Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Hip-Hop Homicide

"Life After Death"

Six months after the death of Tupac Shakur, Notorious B.I.G. was in Los Angeles for the 11th Annual Soul Train Music Awards at the Shrine Auditorium and Expo Center. When he took the stage to present an award, the audience booed him.

He leaned into the microphone and tried to lighten the mood. "What's up, Cali?" he said.

The booing increased and continued through his presentation of an award to singer Toni Braxton.

B.I.G. left the stage deeply embarrassed. He had been trying to distance himself from the rap feuds and just make music, but rumors were circulating that he was in some way responsible for Shakur's murder.

A party hosted by Vibe and Qwest Records was scheduled for the next night at the Petersen Automotive Museum on Wilshire Boulevard. According to Cathy Scott in her book The Murder of Biggie Smalls, B.I.G. wasn't in the mood for partying after being booed at the awards ceremony, but he agreed to go "because Puffy Combs had asked him to go." They were both eager for the release of B.I.G.'s next album "Life After Death... 'Til Death Do Us Part" later that month, and being seen at the party would be good promotion.

Witnesses reported that B.I.G. had a good time at the party. He spoke to old friends and met several flirtatious women. Some asked him to dance, but he was walking with a cane, still on the mend from a leg injury due to a car accident, so a few of the women danced suggestively in front of him as he sat and watched. The party was the place to be that night as 2,000 people crowded the museum space, and outside 200 more jostled to get in. By midnight fire marshals decided that the museum was dangerously overcrowded, and at 12:35 A.M. they shut the party down and ordered everyone out. The crowd disbursed, disappointed guests heading for the doors. B.I.G. was moving slowly with his injured leg, so he, Puffy Combs, and the rest of the Bad Boy entourage hung back and let the others go first. They walked to their two rented G.M.C. Suburbans, a black one and a dark green one, which they'd parked on the street because the valet parking lots were full by the time they had arrived. B.I.G. got into the front passenger seat of the dark green Suburban along with two friends and his driver. Puffy and his friends piled into the black Suburban. At night, the two vehicles looked identical.

Puffy's vehicle pulled out first, followed closely by B.I.G.'s and then a Ford Blazer carrying their bodyguards who were all off-duty Inglewood police officers. All three vehicles drove to the intersection of Fairfax Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard where they stopped for a red light. They were heading for an after-party. The stereo in Biggie's car was pumping, playing his new album.

While they waited for the light to turn, a man called out to the green Suburban. Thinking it was a fan who just wanted to wish him well, B.I.G. rolled down his window. Then, a dark-colored Chevrolet Impala pulled up along the right side of B.I.G.'s vehicle. The driver — a black man wearing a suit and bow tie — pulled out an 9 m.m. automatic pistol and opened fire on the rapper. B.I.G. was hit several times in the chest. Puffy got out of his Suburban and ran to B.I.G.'s side as the Impala sped off, but B.I.G. had already lost consciousness. They raced to get him to the hospital, but B.I.G. was already gone. 

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