S1: This podcast has language that some people might find offensive. Previously on slow burn Tupac Shakur is becoming a superstar in music and film.
S2: Meanwhile his life is coming apart on November 30th 1994 in New York City rap star Tupac Shakur is listed in serious but stable condition tonight. He was shot five times apparently in a random robbery last night.
S1: Unknown gunmen attacked Tupac in the lobby of quiet studios where his friend Biggie Smalls was recording the next day. Tupac was found guilty of sexual abuse and soon after that he was taken to Riker’s Island to await sentencing. The songs that made notorious by famous were the ones he didn’t even want to record. Big thing even like big popular or juicy. Here’s producer gnashing Myrick you know how long it took him to do big papal nuncio last July. I think he did for that album juicy and Big Poppa were the first singles off of biggest first album ready to die. These were the songs that got the heavy set 22 year old Christopher Wallace on MTV while Juicy was a hit. It was Big Poppa that reached number one on the rap charts. The infectious hooks brought listeners in what won them over was the warmth and big his voice a sound that made him both relatable and totally unique.
S3: The place with startling Grace allow me to list dishes that make moves with all them but the teddy bear image that came through in those songs wasn’t the whole story.
S1: Biggie had started dealing drugs as a 13 year old dropped out of school at 16 and spent a few years hustling in his hometown of Brooklyn and in Raleigh North Carolina where he rapped about that life. He was speaking from experience his childhood diary Coker who wrote the biggie biography unbelievable.
S4: He had a certain charisma in the streets. I mean he had a look about himself and in a way about himself that he had true street cred you know that’s why he talks about the struggle because it’s like you make just enough money to do some basically silly shit. But then you’re still out there getting robbed you’re still out there with your life on the line.
S1: In 1992 Biggie got written up into Unsigned Hype column of the source. One of the early influential hip hop magazines that brought biggest demo tape to the attention of Sean Puffy Combs women CEO cup of Longo played the tape for Puffy. He remembers the hip hop mogul had one question. My recollection immediately after Planet is him asking me about how he looks. Cup of Longo is better known as Matty C he wrote the Unsigned Hype column.
S5: It’s a good sign. I mean it is excited like everybody knew he was the fashion guy. That’s what puff did he took an artist and he put the right outfit on him and you know that style so he want to know what he was working with. Now he just he’s gotta know how he looks he keeps pressing me I like I like him.
S6: Is he fat you fat he’s like he’s fat boys fat or heavy defeat.
S1: I mean between maybe puffy saw Biggie as an updated version of Heavy D a lovable plus sized womanizer but we both got sick it got more crack in the Feed the Puffy was every bit the star that his artists were he’d appeared in music videos and in an ad campaign for Fashion Designer Karl CONNI hip hop writer Scott Polson Bryant wrote that Puffy was his own best logo puffy song Biggie twice first to Uptown Records and then later to his own label Bad Boy which put out biggest biggest hits. Juicy was a rags to riches story. Big Poppa was mostly about the riches. Biggie liked that those songs and their videos got him noticed but he wasn’t totally sold on the image they created for him. He wanted to make a different kind of music music that sounded like would not she Myrick was cooking up. Myrick was a community college dropout from Queens. He was working as an engineer in pub studio when he made his first beat that was big Hurley.
S6: He was a no brainer.
S1: Mavericks beat wasn’t lush and funky like biggest hits. It was tense and sparse like a film noir soundtrack. That’s why the likes of. Biggie still thought of himself as a street hustler and he wrote vs. from my rich track that reflected where he’d come from and what he’d been through big and my collaboration was called Who shot you. It was released late February 1995 as a b side to Big Poppa.
S7: Who shot John Paul Stevens saw Miguel put the story Biggie tells and who shot it is simple and brutal.
S1: Someone’s out to get him. The biggie gets the drop on his phone.
S7: Just want to clean up what’s the context in which a song. The song ends with the violence. Get.
S1: Who shot. It was an instant classic and it showed the rap world the biggie wasn’t just a good natured player.
S6: He had a lot of commercial stuff now. I mean to the public if you didn’t get the album you knew before the radio joins you didn’t really know him for what he’s meant to do like what he loved to do what he does then who shot it comes out as a single. Radio picks up on that. And it’s hot as hell. It’s the hardest joint on radio.
S1: It also throws Biggie and his crew into the middle of a conflict. They wanted no part of.
S8: Who shot. You came out a few months after Tupac was shot by unknown assailants in the lobby of quiet studios. Tupac was incarcerated hurt and suspicious. He already wondered if Biggie and Puffy knew who’d attacked him or if they might have been involved. Now Biggie was putting out a song called who shot you in which he cast himself as a gunman. How did Biggie and Tupac communicate and mis communicate. After the quad shooting. How did the hip hop world organize itself around a cross country turf war. And when Tupac got out of prison. Was it too late to turn things around.
S9: This is slow burn. I’m your host Joel Anderson. And this is episode three. What’s beef.
S1: So was who shot you really directed it to park Nasheed Myrick who worked on it with Biggie says no.
S6: It’s like why didn’t we see that. We was even paying attention to that. It’s like no way the world would mistake that know we have no reason no motive at all to have set pack up with the motive was it was the issue but Tupac couldn’t be sure.
S1: That’s how Beeston to escalate with a series of ambiguous provocations when Tupac was being carried out a quiet studios on a stretcher he’d stuck up his middle finger biggest childhood friend Chico Del Vecchio was there that night he says Biggie thought the gesture was directed at him.
S10: Tupac gets off the elevator on the hospital bed and he within a mile he looked at us with his middle finger like Fuck you niggas to ya right.
S1: Tupac thought maybe who shot you was Biggs responds not long before he heard who shot you. Tupac was angry about something else. A newspaper article that ran in New York’s Village Voice. That article was by the journalist Turei Tory argued that Tupac was a mediocre rapper but a master performance artist. He’d watched Tupac in court and he’d seen Tupac make his dramatic speech outside the courthouse. The one where he called Diana Jackson a woman scorned. He described to parks entire public life and persona. The multiple arrest the violent assault acquired studios the courtroom appearance in a wheelchair is dangerously compelling and ecstatically brilliant that ongoing performance Turei wrote has kept his lackluster professional work culturally relevant and commercially viable. Tupac read all of this while he was locked up in Rikers Island and he felt profoundly hurt. Sorry was calling him fake and suggesting that his wild ups and downs were nothing but a front. So Tupac called another writer one he thought would be more sympathetic to his point of view. I got the call that I was the only journalist that Tupac wanted to talk to to tell the story because he trusted me. That’s Kevin Powell. Powell was familiar with the idea of life his performance art. In 1992 he’d been a cast member on the first season of MTV is the real world. On the show Powell got slotted into the role of angry young black man the following year he met Tupac at a music conference.
S11: Park looked over at me and he smiled that smile that big toothy grin. He always had and he somehow we merged. And it was almost like there was no one else there. You know I’m saying. And he said Man I watched you on MTV is the real world that first season I had your back on that show dog I had your back on that show.
S1: Powell was working as a staff writer for Vibe an ambitious magazine founded by Quincy Jones and bankrolled by Time Warner at a time when most media outlets didn’t take hip hop seriously vibe in the source allowed rappers to promote their work establish their personas and talk to their fans. Powell had written a vibe cover story about Tupac in 1994. The headline was this Tupac crazy or just misunderstood. That was still a live question a year later when Powell went to visit Tupac and Rikers.
S11: The moment the Tupac started talking because he just started spitting stuff out with her remember is that we had edited out the piece. Tupac kept ending every sentence would do you do. Because he was nervous. And I remember him. Smoking cigarettes. I felt he had to smoke cigarettes just to get through it because he knew he was downloading something very heavy Tupac told Powell that this was his last interview.
S12: He said if I get killed I want people to have the real story.
S13: Tupac said that he was still in pain from the injuries he suffered in the quad shooting and that he was having nightmares. The message was clear what he’d been through wasn’t a performance. It was real.
S12: But people who read Kevin Powell story didn’t focus on two parts personal torment. Instead they seized on something else Tupac said something about the ambush. Quad studios Tupac told Powell that Biggie and Puffy might have had something to do with. Tupac described the night in vivid detail the army fatigues as assailants wore which made him think they were Biggie security guy. Way they kicked and stomped on him as though they were mad at. A puffy wouldn’t come near him after.
S14: Story. Tupac told was Cynthia.
S11: Think it was cathartic for him just to say these things. Do I think it was right for him to implicate Diddy and Biggie. No no no. And I mean keep in mind Biggie and Tupac were very were friends. They were friends.
S1: Buy in to parks mine were big in puffy have had it in for. What was their motive. Maybe he thought big he was feeling competitive and saw Tupac as an obstacle to his success.
S14: Maybe Tupac suspicion was born of jealousy. Biggie was on the rise and Tupac felt he’d never gotten enough credit for mentoring him. Or maybe Tupac never really thought they were involved and he just wanted to start some highly visible trouble. That’s what not Myrick thinks according to Mark puffy visited Tupac and Rikers before the vibe interview came out specifically to tell Tupac that he and Biggie had nothing to do with the quad shooting.
S15: They told me they went to the little pot big Hannah and do nothing. And Parker already did the vibe joint. They said no he already did it. He was a campaign aide a populist idea which is to to have a line in the video. But Potter knew that big had nothing to do with it.
S16: But no you want to make moves now. Everything got to be real smart too. I use that to your advantage. Do you think it was all hype. That was a true.
S1: To parks interview with Kevin Powell appeared on the cover of the April 1995 issue of Vibe. It came out around the same time the two parks third album Me Against the World debuted at number one on the Billboard charts. By that time Tupac had been moved to Clinton Correctional Facility a cold and isolated maximum security prison in far upstate New York. He was one of the biggest stars in the world and he was brought incarcerated and publicly accusing his former friends of setting him up. Vibe reached out the Puffy and Biggie for comment but they declined to respond. Chico Del Vic remembers biggest reaction. He was upset because he like yo you get being cute as Sunny do.
S10: And you just tone in his face he know he intend to do it. So he was just pissed off about the whole situation because like you know this dude is not coming clean with us about anything so what I would do is just stay away from it and puff is like you know you know just just do this music man and just you know stay focused.
S1: It became increasingly hard to focus on music though the whispers about Biggie and Puffy his involvement in Tupac shooting never went away. And who shot your clouded the picture Biggie and Puffy decided they needed to defend themselves in the August 1995 issue of Vibe. Biggie said he wasn’t involved in the quad shooting and who shot she wasn’t about Tupac. He also told vibe that the next time he saw Tupac he wanted an apology. Puffy said the Tupac got a lot of people in a lot of bullshit with that interview this back and forth wasn’t just about Biggie puffy and Tupac. A personal beef was quickly turning into a regional one little Sean the rapper that Tupac was supposed to record with that night at the quad had come up in Brooklyn. He told Vibe niggas on the West Coast saying Yo tell that nigga little Sean to be careful because niggas on the west coast are calling his name hip hop had been born in New York and rappers there had always looked down on rap scenes in other parts of the country. Here’s Dan Chanos who wrote for the source and later worked for Rick Rubin’s American Recordings label.
S17: It wasn’t beef. It was essentially condescension from New York to the rest of the country except maybe Philly and resentment from everywhere else in the country towards New York and in the offices of the source and in the letters that came in to the editor. You could see a lot of the resentment of the condescension so people on the West Coast were sick of New York acting like an own hip hop.
S14: One of those people was Marion should night and he had decided to do something about it. Knight was six foot four and more than 300 pounds. He’d been nicknamed sugar as a kid because of a sweet disposition. But he changed as he’d grown up. Sugar work as a bodyguard for popular musicians which gave him a sense of all the money to be made in the music industry. Moved into management and publishing using his connections and its intimidating presence to build a roster of artists. Its big move came in 1991 when he found out that the rapper and producer Dr. Dre was ready to quit NWA using his talent for persuasion. Helped Dre get out of his recording contract and together they founded Death Row Records. Music Death Row put out was something new and rap more violent more graphic more derivative of funk music and ultimately more popular all black business just that Gangsta Gangsta Rap gangsta shit makes the gangs. Street.
S18: And the label’s first two releases were Dre is the chronic and doggy style by Dre his protege Snoop Doggy Dogg. They were both huge hits.
S19: Snoop Doggy Dogg his album doggy style was the hottest selling album in the country this week beating out everyone from Pearl Jam to Sinatra in October while Flush with success Shug shopped around for more talent.
S1: He put together a group called the dog pound and he signed a former gospel singer who appeared on Snoop’s earliest demo tapes. Nate Dogg shook even tried to poach the routine clan from their label but the rapper Sugar wanted most of all was Tupac. In 1993 he’d given Tupac two hundred thousand dollars to contribute a song to a movie soundtrack. Even so Tupac continue putting out his albums on Interscope a label that was partly owned by Time Warner and that had a deal to distribute death throes releases by 1995. Things look different. Tupac was still a huge star but he was stuck in prison and then a more New York a place so remote that the quickest way to see him was to fly to Canada and drive an hour and a half south. You sneak off to visit him in prison. Of a Clinton Correctional Facility that Stewart Leavy wanted to PAX entertainment attorneys Dana Moore.
S20: That’s where it is here. It looks like a castle and it’s just you walk in and I’ve been to prisons before. But I’ve been to white collar cases I was in law school you handled cases like a securities fraud assault like that. This is like heavy duty stuff where the guys are carrying submachine guns and everything else it’s a little disconcerting.
S1: It was a hard place for famous rapper. For one thing plenty of guys from the street wanted to make a name for themselves by challenging a celebrity. For another as we covered in our last episode most law enforcement officers weren’t big rap fans and the guards had ways of making Tupac life difficult. A guy comes by and ceremoniously puts his glove on his hand and says well.
S21: Porky it’s time for a rectal exam. And I said What are you talking about. A rectal exam. I’ve been sitting here for six hours and am fully clothed with a prison guard on the catwalk above me. I didn’t slip anything into his anus. You know who we have to check and they just do it to to humiliate you.
S1: So Tupac still traumatized by the quiet studios assault and recovering from multiple bullet wounds was being abused by guards and threatened by fellow inmates. He was placed on lockdown for smoking weed and although he had the number one album in the country he was still broke. He’d spent a lot of money recording the album and more and lawyers shook Knight made several trips to DNA more on those visits should tell Tupac that death row would be better for him than Interscope. Sugar said death row could make him a bigger star and he promised to support Tupac no matter what. He also said he’d helped Tupac get bailed out of prison before the quad shooting Tupac had been seen as either an East Coast or West Coast rapper. He’d spent part of his childhood in Baltimore and when he’d started rapping he’d called himself M.C. New York. He’d come of age as a performer in California but as an adult he’d spent a lot of time in Atlanta but now everyone was choosing sides in the hip hop press was making East versus West rap’s biggest and most combustible storyline.
S22: I was quite disturbed by different magazines such as the source and Vibe magazine and what they were doing to the music by putting East Coast vs. West Coast and I said stop that. That’s you setting up a storm.
S1: That’s Andre Brown. He goes by Dr. Dre but he’s not that Dr. Dre. This Dr. Dre was a weekday co-host on Yo MTV Raps which made him one of the most recognizable faces in hip hop. When the source decided to launch an awards show for rap music MTV s Dr. Dre and his co-host Ed Lover were obvious choices to emcee but Dre and Ed were worried. They thought bringing together puff his bad boy crew and sugar Death Row stable might lead to trouble. The one thing that Ed and I made very clear is I don’t put us in the middle of some war of words that’s not going to be good. The Source Awards took place on August 3rd 1995 at the Paramount Theater in New York’s Madison Square Garden. The idea was to give real hip hop some love. The Grammys have mostly given awards to pop and novelty rappers like M.C. Hammer Sir Mix a Lot and The Fresh Prince. The Source Awards were going to celebrate the music that hip hop fans respected and they do it in front of a national audience.
S22: It was a disaster there was a heavy New York East Coast crowd. It really was. People from all different walks. But it was majority people from the East Coast and they took offense to certain groups. If people from the East Coast were taking offense to the rappers from out west that was fine. Should not. Have. Come to make nice. And niggas on the roof.
S23: Like we had a team out there like I remember them coming in a hallway and then having this big ass bag full of guns is shit that’s Danny Stewart an rb singer known as Danny boy.
S14: He was 16 years old in nineteen ninety five and he was being groomed as death rows next star sugar to become his legal guardian to get as big as duffel bag full of notes to sit nearby to reach for.
S24: So I’ll come I go to read will want to see it like this. Let’s say a male what you do. We good men they got us. We kind of knew. That I mean cause threats were had been given and you know you can feel the tension.
S14: Any boy should sit near the front. The ceremony opened with a ten minute medley of death rows hits the stage was set to look like a prison cell block. One after another the label’s artists emerged Dr. Dre the dog pound Nate Dogg.
S25: Snoop. It was a serious flecks of Death Row star power. Mike. Mike. Mike.
S1: Mike. But there was more to Puckett finally agreed to sign with death row. But he couldn’t join Shug on stage. He was three hundred and twenty miles north of Madison Square Garden in a prison cell instead of the real Tupac death row had a cardboard cut out made and they put that on stage with trained Snoop. No one noticed. Here’s Reggie Wright. Death row is head of security.
S26: I was hoping most people caught him in the cage. I knew I was a part of putting that their help and getting it there. I thought that was the big announcement. I don’t think anybody in their movement recognized unnoticed to this day. Nobody has ever talked about it but be a snoop.
S1: So that big reveal fell flat. We shook night got up on stage. He sent a much clearer message. I’d like to tell Tupac to keep his guards up. We’re riding with him.
S25: But it was something else Shug said that really got the audience’s attention. A shot he took in puffy and bad boy records.
S27: Anyone who’s out there want to be a heart. I want to stay a star. I don’t want to have to worry about the Zeta Deuce and try to be all in the video all on the record. Dance sugar was taking on two parks viewed as a zone in the most public way imaginable.
S1: The New York audience responded to shows provocation by booing loudly and relentlessly. It was just what Andre Brown and Ed lover had been afraid of right after shag night made that comment. First thing I said is get the car ready.
S5: It’s the same thing. Oh yeah good we were at the wheel. You know we’ll play it tough. He’s gay. He’s getting nothing second back.
S1: Scott run it. The drive is ready right. Okay because I want to read about the incident. I don’t want to be a part of the incident where death throes Dr. Dre came on stage to accept the award for Producer of the year. The crowd booed again.
S25: Snoop snatched the mike away from Dre to confront the audience.
S28: But Dr. Dre. No. No no. No no. We don’t know what a pop we are. Puffy tried to cool things down.
S18: Before presenting Snoop with the award for solo artist of the year.
S29: He implored the to coast to come together as one and all of the ones that need to stop. Get up everybody please. Tonight. The audience clapped politely.
S18: With Snoop came on stage to accept his award. Puffy made a point of giving him a hug but puffy also seemed to be everything sugar accused him of being an insatiable narcissist and a producer who wanted to be the star. To kick off a medley of bad boy performances. He stood on a podium at the center of the stage head bowed as if in prayer. As a close of his monologue puffy fanned the flames of the bad boy death row conflict he said I live in the east and I’m going to die. Despite everyone’s fears there was no violence at the Source Awards or any of the after parties that came the next month or neutral territory sugar and puff his entourage has cross pass at a club in Atlanta at a birthday party for the rapper and producer Jermaine Dupri. Six crew included Jai Hassan Jamal Robles a two hundred and forty pound former gang member known to his friends as Big Jake.
S30: Sugar like to road with blood from his old neighborhood in Compton and he often tried to help them out with jobs. Big Jake was a tough guy. He wouldn’t have been around otherwise but Reggie Wright said he was also committed to building a real career in the music industry. He was the only one of the homies that was really trying. At least working hand-in-hand with me. To learn the business. And be he would be the one at the office at 9 a.m.. And at off his daughter.
S24: And then hanging out with us.
S31: You know when we all decide to come to work at five or six at that party in Atlanta the death row and bad boy entourages were feuding all night. Eventually the dispute spilled outside of the club. Is Big Jake Robles was getting into a limo someone ran up and shot him with a semi-automatic. He was hit multiple times in his abdomen standing over his wounded friend should tell puffy. I think you had something to do with this. Robles died from his injuries two weeks later. No one was ever charged. Here’s Danny Boy again.
S23: That was really big. I wasn’t there but I think that was a big hurt for death row. That was like one of the first. People from death row that we lost like that. And you could see shook even dealing with the stress of it. You know having his home me out on the road with him. Knowing that he after returning.
S32: To L.A. with Jake in a box now it was no longer about record sales or regional respect.
S1: It wasn’t about who shot to pocket quiet studios. This was a blood dispute between sugar and puffy soon after Big Jake died Shug Wyatt a one point four million dollar bond to the New York Court of Appeals. Some of the money came from Interscope and Time Warner. Then he chartered a private jet to upstate New York when he landed. He got in a rented white limousine and headed to the prison gates. A short while later Tupac was free pending an appeal of his conviction for sexual abuse there’s a photo of Tupac that might have been taken on that day. Standing with his friend big spike Tupac is wearing a white sweater and baggy gray jeans with a white cap perched backward on his head. He’s smiling wide and pointing at the limo. You can tell he was so happy to be out of denim for Danny Boy was part of the group that went to get Tupac and bring him to California. Then we went back to L.A..
S23: On. On his way. From the airport. He’s drinking and smoking and having a ball and we get to the back of a studio they call the park is at the back door to a studio. He get out of the car and he walked. About five feet away from the door. Face first to the ground.
S33: Passed out about Slaton while pouring water on obviously look up and sit and look around. I think you get you know drunk too much smoke too much.
S34: But once Tupac entered the recording studio his focus was sharp. Danny boy says Tupac rarely left over the next few weeks. To see that light turn on of his working.
S35: To see him like immediately after that. It was like you seen pop coming our back door. And I can count the times that I’ve seen him like leave out. And when he left out he came right back.
S8: Tupac had gone to prison a year earlier. Now he had a career to rebuild money to make and scores to settle with Biggie and Puffy. He was ready to go to war. Next week on slow burn to parks other nemesis a 66 year old civil rights activist.
S36: Slow Burn is a production of Slate Plus Slate’s membership program. You can sign up for Slate Plus to hear a bonus episode of the show this week. And every week this season in this week’s bonus episode you’ll hear more about the rise of Biggie in an extended interview with Matty C the writer of the unsigned hype column in The Source. He tells some really good stories about working with big and puffy. And he talks about what it was like to be at the quiet studios the night Tupac got shot. To hear it. Sign up for Slate Plus at Slate dot com slash slow burn. Slow Burn is produced by me and Christopher Johnson with editorial direction by Josh Levine and Gabriel Roth. Sophie Sommer grad is our researcher our mix engineers are Jared Paul and Paul mousey. Don will composed our theme song.
S9: The artwork for slow burn is by Lisa Larson Walker. Special thanks to slaves child to Derrick Johnson. Katy Rayford Lowe and Lou Allison Benedikt and Jared hope.
S36: And by the way we created a playlist on Spotify to go with this season. Be updated get each week with new episodes and songs about Tupac Biggie and their collaborators. Check it out every week at the link in the show notes. Thanks for listening. Peace.