his allegiance to the West Coast, it didn't keep him from associating with East Coast rappers. Notorious B.I.G., as his name implies, was a rotund man who weighed over 300 pounds and was known for his quick wit and clever rhymes. While Shakur was in New York  in November 1994 awaiting sentencing on a sexual-assault conviction, he'd been invited to record with another East Coast friend, Little Shawn, at Quad Studios in Times Square.

Quad Studios, which takes up five floors of a midtown office building, was a busy place that night. While Little Shawn was recording on one floor, Junior M.A.F.I.A., a teenage rap group sponsored by Notorious B.I.G., was recording on another floor, and B.I.G. and Puffy Combs were working on a video on yet another floor. Tupac and his entourage arrived at the building shortly after midnight  on November 30. As they were getting into the elevator, three armed black men ambushed them and stole their jewelry. Tupac's alone was worth over $35,000. Tupac lunged at one of the gunmen in anger and was shot five times — in the head, groin, and left hand. Despite his wounds, Shakur was able to get upstairs where he paced and ranted that he'd been set up. He was taken to Bellevue Hospital where he underwent surgery.

Album cover: All Eyez on Me
Album cover: All Eyez on Me

The next morning Notorious B.I.G. visited him there. Against his doctors' advice, Shakur checked himself out and continued his convalescence at actress Jasmine Guy's apartment. He made it to court for his sentencing the next day and was ordered to serve four and a half years at the Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York. While imprisoned, Shakur had time to think about the ambush and came to the conclusion that it was ordered by Puffy Combs and B.I.G. He went public with his feelings. B.I.G. defended himself, calling the accusations insane and offensive, and demanded an apology from Shakur. He didn't get one. Suge Knight's publicist issued a statement, calling the incident "the result of jealousy between immature rappers." In the meantime, Shakur's album "Me Against the World" became the number one recording in the country.

The next fall Shakur cut a deal with Suge Knight. The rapper agreed to sign a three-year contract with Death Row Records in exchange for Knight putting up the bail money for Tupac's release pending an appeal of his conviction.

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