Can-Am Studio didn’t look like the place to stage a world takeover.
But in the weeks after Tupac’s release from prison, he rarely left the nondescript brown-brick building, located in an industrial park in California’s San Fernando Valley. He had a career to rebuild, legal fees to pay, and scores to settle. He was ready to go to war.
When Death Row Records co-founder Suge Knight brokered Tupac’s release from prison, he’d promised to make the rapper a bigger star. Tupac, in turn, had promised Suge that he’d make his label the biggest in the world.
At Can-Am, Tupac worked furiously. He wanted the world to know that the past couple years—the arrests, the prison time, the Quad shooting—had only made him stronger.
Tupac smoked weed and cigarettes, drank Hennessy, and pumped out song after song. He spent as much as 19 hours a day in the studio.
“Suge built a bedroom in the office for himself and a shower,” said the R&B singer Danny Boy, who worked with Tupac at Can-Am. “We staying in the studio, because Pac ain’t leaving.”
Tupac’s work was driven by pain and rage. He still believed that Biggie and Puffy were responsible for the shooting at Quad Studios. He’d tallied up all the slights he thought they’d directed at him. He’d been dwelling on it for a year.
“They just said anything to assassinate my character,” Tupac told Vibe. “What that showed me: remember this lack of a conscience when I come out. Remember this lack of mercy when I come out. Remember this lack of compassion when I come out.”
In prison, Tupac had made plans for revenge, and he had a specific idea in mind.
Frank Alexander, who worked as Tupac’s bodyguard, said that one thing that kept Tupac going was the thought that, when he got out, he was going to sleep with Biggie’s wife.
How did Biggie respond to Tupac’s attempts at vengeance? And in a rap beef, are there lines that you should never cross?
This excerpt has been edited and condensed for clarity. Subscribe to Slow Burn Season 3: Tupac and Biggie now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts. And to hear the interviews we just couldn’t fit into the main episodes, join Slate Plus.