Tupac & Notorious B.I.G: A friendship created & destroyed by Hip-Hop

Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G performing together at a concert at Bowie State University in 1993. | Courtesy of CampusLately.

“Biggie, remember when I use to let ya sleep on my couch, And beg the b**** to let ya sleep in the house. Now it’s all about Versace, you copied my style. Five shots couldn’t drop me, I took it, and smiled, Now I’m ’bout to set the record straight, with my AK. I’m still the thug that you love to hate” —Tupac Shakur

These were some of the strongly worded lyrics written by Tupac Shakur in the song “Hit ‘Em Up” after the believed betrayal of his once close friend, Christopher Wallace, also known as Notorious B.I.G or Biggie, and his record company, Bad Boy Records.1 The battle between these two infamous rappers was well known in the 1990’s as the Battle of the Coasts, West Coast vs. East Coast. So how did these two legendary rappers become such close friends, and how did it go sour between them?

The two rappers first met on the set of the film “Poetic Justice” in 1993, in which Tupac was featured. Biggie was visiting the set while Tupac was playing Biggie’s newly released single “Party & BullS***” on repeat. Biggie was flattered that such an advanced rapper was enjoying his music. Shakur eventually introduced himself to Biggie as a fan of his music. That’s when it clicked for the two. As their friendship began to grow, the two would hang out frequently at Tupac’s home in Los Angeles, where they smoked, drank, and wrote rhymes. This helped bring the two together and bond through their love of Hip-Hop. Little did they know that their friendship would later become one of the biggest feuds in Hip-Hop history.2

The two artist began to bond, and while Biggie Smalls was just making his breakthrough in the Hip-Hop industry, Tupac decided to take him under his wing and become his mentor because he was the more experienced artist, according to D-Dot in an interview. D-Dot was a close friend of both Tupac and Biggie.3 Shakur offered Smalls valuable advice, and even helped create the sound that made Smalls as big as he was. As their relationship grew and Shakur continued to mentor him, Biggie assumed that, since the two had been spending a lot of time together and had become close, he could ask Tupac to become his manager, according to Ben Westhoff.4 Tupac kindly declined, saying that Biggie’s manager “Puff Daddy” would take Biggie where he wanted to be in the charts, telling him that he was going to make it big in the industry.

Tupac and Biggie together in a video before a freestyle rap. | Courtesy of PreFix Magazine

Their friendship lasted one year, and the two made back and forth trips between Los Angeles and New York. Over time Tupac began to like the respect he received from the East Coast and became involved with some very dangerous shot callers, high-ranked gang affiliates, of the East Coast. Biggie warned Tupac about getting involved with particular individuals, because he knew just how dangerous some could be, and they weren’t afraid to take a life; but Shakur assumed he was on good terms with everyone.5

Tupac was being convicted of sexual assault charges and was looking at serving up to twenty-five years behind bars. On November 30, 1994, he made a stop in Harlem, New York, and was supposed to go to Quads Recording Studio to record with “Little Shawn,” an east coast rapper, since it would possibly be his last recording session for a long time. After a situation involving payment, the recording session was delayed, and Tupac finally arrived at midnight. Once he walked into the lobby, he was ambushed by three men in army fatigues, held at gunpoint, robbed, and then shot multiple times. According to Tupac, when he saw the faces of Biggie and Puff Daddy shortly after the incident, their faces looked guilty. This led Tupac to believe that Biggie knew about the set up and didn’t warn him in advance. That was the end of their friendship.6

On December 1, 1994, less than one day after the shooting, Shakur showed up to court bandaged up and in a wheelchair. He was found guilty of sexual assault and then sentenced to prison for a year and a half to four and a half years on February 8, 1995.7 During his time behind bars, Biggie released a track titled “Who Shot Ya,” which led Tupac to believe that it was a diss-track aimed at him because of the robbery, but Biggie discredited that claim. Shakur appealed his convictions and a New York judge released him on $1.4 million bail with the help of Surge Knight after he signed to Death Row Records.8 Tupac became as ruthless as ever, once he was released. He went to the extent of making the claim that he slept with Biggie’s wife, Faith Evans, and that Biggie was stealing his style because he was the superior in the industry, which he emphasized in his diss track “Hit ‘Em Up.”

Surge Knight’s (Owner of Death Row Records) black BMW at the crime scene where Tupac Shakur was fattally shot in Las Vegas, Nevada. September 7, 1996 around 11PM-12am | Courtesy of Classified Plus

On the night of September 7, 1996, the feud between the two came to a climax when Shakur was fatally shot in Las Vegas. He was placed in the intensive care unit. Days later, Tupac was pronounced dead from internal bleeding caused by multiple gun wounds.9 But the murder of Tupac was not the end of their situation. On March 9, 1997, Notorious B.I.G was murdered in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles. Many believe his death was a result of the toxic relationship between himself and Tupac.10 Although both legends were killed and the issues between the two were never resolved, the two brought the West Coast vs. East Coast rivalry to life.11 It continues, and so does their legacy that was left behind.

  1. Stereo Williams, “Tupacs Hit Em Up: The Most Savage Diss Track Ever Turns 20,” The Daily Beast, June 04, 2016, accessed February 11, 2018, https://www.thedailybeast.com/tupacs-hit-em-up-the-most-savage-diss-track-ever-turns-20.
  2. Candace Sandy and Dawn Marie Daniels, How long will they mourn me?: the life and legacy of Tupac Shakur (New York: Random House, 2006), 54.
  3.  “D-Dot talks Tupac & Biggie’s Early Friendship,” Interview by VladTV, D-Dot talks Tupac, biggie’s friendship before beef, November 11, 2013.
  4. Ben Westhoff, Original gangstas: the untold story of Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Tupac Shakur, and the birth of West Coast rap (New York: Hachette Books, 2016),267.
  5.  Tayannah Lee McQuillar and Freddie Lee Johnson, Tupac Shakur: the life and times of an American icon (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2010), 137.
  6. MusicVibe | September 13, “V Vintage (1996): Kevin Powell Interviews Tupac,” Vibe, February 24, 2015, , accessed March 08, 2018, https://www.vibe.com/2010/09/v-vintage-1996-kevin-powell-interviews-tupac/.
  7. Natalie Finn, “Untangling the Conspiracies Surrounding Tupac Shakurs Unsolved Murder,” E! Online, February 25, 2018, accessed March 07, 2018, http://www.eonline.com/news/915786/the-unsolved-murder-of-tupac-shakur-untangling-the-epic-layers-of-conspiracy-surrounding-the-case.
  8. Chuck Philips and Alan Abrahamson, “Rapper leaves tangled financial, legal legacy,” Los Angeles Times, December 24, 1996, accessed March 05, 2018, http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-shakurlegacy24dec2496-story.html.
  9. Michel Marriott, “Shots Silence Angry Voice Sharpened by the Streets,” The New York Times, September 15, 1996, accessed February 13, 2018, http://www.nytimes.com/1996/09/16/us/shots-silence-angry-voice-sharpened-by-the-streets.html.
  10. Carrie Wittmer, “The murders of Biggie and Tupac are still a mystery after 20 years – here are all the theories about them,” Business Insider, March 27, 2017, accessed February 13, 2018, http://www.businessinsider.com/biggie-and-tupac-murder-theories-cases-suspects-2017-3/#but-then-a-violent-rivalry-started-2.
  11. Meghan Giannotta, “A look at Tupac and Biggie’s infamous hip-hop feud,” Am New York, February 20, 2018, accessed March 05, 2018, https://www.amny.com/entertainment/east-coast-vs-west-coast-rivalry-a-look-at-tupac-and-biggie-s-infamous-hip-hop-feud-1.13742586.
Tupac & Notorious B.I.G: A friendship created & destroyed by Hip-Hop
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  • The story of how friendship could end up in a bitter rivalry is something in itself; however, the fact of how these people who are rich and famous, who have it all and they have to resort in a life of drugs and violence I will never understand. They have all the money in the world, they are a high profile individual, and then they throw it all in the garbage when they resort to a life of gangs and drugs. The same thing occured with Tupac, but instead of ending up behind bars due to his negative decisions, he ended up dead. This is likely due to the gangs that he chose to associate with. I will never truly undertsand the choices that some high profile individuals make while living what most people would call the “American Dream”.

  • I disagree with the last sentence of this article that the west coast vs east coast rivalry is still alive. I am a huge fan of hip hop and know that the culture today is a lot softer nobody wants to be feuding they just want to be friends. In the 90s it was a different story though rappers would get into fights and put out dis records until their feud was squashed or one of the participants careers ended.

  • I really enjoyed reading this article as I’ve always found learning about the death of these two icons very interesting. There are actually several theories that involve this topic, one of the most intriguing ones being that Tupac is still alive. The relationship between both of these artists is about as legendary an entertaining as any relationship ever seen in the music industry. It’s unfortunate that their relationship had to turn negative, because they were both two highly talented and influential individuals that still had much to offer. Good article.

  • I’m glad that there is an article that is relating to both Biggie and Tupac. Both of these artists are my most favorite artists that I love listening to. All of the new rappers just sound the same and don’t seem to be on the same level as both of these legends. I just really wish that both of these rappers would’ve made even more music so everyone could be able to listen.

  • I like the way the article was played out and how all of the dates that were in the article had a lot of meaning to them. Growing up I have listened to a lot of this style of music and I can tell you first hand that it is really good and its crazy to see how all of the good music making had to stop because one friend didn’t believe the other. I don’t see why Tupac couldn’t have a sit down talk with who he called his good friend and figure everything out. Instead it lead to two legends six feet under.

  • I liked reading this article a lot, music industry at this time was going through major changes. The west coast and east coast always budded heads because they wanted to have the better rap and do better. Surge Knight was known for being a instigator in the rap industry and he created animosity amongst both coasts. It sucks that they had beef because a huge music collaboration could have been great.

  • The infamous East coast, West coast rivalry. I have read so many conspiracies on how Tupac is perhaps still alive. This article does a great job at describing the rivalry, and depicting how toxic friendships are born out of toxic friendships. These two rappers were in their prime at their time of deaths, and it’s tragic to know that they died out of hate. I also liked how the article centered on the rivalry rather than their prior friendship, which even at first their friendship was rocky. I really enjoyed reading this article with my prior background knowledge.

  • It is sad to look back and see that these two artists fell from grace in such a difficult time. I can only imagine the kind of platform they could have had if they had put their heads together longer. Even within our own borders these artists wanted to be so territorial. It became an internal war between the East coast and the West coast. Although this tension may still linger, I am grateful that artists do not stress their location as much as they did back then.

  • Great article. Starting the article off with lyrics to one of his best known songs was a great addition to the article especially since it is considered one of the best diss records in hip hop music today. It is hard to imagine what the two of them could have accomplished if they worked together instead of going their separate ways. Its sad that a great friendship like theirs was ruined and eventually lead to their deaths because of conflicts in the hip hop industry.

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