Slow Burn: Biggie and Tupac

Season 3: Episode 2

Cops on My Tail

In the 1990s, rappers pushed America to confront police brutality—and police claimed rap lyrics were turning black listeners into cop-killers.

Illustration depicting a female with a microphone

Listen longer

Slate Plus members get ad-free versions of all Slate podcasts, plus extra segments, bonus episodes, and more. Try it free today.

Join Slate Plus

About the Show

In its first two seasons, Slow Burn looked back at two of the biggest stories of the late 20th century—the Watergate scandal and the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Season three tackles another: the murders of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. The story takes place at a moment when hip-hop was taking over pop culture, and a former theater kid from the Bay Area and a one-time crack dealer from Brooklyn were changing the music forever. They went from friends to enemies. And they ended up victims of a deadly rivalry between two rap scenes.  

How is it that two of the most famous performers in the world were murdered within a year of each other—and their killings were never solved?

All episodes

Host

  • Joel Anderson is a staff writer at Slate and the host of Season 3 of Slow Burn. Previously, he worked as a reporter on sports, culture, and politics for ESPN and BuzzFeed News.

Follow

Episode Notes

In 1992, Ronald Ray Howard shot and killed Texas Highway Patrol Trooper Bill Davidson. His lawyer argued he’d been driven to murder by the music he’d been playing in his car: a dubbed copy of Tupac Shakur’s first album, 2Pacalypse Now.

On the second episode of Slow Burn’s third season: how gangsta rap and law enforcement found themselves at war.

Slate Plus Member Content Bonus Episode

Rap Lyrics as Evidence

How law enforcement and prosecutors have used Tupac’s songs and other hip-hop music to convict and incarcerate men of color.