Slow Burn

Dead Wrong

Read a transcript of Slow Burn: Season 3, Episode 8.

This is a transcript of Episode 8 of Season 3 of Slow Burn. Listen in the player below, or subscribe here.

This podcast contains language that may offend some listeners. 

In 2006, Greg Kading was a narcotics detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. On his 43rd birthday, he got a phone call from the Robbery-Homicide Division. The LAPD was reopening a cold case: the 1997 murder of Christopher Wallace, the Notorious B.I.G. They asked if he wanted to join the task force.

Kading wasn’t looking for a new assignment.

GREG KADING: I was already in this really good place. And I thought, well, and I’m going to come down here and, maybe this is a mistake. 

In the end, though, he decided to take the spot.

GREG KADING: I think what the overriding factor was that, hey, this is a really big, important historic case. If we do solve it, that’s going to be worthwhile.

A few days later, he got to look at the case files. There were a lot of them.

GREG KADING: I just kind of remember laughing, like this is preposterous, you know. I knew it’s going to take months in order to kind of catch up on the investigative effort that had taken place for the previous nine years. So, it was just daunting. It was like, “holy smokes. This is a lot of work.”

In the days after Biggie’s murder in Los Angeles, the police interviewed anyone they could find with a plausible connection to the case. Detectives spoke to Sean “Puffy” Combs, the CEO of Biggie’s label, Bad Boy Records. They also talked to the bus driver whose route passed the scene of the shooting, and clerks at the hotels where Biggie stayed at in LA. They had the department’s helicopter unit fly over South Central LA to look for the Black Impala used in the shooting. They reviewed surveillance tapes at the hospital where Biggie was pronounced dead.

Still, the case had gone cold.

Here’s Biggie’s widow, R&B star Faith Evans, eight months after his murder:

FAITH EVANS: I don’t, I mean, wanna at all try to shame, you know, the LAPD but it’s like, like his murder as well as Tupac’s, how could—I don’t understand how could they not, you know, have any leads? I’m sure they have a lot but maybe they’re not following the right ones, you know?

What leads should the Los Angeles Police Department have followed? One widespread rumor had it that Suge Knight of Death Row Records had put a hit on Big as revenge for Tupac Shakur’s killing six months earlier. Maybe Biggie’s murder was another drive-by in the long-running war between Bloods and Crips.

Or maybe it was something else—something more explosive.

A lot of people thought that crooked L.A. cops had been involved in Biggie’s murder, and that the LAPD was protecting them.

Biggie’s family came to believe there was something to that theory.

In 2002, Faith Evans and Biggie’s mother Voletta Wallace filed a wrongful death suit against the Los Angeles police department. Three years later, a judge found that the department had withheld evidence and forced the city to pay Biggie’s estate more than a million dollars in legal fees. A mistrial was declared and the case started over.

In 2006, still under pressure from the wrongful death suit, the LAPD announced it was reopening its investigation into Biggie’s murder. The detective who recruited Greg Kading for that investigation told him thatthe department had nothing to hide—that the LAPD was willing to implicate its officers, if that’s where the evidence led.

GREG KADING: He goes, “We’re going to go where the clues go. Whatever it is, it is. If there’s dirty cops, fuck it, so be it. Let’s get ‘em outta here.”

It took Kading’s task force months, to sort through the previous investigations.

GREG KADING: The first year was just a lot of, you know, putting our flowcharts up on the walls, figuring out who’s who and where they’re at at this point and in time.

By late 2007, they began to focus on a Southside Crip named Duane Keith Davis, who went by Keffe D.

Keffe D was a drug kingpin in Compton. In 1997, after a federal investigation, he was convicted on narcotics charges and served four years in prison. When he got released, he went right back into the drug business.

That gave Kading and his task force an opening.

GREG KADING: We began to do wiretaps and controlled buys and built a case against him, an airtight federal drug case against him.

Kading used that federal case—and a potential prison sentence of 25 years to life—as leverage against Keffe D.

GREG KADING: So now he can mitigate that. He can cooperate with us, help us solve these crimes to the ability that he knows.

On December 18, 2008, Keffe D agreed to talk to the LAPD.

But what he said wasn’t what Kading was expecting.

GREG KADING: Initially our interest was: “Alright, tell us what you know about Biggie’s murder?” He was like, “Man, that one wasn’t us.” Those were his words. “That one wasn’t us.”

Kading had been trying to find out who killed Biggie Smalls. Instead, he was about to find out who killed Tupac Shakur.

What you’re going to hear is the story of Kading’s investigation, the last official inquiry into the deaths of Biggie and Tupac.

I recently spent two hours talking to Kading at his home in Southern California. We covered his involvement in the case from start to finish.

I’ve read a lot about these two murder cases over the past year. There are a lot of theories about who killed Tupac and Biggie, and to me, Greg Kading’s seem the most reasonable.

But other people take issue with Kading’s conclusions. We’ll get to them later.

Even if you accept Kading’s version of events, there are plenty of unanswered questions about the murders of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. There is no satisfying resolution here.

Who killed Tupac and Biggie, and why? Why has no one been charged in either man’s murder? And what legacy did these two hip-hop icons leave behind?

This is Slow Burn. I’m your host, Joel Anderson. This is episode eight: Dead Wrong.

Greg Kading’s informant, Keffe D, happened to be the uncle of Orlando Anderson. Anderson was the man Tupac and the Death Row crew beat down in a Las Vegas casino the night Tupac was shot.

Anderson had long been considered a suspect in Tupac’s murder, although he was never charged. Almost two years after Tupac was killed, Anderson himself was fatally shot in a gang dispute at a Compton car wash.

He was asked by reporters if he’d pulled the trigger, and he always denied it.

REPORTER: Were you involved, in any way, in the death of Tupac Shakur?

ANDERSON: No, I was not involved. I mean, I’m like a victim. You know

what I’m saying? I feel, you know what I’m saying, sorry for him. Like I said, I was a fan of him.

Anderson’s uncle, Keffe D, had been nearby when both Tupac and Biggie were murdered. He’d been with Anderson that night in Las Vegas in September 1996. He was also at the Soul Train Awards after-party in Los Angeles the following March—the night Biggie was killed.

Keffe D started telling Greg Kading about the night of September 7, 1996, at the MGM Grand Casino.

He said he got to Vegas a day before his nephew Orlando Anderson showed up with two friends.

GREG KADING: So he then goes to explain how they went out there to watch the Tyson fight. Had no real intentions of getting into anything with anybody.

As you’ll remember from episode six, Tupac was in the crowd for that fight, along with Suge Knight and a crew from Death Row. They ran into Orlando Anderson at the casino afterward. One of the Death Row guys told Tupac that Anderson had beaten him up and taken his chain two months earlier. Tupac rushed at Anderson and attacked him, and the rest of the group joined in on the beating.

GREG KADING: And Orlando Anderson’s left there to lick his wounds. He finally catches back up with his uncle, who’s not far away, and they begin to plan their retaliation against Tupac and Suge.

Keffe D and Orlando Anderson knew where Tupac and Suge would be after the Tyson fight—there was an after-party at Suge’s Club 662. So they got a .40-caliber Glock handgun and headed over with a group of friends.

But they arrived too early. After a while, a few of them made a run to the liquor store.

Keffe D, Orlando Anderson, and two of their friends were heading back to Club 662 from the liquor store when they heard fans screaming “Tupac! Tupac!” It turned out that Suge and Tupac were just a few feet away, cruising down Las Vegas Boulevard in Suge’s new BMW 750. Keffe D, Anderson, and their crew made a U-turn in their Cadillac, and caught up to the BMW at the intersection of Flamingo Road and Koval Lane.

GREG KADING: Keffe D hands the gun to Orlando, leans out the window and just pops, pops Tupac. And, uh, that’s the way it went.

After Orlando Anderson pulled the trigger, they made a hard right in the Cadillac and drove away from the scene.

The next morning, they went back to L.A. And that, according to Greg Kading of the LAPD, is how Tupac’s murder went down.

GREG KADING: There is this kind of tendency to be like, “Nah, it can’t just be that simple.” It is that simple.

It wasn’t quite that simple.

Keffe D also claimed that Puffy had offered him and the other Crips one million dollars for the hit on Tupac and Suge. According to Keffe, he never got the million dollars and never talked to Puffy again. He said they committed the murder for revenge, not for money.
Puffy has strongly denied that he was involved with Tupac’s killing.

Today Keffe D is in his mid-50s and lives in Southern California. He didn’t want to talk to us for this series, but he’s given other interviews and wrote a book about his life in Compton and his role in Tupac’s murder. He’s changed his story since he talked to Kading in 2008. He now says Tupac seemed to be reaching for a gun, and that someone in Keffe’s car fired in response.

Greg Kading believes that Orlando Anderson killed Tupac, and that Keffe D saw it happen. But Kading couldn’t close the case. That’s because the murder happened in Las Vegas—and the Las Vegas police didn’t seem eager to solve it.

Cathy Scott was on the cops beat for the Las Vegas Sun newspaper when Tupac was shot in September 1996.

She says the police started antagonizing Tupac’s entourage right after the shooting.

CATHY SCOTT: They started just yanking people out of cars and sitting them, you know, putting them on the curb and telling them not to talk to each other. Some of them were face down. So, and then you want them to cooperate? They were victims. You know, their entourage was fired upon. Tupac’s car was fired upon.

The investigation didn’t go any better in the days that followed. It seemed to Cathy Scott that the Vegas police weren’t even trying to solve the case.

CATHY SCOTT: I was told that it would be bad for publicity to have a case that high profile, um, involving a black rapper and in in Las Vegas, that it would be bad for tourism. So I don’t know. I don’t know. It was all, always stumped me, but like I was told it would have been bad for tourism, I don’t know. Was that the bottom line? was that the reason? Was it laziness? Was it a lack of caring? Was it racial? I don’t think we’ll ever know.

We asked the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department to comment for this story. They said, “The case remains active, and the investigation is ongoing. LVMPD does not comment on open and ongoing investigations.”

Tupac was one of the most famous people in America and his death was a huge national story. He was also a black man. And the Las Vegas police didn’t make solving his murder a priority.

Let’s take a quick break.

REPORTER: If you knew who killed Tupac, would you tell the police?

SUGE KNIGHT: Absolutely not.

A few months after the shooting, a reporter asked Suge Knight why he wouldn’t cooperate with the cops who were investigating his friend’s killing.

SUGE KNIGHT: Because it’s not my job. I don’t get paid to solve homicides. I don’t get paid to tell on people.

Suge has always denied that he had anything to do with Biggie’s death. But Greg Kading thought he was a leading suspect.

GREG KADING: It made perfect sense because he survived the shooting in Vegas. He loved Tupac and would likely retaliate for him, and he had the means to do it. 

Suge was consumed by Death Row’s beef with Bad Boy, just as Tupac had been. And he believed there was a reason to retaliate against Biggie.

GREG KADING: After Tupac was shot in Las Vegas, the rumors started to spread that Biggie had been in Las Vegas, and that Biggie had provided the gun, and that Biggie had hired the Southside Crips. And so now it looks like Biggie’s responsible for Tupac’s murder. And so, you know, that all added up to him getting targeted. But we—you know, in truth, Biggie had nothing to do with none of that.

To get to Suge, Kading and his team used the same tactics that had worked on Keffe D.

GREG KADING: So now let’s figure out how we do the same thing with Biggie’s murder that we just did with Tupac and find somebody who was in a position to know what happened and then compel them to cooperate with us.

In the decade after Tupac’s murder, Suge Knight had been in and out of prison, and his empire had fallen into ruin. In 2006, he filed for bankruptcy, claiming that Death Row had less than $10 million in assets and more than $100 million in debt.

Kading’s task force started looking for evidence of bankruptcy fraud. According to Kading, they found that Suge had tried to transfer some valuable Death Row master tapes to his longtime girlfriend, to hide them from the bankruptcy court.

When Kading published a book about the case, he gave Suge’s girlfriend a fake name: Theresa Swann. She was 42 years old, and she lived in a house that Suge owned, with their young daughter and a teenage son from an earlier relationship. And now, the LAPD had evidence that Swann may have participated in Suge’s financial shenanigans.

We reached out to the person we believe is Theresa Swann to ask for comment, but she didn’t respond.

GREG KADING: So we go and do the same thing again, build the case against her. I say, here, we need to sit down and talk with you and otherwise you’re going to go to prison for this list of crimes.

Swann didn’t talk that day, but they set another meeting for late May 2009—three months away.

Meanwhile, the task force was pursuing other leads. They came to believe that the person who pulled the trigger on Biggie was likely Wardell Fouse, who went by the nickname “Poochie.”

Poochie had been a member of the Lueder’s Park Piru street gang and one of Suge’s most notorious goons. In 2003, he’d been riding a motorcycle through Compton when someone shot him in the back and killed him.

At first, Poochie just seemed like a good bet.

GREG KADING: He was also wanted on some other murders. We knew that he had a particular relationship with Suge, and he is the kind of guy that would do this type of thing.

Gradually, the evidence against Poochie started to look stronger. For example, Kading’s team heard that Suge had bought Poochie a Chevrolet Impala—the same kind of car Biggie’s killer was driving.

Kading thought Poochie was the killer—and he thought Swann knew it. So he tried something a little tricky.

He drew up a phony statement, one that he claimed Poochie had made before his death. It said that Suge had hired Poochie to kill Biggie.

GREG KADING: We showed it to her and she’s just looking at it almost, like, mesmerized and her eyes are big. And she’s like, “Yeah, that’s exactly what happened.”

And then she gave Kading her account of how the plot unfolded.

According to Kading, Swann said she visited Suge several times while he was in jail for his role in the casino beatdown of Orlando Anderson. During those visits in early 1997, she agreed to coordinate with Poochie to carry out the hit. They planned it for the night of the Soul Train Awards after-party.

GREG KADING: So they make arrangements for her to get paid. She pays Poochie and the whole thing is set up and planned for when Biggie is at the Peterson Auto Museum. It was a place in L.A. where they knew they could find him.

Kading and his team believed they had identified the killer. Poochie was dead, but Suge was still alive and could be prosecuted.

But that never happened. Kading was taken off the task force in 2009.

Nine months later, a judge dismissed the lawsuit Biggie’s family had filed against the LAPD. That meant the pressure was off the department. Even with Swann’s account, the investigation hadn’t generated enough evidence to get a conviction, and the department’s brass wasn’t interested in devoting the resources to gather more. The task force was told to wrap up its work.

GREG KADING: So now the whole thing’s kind of null and void and the LAPD is like done. We’re done. That’s it. We got what we wanted. This shit is over. Everybody go back to work. Put the books on the shelves. This is case closed for us, and that’s where it is today.

The LAPD declined to answer questions for this podcast. We also sent them a public records request for the files on Biggie’s murder. The department denied our request, saying the files were part of an ongoing investigation.

Suge Knight is currently serving a 28-year prison sentence; he pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter after running over a man with his car and killing him in 2015.

Greg Kading retired from the LAPD in 2010. The next year, he published his book, Murder Rap. The book inspired a TV series in 2018. Kading was played by Josh Duhamel.

Today, Kading lives with his wife in a comfortable home in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.

But time, and Hollywood money, haven’t soothed his hard feelings.

And Kading has bad news for those hoping for convictions in the Biggie and Tupac cases.

GREG KADING: There will never be any judicial closure, in so far as anybody being prosecuted. And that is for most people unsatisfying.

RANDALL SULLIVAN: It was basically just a cover up.

That’s Randall Sullivan, a journalist who wrote two books on Biggie’s murder.

Sulllivan doesn’t think much of Kading’s investigation.

RANDALL SULLIVAN: The cops were assigned to find some theory of this case that doesn’t—of Biggie’s murder—that doesn’t involve LAPD officers.

Sullivan’s first book on the Biggie case, LAbryinth, was published in 2002. That book was adapted for the screen too—it became a movie called City of Lies, starring Johnny Depp and Forrest Whitaker.

Sullivan’s research is based on the investigative work of a former LAPD detective named Russell Poole.

Poole thought Suge Knight was behind the hit on Biggie. But he didn’t think “Poochie” Fouse pulled the trigger. Poole said: “Biggie’s murder was much more sophisticated than anything I’ve ever seen any gangbanger pull off.”

Here’s Russell Poole’s theory for how Biggie’s killing went down. First, Suge went to David Mack, an LAPD officer who hung out with Death Row. Mack then enlisted an old college roommate to carry out the murder.

There is some circumstantial evidence pointing to David Mack. Mack drove a dark Chevrolet Impala like the one that was used in Biggie’s killing. An eyewitness also placed Mack outside the museum the night Biggie was shot.

David Mack and the roommate both deny any involvement in Biggie’s killing. In 1999, Mack was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison for robbing a Bank of America branch.

The LAPD detective Russell Poole thought the department was covering up for Mack. He quit the force in 1999 and took his complaints public.

REPORTER: Poole says he retired early from the LAPD out of frustration because of this case, saying the department didn’t allow him to pursue leads that involved other cops.

RUSSELL POOLE: I think, uh I was getting too close to the truth, I think they feared that the truth would be a scandal.

Sullivan’s book laid out Poole’s findings in more detail.

That’s what prompted Biggie’s estate to file a wrongful death suit against the LAPD.

In her own book, Biggie’s mother Voletta Wallace said, “The Los Angeles Police Department was doing a lot of questionable things and telling outright lies. It seemed to me that they were not truly trying to solve this murder or get to the bottom of it.”

To me, Russell Poole’s theory of the case seems convoluted. It’s not totally impossible that the LAPD would have perpetrated a massive cover-up. But it’s hard to imagine so many different people, with different motivations, committing themselves to the same lie.

Poole’s investigation also leaned heavily on the word of jailhouse snitches, who are notoriously unreliable.

Greg Kading’s explanation is simpler, and I think it’s more sensible.

But Russell Poole never backed down.
Here’s Randall Sullivan again.

RANDALL SULLIVAN: He was a pain in the ass. I mean, he would, just could not let go. He was constantly calling me and telling me, “What—have you done this? Have you done that?” He was obsessed with the case. And, he was drinking too much and he’d gotten pretty heavy and had heart problems. But he was still dogged in his pursuit of this case.

Sullivan remembers getting a phone call from Poole in August 2015. Poole had been invited to present his findings to the LA Sheriff’s Department, which operates independently from the LAPD.

RANDALL SULLIVAN: He’s really excited. He thinks that the Sheriff’s Department really is serious about you know reopening the case and looking at it from a fresh angle, and you know not being intimidated or distracted by the LAPD.

Poole planned to go to the meeting with a friend, but he ultimately went alone, at the request of the Sheriff’s Department.

The meeting was scheduled for 10 a.m.

At 11, his friend got a call. Poole had collapsed during the meeting. He was pronounced dead later that day, reportedly of a heart attack. He was 58.

The bizarre circumstances of Poole’s death launched another round of conspiracy theories. Poole’s friend told Randall Sullivan, “I believe Russ was murdered.”

We’ll be back in a minute.

Russell Poole isn’t the only one who had difficulty letting go of Biggie and Tupac.

As soon as Tupac was pronounced dead in September 1996, fans started speculating that he was actually still alive.
“Tupac was very political, and he said a lot of things that people didn’t really want to hear,” a college student told the Philadelphia Inquirer, theorizing that Tupac was hiding out for his own safety. Others speculated that Tupac faked his death for commercial reasons—that he “would sell more records dead than alive.”

There have been reported Tupac sightings in Cuba, Somalia, and Sweden. There was a rumor that Tupac attended an Occupy Wall Street demonstration in New York in 2011. And in October 2018, Suge Knight’s son posted a blurry video of a thin, bald-headed man on Instagram. He said this was Tupac, and that he was living in Malaysia.

Just last month, the syndicated TV talk show Dish Nation debated Tupac’s current whereabouts.

JESSIE WOO: He’s alive and well in Haiti, I’m telling you.

CHUEY MARTINEZ: Nah, he’s in Cuba. He’s in Cuba.

DA BRAT: Did y’all not see the autopsy picture?

The autopsy picture referred to in that segment was published by the former Las Vegas Sun reporter Cathy Scott.
She’s also the author of the book The Killing of Tupac Shakur.

CATHY SCOTT: News stories were coming out that Tupac may have faked his own death. And to kind of put that to rest, with evidence, we decided to—it was the publisher’s decision and mine as well—to go ahead and run it inside, in black and white, not in color.

The picture is really gruesome. It shows him lying on his back, head turned to the side. There’s a wound that covers most of his chest, and he’s virtually split down his entire torso.
There’s another gaping hole in the back of his head, exposing his skull.

That photo hasn’t done much to end the conspiracy theories.

There was never much talk about Biggie still being alive.

Whereas Tupac boasted of his ability to survive the Quad shooting, Biggie encouraged his fans to think of him as doomed. It came up over and over again in his music and interviews. His response to fame and wealth was fundamentally morbid.

The cover of his album Life After Death, released 16 days after his murder, shows him in a black suit leaning against a hearse.

A few days before he died, Biggie did an interview with host JV on the radio talk show The Dog House, which aired on San Francisco’s KYLD.

JV: You said in the video—you told people, you know what, sometimes I’d just rather be dead cause in heaven or hell, I could just chill out and I don’t have anyone stressing on me. This whole music thing was supposed to be fun, not all this stress.

CHRISTOPHER “BIGGIE” WALLACE: Yeah, because, I mean, you look at situations, and you think, “OK, that’s where I want to be.” Once you get in it and and you achieve the success that you want, it seems like that’s when the playahating starts. You know, that’s when everybody is like well, ‘It’s not all that. He’s not all that.’

Biggie and Tupac remain towering figures in hip-hop. Forever linked together, they serve as a cautionary tale for rappers, and a reminder of how quickly fortunes can change.

Here’s Cheo Hodari Coker, a former hip-hop journalist who covered both Biggie and Pac.

CHEO HODARI COKER: When you look at what Jay and Puff and Dr. Dre and, you know, the like have gotten to do and the things that Biggie and Tupac didn’t get to do…it’s just really frustrating. Because when they both got murdered, they were thousandaires. And now rappers have evolved into you know million and billionaires. And that explosion didn’t happen until after both of them died.

It’s hard to think of a rapper who hasn’t, at some point, acknowledged the legacies of Biggie and Tupac.

Invoking their names in a song is a nod to hip-hop forebears, and a reminder of Biggie and Pac’s foundational place in the game.

“Evil Twin”—Eminem

[From “Evil Twin” by Eminem]

Fuck top five bitch, I’m top four

And that includes Biggie and Pac, whore

And I got an evil twin

So who the fuck you think that third and that fourth spot’s for?

“Worst Enemy”—Gucci Mane

[From “Worst Enemy” by Gucci Mane]

First 2Pac died, then Biggie died, and that greatly impacted me

Then history repeated itself through me and I made history

“Pirates”—Rick Ross

[From “Pirates” by Rick Ross]

At this point in my life, I’m just tryna survive

Homicide stay on my mind, Christopher Wallace of my time

R.I.P. to the legend, 2Pac Shakur with a nine

Makaveli returns, it’s God forgives, and I don’t

“The Glory”—Kanye West

[From “The Glory” by Kanye West]

I hear people compare themselves to Big a lot

You know B.I.G. and Pac, you know to get it hot

I guess after I live I wanna be compared to B.I.G.

Any one: Big Pun, Big L or Notorious

‘Til then, get money and stunt and stay glorious

And Imma stop killing these niggas soon as the chorus hit

I grew up on Big and Pac’s music. I lived through their deaths, and listened to the next generation of rappers who idolized them. Their music, and the music they inspired, has been the soundtrack to my life.

I listen to music all the time. When I’m up late writing scripts for this podcast. Or walking to the office from my Airbnb in Bed-Stuy. Or just driving somewhere with my wife.

Over the last few months, I’ve started catching things that I’d missed, in lyrics I’d been listening to for years. An old Big line. A reference to Pac.

It happened most recently while I was playing a new album from one of my favorite artists.

Skyzoo is a 36-year-old rapper from Bedford-Stuyvesant. He remembers Biggie’s funeral procession making its way through his neighborhood in 1997.

SKYZOO: They’re literally driving him down the block in the hearse. It’s crazy. Like, it’s insane. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before. And then every window is blasting Biggie and everybody window was playing a different Biggie song. And every car driving on a block is playing Big—it just was insanity. And it’s flowers everywhere. And it’s people crying and there’s people—it just was nuts.

Skyzoo drew on that scene in a song called “It’s All Good.”

“It’s All Good”—Skyzoo

[From “It’s All Good” by Skyzoo]

Fourteen‚ hearing that all we need is to get a curb

Shorties used to turn down the Henny‚ itʼd make their titties burn

Crown draped over my dome before I could get a word

Ever since they drove down my block carrying Biggieʼs urn

Memories of Biggie and Tupac have become part of the fabric of rap music. They’re memories of the moment when hip-hop was becoming a global culture, when it had to grow up.

CHEO HODARI COKER: I think the thing that kills me is that hip-hop evolved. You know, you always go back to that, to that line, you know, you know “Whoever thought that hip hop will take it this far?”

A creepy hologram of Pac took the stage at the Coachella music festival in 2012. Kendall and Kylie Jenner released a line of t-shirts with Biggie and Tupac’s faces in 2017. And if you go see the Brooklyn Nets playing in a billion-dollar arena, less than a mile from Biggie’s old neighborhood, you might hear the beat Nashiem Myrick used for “Who Shot Ya?”

Biggie and Tupac belong to the world now. They moved hip-hop further than anyone could have expected.

But hip-hop had to move on without them. They’re gone, but we’re still here.

Slow Burn is a production of Slate Plus, Slate’s membership program. This season is over—but if you still want more Slow Burn, now’s the time to sign up for Slate Plus. Members can hear eight bonus episodes of the show right now, where we’ve been talking about Biggie, Tupac, and the making of the show, and going deeper into some of the stories and themes that we couldn’t get into in the main episodes.

Members can also hear extended interviews with people close to the story. This week, we’ve got more from Cathy Scott, who was a reporter covering the cops in Las Vegas when Tupac was shot, and who later wrote a book about his murder. If you’ve enjoyed this season, you’ll want to hear these episodes.

So sign up today—it’s only $35 for the first year. You’ll get all those bonus episodes right away, and you’ll get all the other benefits of Slate Plus—like no ads on any Slate podcast. To join, head over to slate.com/slowburn. And thank you to all of the Slate Plus members for their support—we couldn’t have made this season without you. Once again, you can join Slate Plus at slate.com/slowburn.

We’ve created a playlist on Spotify to go with this season. It’s got every episode, plus songs by Tupac, Biggie, and their collaborators. Check it out at the link in the show notes.

And if you want even more: Slow Burn producer Christopher Johnson and I went on the podcast Switched on Pop to talk about East and West Coast hip-hop in the 90s. To find that episode, search for Switched on Pop wherever you get your podcasts.

And one last thing - we’re going on tour in February. We’re going to keep the conversation about Biggie and Tupac going with live shows in DC, New York, San Francisco, and L.A. I hope you can join us! For tickets and more information, visit slate.com/live.

Slow Burn is produced by me and Christopher Johnson, with editorial direction from Josh Levin and Gabriel Roth. Sophie Summergrad is our researcher. Our mix engineers are Jared Paul, and Paul Mounsey. Donwill composed our theme song. Our artwork is by Lisa Larson-Walker.

Some of the audio you heard in this episode came from JV of The Dog House.

We’ve got a long list of people to thank this time. Thanks to Allison Benedikt, Bill Carey, Essie Chambers, Serena Dan-Yari, Jenee Desmond-Harris, Jack Hamilton, Jared Hohlt, Merritt Jacob, Derreck Johnson, Megan Kallstrom, Lowen Liu, Bria Mariette, Chris Molanphy, Seung Park, Katie Rayford, Asha Saluja, Alison Schary, Rachel Stromm, Maggie Taylor, June Thomas, and Chau Tu for making this season work.

Thanks for listening and we’ll holler at y’all later.