S1: Hi, I’m Child 2 and this is the seventh sleep plus episode for SILBURN season three this season. Come in the lives and deaths of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls. And as always, I’ve got host Joel Anderson and producer Christopher Johnson here with me to talk more about the making of the season.
S2: Hi, guys. Hey, Joe. Joe, you still enjoying these? Course you still enjoy. Very much so. I’m learning so much is one more time, I promise. No, I will say forever. Let’s just keep going. OK.
S3: So the latest episode starts with the aftermath of Tupac’s death. And you mentioned there was a surge of gang violence in L.A. at the time and that it did seem to be in retaliation for what happened in Vegas. Right.
S4: Yeah, right. So let’s start with what happened here. So as we mentioned previously, if you’ve been listening to the podcast, you know that Tupac had run up on a well-known Southside Crip named Orlando Anderson.
S5: Orlando was then stomped out or is gang members call it Rat Pack by a few well-known members of the mob Pi Roo at that casino in Las Vegas in a few hours later. Tupac is riding with sugar and they both get shot at in Vegas. So while everyone else seemingly has like their theories on how and why Tupac was shot by the mob, Paru immediately places the blame on Orlando Anderson and a few of the Southside Crips. To them, shooting it sugar was the sign of disrespect, not necessarily shooting at Tupac. So one person who’s really great on this is Alex Allonzo. He comes up in the previous episode. He’s a sociologist in L.A. who studied street gangs there for about 25 years. And it’s important to remember that Shulgin to pocker, not bloods, but their blood affiliated. Right. So that’s all it took to sort of get things going from there. So like two days after Pocket’s shot in Vegas, a Southside Compton Crip got shot in his neighborhood. And that’s generally believed to have been the first retaliatory act by the mob power for Tupac shooting. A day later, a couple of power Ru’s get shot seemingly in retaliation for the shooting of the Crip. The day before, in over these next few days, there’s like all these shootings going back and forth in South L.A. and Compton. By the time things settle down, there’ve been 11 shootings. OK, that leave three people dead in, about a dozen injured. And two of those three that were killed were members of the Mob Pyro. So, yeah, like Tupac’s death, like really just reactivated a gang war that was already going on. Like, it really was an inflection point in a gang war that was happening there in south L.A. and Compton.
S6: Yeah. And remind us, why was Orlando Anderson, the guy in Vegas?
S4: Why did they jump him? Oh, yes. More gang shit. So, yeah. So Orlando Anderson, Southside Crip, he was allegedly a member of a group of guys that had robbed a mob PI member who was Rolen with death row of a death row chain like lady. They had jumped him, taken his chain. And so they see him in the casino that night and they’re like, yo, that’s the Crip that took my chain that night. And so that’s how this all gets started. That’s why Tupac ran after Orlando, Anderson, as a yo yo from the south and all that other stuff goes on from there.
S7: Right. And what’s what’s interesting about this, as we’ve talked to people like Alex Alonzo, who’s a gang expert, it’s been doing this stuff for decades, you know, and folks like him and we talked to in trying to get a sense of the surge in violence and what it meant in Los Angeles. In the hip hop world, this is really, really significant. And it’s not just a blip in the kind of gang world, but part of what they point out is like. This just goes on, especially back in the 90s. Like you’d have these surges in violence for all kinds of reasons and like things get heated up again for reasons just like this. Yeah, sometimes internal gang shit. Yeah. You know, Tupac kind of inserted himself into some of that stuff, but in many ways they’re like it registered, but it didn’t because people were so used to gangs going at each other. Yes. Like surges in violence. This wasn’t a new thing.
S8: Right. It’s interesting because like the term we always use as contemporaneous coverage, like it takes a while for people to catch on that. Oh, wait. Like, maybe this is all related to Tupac. Like when they tell you after they’ve tallied up, like all this carnage on the street, they’re like, huh, something happened. But it took off.
S4: It took a couple of weeks for people finally got on that because like Christopher said, like in his Alix’s talk about, yeah, this was like, you know, kind of par for the course, you know. Yeah. It’s like ongoing. Right.
S6: So there’s a sense in hindsight. Puffy and Big East trip to the West Coast. There’s probably a mistake.
S3: Like you said, it was about six months after Tupac’s death. So had things died down by then or was anything happening and kind of the so-called east versus west feud?
S4: So at this point, Tupac is dead. Obviously, should was sent to jail for violating his parole for participating in that casino beat of Orlando, Anderson, like it violated the terms of his parole for an earlier assault charge. So Tupac’s bucks to Sugar and Joe remembered Dre has left death row. Snoop is just now, you know, a few months after, haven’t been found not guilty on a murder charge. So in that way, whatever is left of death row isn’t much. So it’d be understandable if Puffy and Biggie looked at that and said, hey, things are cool now. Things seem to be moving towards like peace and resolution. And there were even these events that called for an end to violence around that time. That was called the curse for knows. The Hip Hop Day for Atonement was organized in New York by the Nation of Islam. This is like, you know, a few days, maybe a couple of weeks after Tupac dies. And then even a few months later, Snoop and Puffy go on the Steve Harvey Show to basically hug it out and say, hey, we’re together. There’s no beef. Right. But noshing Meyrick makes his point and it doesn’t come up in the podcast. But like nobody had really checked to see if the beef was over. I mean, like nobody like it’s still not a lot of time had passed before Biggie and Puffy go on this promo tour of California and like we would say back home as they didn’t really give that bitch a chance to breathe. Like you gotta let the big area, you know, say so they write. They go right back out into the middle of this, this shit. They haven’t really tested the waters, know if people are still pissed at them or not. Yeah.
S7: So it seems like. Yeah. And one of the things that we’ve heard from I think Reggie Wright made this point. He was the head of death row security back in the day. He said that, you know, out of respect and also as a kind of matter of course, and to just stay safe before you go into someone else’s town as a crew, you call ahead as a kind, as a show of respect.
S9: You call him up and let him know. Listen, I’m we’ll be rolling around in your town just so you know, and everything’s chill. And when we get up, I don’t know. I can’t say I don’t know if Puffy made that call or not. But it’s just yet another kind of I hope that they took that precaution.
S4: But I don’t know if they did. Well, you know, so I mean, this is probably come up later in the podcast, but there are theories, allegations, rumors that Puffy had occasionally enlisted Crips as security is like street security in L.A.. So, like, he could have made it okay with them. But that in my mind, that definitely did not make it okay with the mob pot room. If you’re rolling with the SS Crips.
S6: Yeah. Yeah. Mm hmm.
S2: And then Bigger releases a song going back to Cali on this X album. So how did that song come to be? Seems a little bit surprising. Yeah. Ali Anthem. Yeah. I mean, I have a couple of thoughts about going back to Kelly, which will surprise you.
S7: So first of all, Angel, you can check my facts on this, but we spoke with the legendary producer Eazy Mobi DJR. Our launch party eons ago. But he because he’d worked with both artists and tons of other artist, he’d work with both Tupac and Biggie and had a lot of affection for both of them. My creators and his young men, he wanted to make a song that was like, let’s let’s squash this. Let’s bring the coast together.
S11: Let’s make a sound that invokes this kind of style that had become popular at least out of like the death row camp. You know? Yeah. And this is like when we talk about this a little bit in the podcast, this song from the funk group Zap. Yeah, right. More bounce to the ounce and use like that kind of song was like an anthem for those West Coast heads in the way that like love is the message by MSF. B, I think the group is called was for us on the East Coast, at least in New York. Right. So he’s like, let Mona invoke that West Coast soundman and make this be I mean, give it to big and let him do something with it. And if I remember the story right. Big kind of makes the song much faster. Easy Moby had expected. Yeah. And he’s like, oh, shit. Most like, oh, shit. I hope that Biggie didn’t mix to antagonize the way. Yeah. Cause he didn’t get the fact check.
S10: You are like you know, like Ray. Yes, he is quality control.
S11: And it turns out that it’s not it’s like it’s a it’s a love letter. It’s sort of a show of affection. But you know, I have another thought. This is like down into this sort of trivia of Hip-Hop. Yeah. Ten years earlier, this idea of going back to Cali. There was another hip hop beef that was going on 10 years earlier in rap. And it becomes a sort of defining beef in rap music. And this is between L.L. Cool J and Cool Modise from the treacherous three. The claim was in some ways it was also another kind of well, at one point was a one way beef and then L L L is not. He doesn’t sit down through B.S. like the way Biggie was, like, OK. Right. So Carmody lashes out at L.L. Cool J with How You Like Me Now. And his claim is that L.L. Cool J had stolen his style and that he was disrespecting the like the elder statesman of hip hop and all that kind of stuff. So L.L. Cool J. Fires back and he fires back with a song called Jack the Ripper. And Jack the Ripper was the B-side to a single that L.L. had put out 10 years before this version of going back to Cali called Going Back to Cali. So this is the second time that a song called Going Back to Cali becomes part of an expanded B. Hip hop music. It’s funny because I remember when this song came out, the Biggie song came out and I was like, he’s invoking L.L.. And I wasn’t sort of thoughtful enough to be like, he’s also invoking that beef, which he may or may not have been doing. But it is interesting that like so just a decade earlier and this song was also sort of part of this.
S12: Yeah. Beef that had been raging. That’s interesting. Not that long. I mean, ten years. Not that long.
S4: It’s a long time in hip hop. Right. You know, a career can be over as true, you know, in 10 years. Right. I’m sure just us talking about this, though, people that were probably totally unaware of the El Kooser had it going back to Kelly.
S8: Yeah. So, you know, I mean. Laughs And it sells. I mean, like at the time it sounded like some groundbreaking shit because you can hear the Rick Rubin all over. Absolutely. You know what I mean? Yeah. But like. I mean, 10 years later, 20 years later, 30 years later, people probably have no idea.
S7: Yeah. You know. Yeah, it is a very different L.L. Cool J style like me. Very mellow. Yes. Yeah.
S8: There’s a departure from the L, you know. Okay. You know, we at least we grew up the music. That’s true. Because it’s actually okay.
S10: You know, we get good ideas at the next level. I love bigger and. That was great.
S6: Do we know when Biggie recorded going back to Cali like in this sort of timeline?
S4: That’s a good question. 96. Yeah, late 96 after, you know, he recorded most of life after death at the end of 96. Okay. Right. So like a few months, you know, before his. Yeah. Untimely death in L.A.
S7: Okay. There’s video on YouTube. You can see video of Biggie during that West Coast tour. Yeah. He stops off and he does radio interviews and he talks to sway and whatnot and a couple he stops at a couple of other stations and I have to say like I’ve been looking at this stuff just pulling tape for the episode and watching him.
S13: We say this over and over again in the series, but it never ceases to really strike me. Just how young he was. Yeah, they both were looking at Becky’s face like he he looks younger than he even does in photos from this period. He just looks like such a. Just like a baby face. And he looks some I don’t know. He just looks like wide eyed and and kind of curious and. Yeah. He just seems so young. Yeah. That it’s something that Chiyo talks about. When we interviewed him that like these these guys were still their brains were still forming. And a lot of ways in terms of being public figures, celebrities, wealthy young men, wealthy black men in an art form that was just starting to turn towards wide spread wealth. You know what I mean? Were less or more people were really making money. Yeah. And then they’re gone.
S6: Right. And I mean, also, it’s just like a thing where he didn’t travel to California very often. It’s like. Right. Actually living and like, really enjoying. Yeah. I’ve been going on. Yeah.
S8: I thought of him in a lot of those interviews as either being drunk or end or high. Interesting. You know, I mean, like I just like he’s he’s like sort of slow, just very languid, you know, just like he’s was always like that. You know, things I thought of him as like a slower like dude, like he’s just very, you know, where’s Tupac is just like a torrent of words, you know, like within a second. You know, he’s like, oh, yeah, look at me. Like when he met with Biggie, I was always just like, you know, I’m leaning back in my chair. Yeah. But yeah, I just like, you know, and let me take my time and think about this. But I thought for a lot of those interviews, I was like, oh, Biggie Biggie’s ha right now. Like that. Those interviews would sway into that. I was just like it just took him a while for him to respond to some things. And even into the beginning of what an interviews like Sway is asking him a question. And like this is long pause and like Biggie.
S10: And he’s like, oh, yeah, I know what they would do. I want to know.
S12: And then you mentioned Charles. So he’s actually the exit interview that we have for today’s plus episode. Can you tell us more about who he is?
S4: Yeah. No, sir. So, Chato, thanks to Christopher, like we tried real hard to get Chiyo because he has basically done the definitive work on Biggie.
S5: I guess a way to say that he’s the Kevin Powell to Biggie where Kevin Powell was Tupac’s do like Chiyo has been the guy that has documented Biggie in that kind of had that relationship. So Chiyo was one of the big Hip-Hop journalists of the 90s. He worked for everybody, wrote for the source for Vibe, wrote for rap pages. And ultimately he built up that beat at the L.A. Times. He is a guy who interviewed Biggie three times, did three profiles on him, and he interviewed Biggie on ultimately was the night before Biggie was killed in L.A..
S4: Had this really good relationship with him, had all this information. And so he ultimately wrote a biography on Biggie called Unbelievable. And a lot of that material was used to make the 2009 biopic Notorious. So, yeah, man, like he is that dude. Terms of research, information, contacts. Chiyo is that dude for Biggie. But today you might know him as like this big deal Hollywood showrunner. He’s the creator of the Luke Cage series for Netflix.
S8: And like Christopher could tell you, I was crazy nervous about interviewing him because I was just like, yo, this is this dude is a big deal. You know, I do. Yeah. To get as much time as we got with him. Like, you know, I take that very seriously. Like, you do not have to give us that time. His time is money.
S7: Yeah. Yeah, it’s true. And one of the things he said to me, the logistics of scheduling were not easy for all the reasons that Joel just pointed out. He’s not an easy guy to pin down. When I called first called him, I owe a lot of people some favors as just to get that fall over.
S10: The comments in favor of his definitely well worth it.
S7: But the logistics of scheduling him were not small. He wanted to give us his time. And one of the things he said to me when I got him on the phone after a couple, a little bit of shuffling of time, he was very apologetic. Yeah, but what he said was when I do these interviews, basically I go all in like I give it my all and especially about this topic that he cares very deeply about.
S13: And when she found this from a lot of people who have like documented the story that whether you’re talking about Tupac or Biggie or the music in general, for most of these folks who’ve covered this stuff, especially at the, say, black writers, this stuff sits very deeply in them. And so when they talk about it, it’s a personal journey and not just a kind of sort of factual information. Yeah, brain dump. And so for him, he’s like, I’m either not doing it or I’m all in. And to give you all of that time, a lot of land has to be cleared. And so he had to do all that land clearing. So when we got his time, what we got is what you hear, which is that he just goes for it. Right. Like, I think you ask four questions or something.
S10: Yeah, a lot of questions because you didn’t have it.
S13: He just knew what he wanted to say. He. I wanted to say I could share with us. And he just he goes for it, which also you know, I also credit the hosts like making people feel comfortable like we do. We knew our shit. Yeah, we were ready for it.
S5: So yeah, it was better to let him riff. And yet you’re the one that made it happen. But yeah, it was interesting to hear his mind work as he talked about this stuff. You know, and like plumb the depths of his knowledge of this topic.
S2: Yeah. It feels like a very personal sort of topic for him and that obviously he had a lot of time. Yeah.
S7: Thinking about you. And I think that like these men and women, I mean, think about this as we near the end of the series that like. I mean, it kind of just said this Bama’s say it again. They see themselves as like custodians of these stories. And even from our first interview, one of our first interviews with Kevin Powell, one of the things that he very emphatically wanted us to understand is that for some people, these may just be stories.
S13: But for us, two men are dead. Yeah. Two men who we cared about and who were our creators, our artists, they were young black men who were extremely talented and were just at the beginning of their success and they were gunned down. And so for us, this is not a game or just stories to tell. This is about life and death. And so I’m glad that we actually got not that we were going to take it seriously, but to have that kind of like check. Yeah. Early on, I think it really shaped a lot of the tone, at least for me, as I thought about a lot of this stuff.
S2: Yeah, because there’s already been like a lot of different sorts of media on this topic and. Yeah.
S6: But you sure there’s there’s been a lot of like incorrect set the stuff that’s gone out there that isn’t really getting at that person.
S2: All sorts of stories and stuff that these people involved with were part of.
S3: And that’s also thing that JL mentioned, that he seems to think that big of a sort of ready to move on until like a different part of his life, maybe at this point in time that he interviewed him last.
S5: Yeah. I mean, like by the time he got to Biggie, I think he got him a couple times. You know, in his last days. Yeah. And Biggie was really worn down, you know, by those previous two years. I mean, you know, after becoming famous, like all these troubles had. Come on. You know, had been embroiled in this beef with Tupac. People suspected that he was involved in both the shooting. So like there’s all those rumors around that he got married. And in that amount of time, his marriage was not only falling apart because of things that he did, but also because of the beef and all the rumors that, you know, Tupac like air to the public. His mother had breast cancer during this time.
S4: He really wanted things to slow down in his life. So he talks with Chiyo about, you know, I’ve got two kids. I’ve got a little daughter named Tiana, newborn son with faith named C.J.. He wants his life to slow down. He wants to, you know, think about another way to live his life. And so he’s like moving towards religion.
S5: Got a tattoo of Psalm 27 on his forearm and talks about maybe moving to Atlanta to raise his kids. It’s really heartbreaking, like when you think about it, because you’re just like go to Christopher’s point about him being very young. Yeah, you could totally imagine like a 24. Yo, Gabrielli. I got two kids now. I’ve seen a lot of shit. Like maybe it’s time for me to think about doing something else and like raising my kids and like being a father and, you know, maybe pulling myself out of this this part of the celebrity world. Right. And going in another direction. And obviously you never got a chance to do that.
S7: Yeah. Yeah. And even though, you know, Biggie, you know, putting him back in the context of how he grew up, he was loved by, you know, his mother and very much taking care of.
S9: He probably grew up around a bunch of dudes who maybe didn’t have that same kind of stability. You know, nevertheless, like he was taking care of a lot of people. My guess is that, you know, it’s hurt. Yeah. And his be like, you know, family. And because, you know, like black and brown folks like family is bigger than just cousins and play cousins and aunties and uncles and whatnot who, you know, you’re paying this person’s college tuition and this person’s, you know, Netflix and, you know, and all of this stuff where you’re really taking care of people. Yeah. And so people really depend on you for work and for a livelihood and that kind of stuff. And so especially if you like, shoot up to fame. Exactly right. Exactly right. So he becomes a star in the midst of a bunch of other people. And he very immediately, as we point out in all the episodes, brings his folks along with him. And she could AVAC, who put him on and try to help him get a little bit of loot. He’s like, you come in with me when I rise. Yeah. And so for him and also we know Tupac, that was definitely the case that he was taking care of a lot of folks.
S13: So it’s also that kind of a loss when someone like him, like he wants to move on and wants bigger things because he’s also probably thinking about than I can do more. Right. Because that’s one of this. The sense I get of him is that he was incredibly generous. Yeah. Spread his wealth and shared with people.
S8: Yeah. I mean, Willie, you know, he got junior mafia, a recording contract with him. You know, not very long. He brought Lil Kim, another person from his neighborhood. Right. You know, wanted to get his mom a house in the Poconos. Yeah.
S4: You know, I mean, so like, yeah, there were a lot of like responsibilities and things that he wanted to do for people. And like you said, he learned from Puffy. He was like, oh, I can make money, not necessarily rap. And I can be behind rap. I can beat you. I can be the Garbo. The music is funny. One of the interviews that we saw, it was sort of a joke, but not really. The guy’s like, so we heard you manage and Puffy now and he’s like, well, yeah, he’s one of my artists is like a yo.
S8: I mean, he actually did help cultivate Puffy’s like, rap persona. You know, I mean, yeah, like people forget. That’s true. But like he did. Yeah. He helped make Puffy a celebrity. Yeah. And so. Yeah. So you could just totally see that he had like this mind that was like so much interested and so much more than just like the actual rhyming like the business piece of it. And in shale talks about it, I’m sure you going to interview and I’m not going to take it away from Trujillo. But like you could totally imagine Biggie being a dude who like could have been Ice Cube or somebody like that guy or something like that, just like ventured off into all these different directions. Easily. Easily, for sure.
S2: All right. Well, yeah, let’s listen to the interview with Taylor Heydari Kuchar.
S14: My name is Sheil Heydari Koker. I was the showrunner, executive producer and creator of Marvel’s Luke Cage. But before that, I cut my teeth as a hip hop journalist. I used to write for the bomb hip hop magazine rap pages, Vive the Sauce, Double Excel and a lot of other publications.
S15: But the thing is, is that like when you start that young. And just kind of seeing the birth of a culture is just really fascinating to me. Like where and how people have ended up. So, I mean, perfect example of like I remember Jay Z all the way back to his Hawaiian Sophie days. You know, I’m saying and like when you go back to the Cannot the hustle video, which big is it? And he makes a cameo at all. We will, you know, because doing this kid a favor as opposed to knowing that you’re kind of seeing like the birth of, you know, rap’s first billionaire, I mean, there’s no way you could told me that Jay was going to be for first billionaire. I remember Puffy when Puffy used to actually go to the office. Wow. You know, like before he blossomed into who he became. I mean, that’s the thing is that like rappers and the business of hip hop was very accessible. When you went to interview somebody, you went to their house, use the house, the apartment that they grew up in. It wasn’t like it was today where it’s just like everyone’s got so much money and everyone’s all over the place. Their entourages have entourages. And so if you had told me that big was gonna be important, we definitely knew that big was one of the best emcees ever. Hands down. I mean, even just in those days, you knew that you were witnessing something special. But he’s a person to me. He’s not. This rap did. He’s somebody that actually got to talk to, spend time with. And so which makes this entire prospect talking about him and protecting his legacy and honor. But at the same time, bittersweet, because when I first got started, I like talking to him. I got to know Biggie. And then I had those last interviews. He was murdered. The reason we’ll say past or anything like that is because people need to remember that, you know, this was no accident. It wasn’t like the Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens, where he, you know, he got on a plane that should’ve taken off. He would still be alive today if he wasn’t murdered. You can’t lose sight of that, unfortunately. But the thing was, was those last interviews built the cornerstone of the book that I wrote. Unbelievable. The Life, Death and Afterlife, The Notorious B.I.G. Which in turn led to me having the opportunity to write the movie Notorious, which ultimately, you know, if you flash forward, you know, six, seven, eight years from that gave me the opportunity to do Luke Cage. So for me, big change my life and talking about big and writing about big change my life in the course of doing research for this.
S16: There is so much stuff about Tupac. Like there are so many books, so many essays, academic papers about his work. And fortunately, there’s just not that. For Biggie, what you have written pretty much the definitive text of his life when you were in the process of doing that, did you know that that was ultimately what was going to be true, even like 20 years later or no?
S15: Well, the thing was, was that Tupac, to a certain extent was always the sexier story from the standpoint of he is literally Black Panther royalty because of a fan’s background being one of the Panther 21. In interviews, he was always incredibly intellectually engaging as well as being a chameleon. He was well read. And so he’s got that kind of Huey P. Newton like revolutionary charisma that both appeals on the street revolutionary tip. At the same time has gangster appeal. At the same time, I mean, I’ve never seen somebody that women just loved and forgave for all of his foibles. More than Tupac Shakur, because they just continuously defend him. And this is even during. During the rape trial and this is even during some of the other stuff that he got caught up in. There’s something about him that just push through all of that and that that people, particularly women, gravitated towards. But then at the same time, he also Tupac also had this talent with black men, whether they were more of the revolutionary bent or of the kind of in the streets that where they wanted to emulate him or that his words and the way that he put things spoke to him in that way and is different than Biggie’s appeal, because big his appeal was it was more musical. But then at the same time, when you really get into Biggs background, when you get into big transition, when you talk about Big’s roots from Jamaica. And the way that he came up in Brooklyn and the fact that Christopher Wallace was a stoop kid, he was somebody who was protected to a certain extent, you know, because his mother was overprotective and basically it was kids. And then in the neighborhood like Chico Del Veck when he became a teenager, that, you know, that wore out on the streets. They had, you know, uncles and cousins that were, you know, in the game, so to speak, that were the ones to kind of like entice them out in, you know, in our in our interviews. But you talked about that, like I always think of his alternate universe where Biggie, because of his grades, because of his test scores, could have ended up in a program like Oliver Scholars or a better chance and been at a prep school. Like there’s a alternate reality where I could have run into Biggie at at Hotchkiss or he could have gone to Chota or Exit or Andover because, you know, they were targeting kids like him that were so gifted that if pushed in a different direction, you know, became scholarship students that these New England prep schools and then went to college. So like there’s an alternate version of Biggie where he’s, you know, the world’s funny as accountant or lawyer, you know, that that they’re freestyles on weekends or has a clever way with words and, you know, in a courtroom. And, you know, his mother was always also academically bent in terms of, you know, her being in school and pursuing higher education. So as much as he kind of talks about the one room shack and everything else, there was a different reality because his his mother kind of created a different reality, whereas Tupac was I mean, because of a Feeney’s struggles both against the government, the COINTELPRO and losing jobs and being harassed by the government to her own problems with drug addiction. I had the opportunity to talk to Afeni years later because I was working on a screenplay about Tupac. And so I’ve gotten I got to also really spend a lot of time with Afeni as well as Situa Tupac sister sister, as well as Jamal Joseph, who was the youngest member of the Panther 21. And talking to them, I got to kind of know some of the other sites. I mean, Tupac’s back and forth was so rough and tumble, whereas Biggie’s, you know, even though he’s in single parent household, was a lot more stable. But they just kind of gravitated towards each other. I mean, they were nervous about Hip-Hop and they were nervous about rhyming and they were nerds about this ability to communicate with rhymes. And they were doing it in a way on a level that few people were doing it. And so they both were kind of philosophical equals and they were intellectual equals. This in terms of just loving rhyming. And I think each kind of had a certain charisma that the other one was attracted to. I think what Tupac liked about big was big streak pedigree, because even though he was this kid that was a straight-A student, even though he dropped out and he started selling drugs, he had a certain charisma in the streets. He had a seat. You know, they called him the mayor of St. James. I mean, he had he had a look about himself and in a way about himself that he had true street cred in a way that Tupac, I think, you know, because of the fact that he was like literally look like a model. I think that he kind of like you if you Knewton kind of overcompensated for his looks by kind of being wild and crazy and bold. And then at the same time, I think one of the things that big liked about Pop, because Pop was already a more established artist at the time, was, you know, Poch had money. I mean, Pop was shopping in places that Biggie was only reading about magazines, you know, and you whether it was going to do to Taguchi or whether it was going to buying Rolexes and kind of, you know, doing this kind of downtown like upper echelon type hustling shit. I think when you cue the big that is writing and rhyming with junior mafia, kind of the more grandiose big, some of that stuff that he’s rhyming about is the stuff that he was exposed to. Being around Tupac, who in turn was being exposed to that, because when he was, you know, researching above the rim, that’s when he was in when he was around the Haitian jacks of the world and the Jimmy henchman of the world and kind of really getting to know and understand, for lack of a better phrase, the New York underground economy.
S16: We’ve heard a lot about like his time on the street selling drugs, whatever. But like I mean, it’d be hard to be out there to sell drugs to like ward off people from trying to steal your customers or whatever. Did you ever get the sense that Biggie had that hardness within him or that that was just something that he had the effect to, you know, basically make him make some money for him?
S15: So what Biggie described and I think what people understand, like in terms of the levels and echelons of drug dealers, I mean, Biggie was probably gotten no higher than than than Bodi ever going to compare him to a character on the wire? He he he he certainly you know, he wasn’t Slim Charles. He wasn’t Stringer Bell and Indefinately. Wasn’t Avon. I mean, what we’re talking about like a, you know, a corner kid with a little more responsibility is probably about as high as he got. I mean, but that’s not even an insult because I doubt, you know, Jay Z got much higher than the Bodi got his Jay-Z might have gotten too Slim Charles level. But I mean, that’s the thing.
S17: It was like even as rappers were rapping about the drug game. Very few of them were actually kingpins. Very few of them were actually moving actual weight. I always think the funniest thing about hip hop is that the people that make the softest records are usually the hardest gangsters. And the people that make the hardest records are usually the ones that never really got. But so far, like up the food chain, so to speak, I think the worst thing to happen to hip hop honestly from that era was keep it real. Keep it real. Got a lot of people killed because what it did was it didn’t give rappers. Having lived in witness things to then say, look, I’ve lived and I’ve witnessed this and I’m writing about this, but this is not my life. Perfect example. Take somebody like, you know, if he was a different race and different age. Martin Scorsese. He writes movies about this world. In a very authentic way, whether it’s Main Streets, whether it’s Goodfellas, whether it’s the mob elements of Raging Bull. And he’s around real guys that respect the fact that he’s coming at it with a certain level of reality and a certain tinge of credibility. Now, do you think that Martin Scorsese is a gangster or do you hold Martin Scorsese these, you know, head to the fire because he’s not an actual made member of the Mafia? Does Martin Scorsese, he lacks street credibility because he’s never actually killed anybody, although he’s talked to killers and has, you know, captured the reality and the mentality of those that do that. I would say no. Martin Scorsese, Martin Scorsese, he so big doing the same thing. And Tupac doing the same thing. Why in the 90s were they held to the same standard? That, OK, in order to really be able to even write or speak or talk about any of this, they had to have done it. But when it ends up happening is that, you know, you get these kids and their answer rises. They get caught up in all this stuff and they end up making mistakes and they end up making mistakes that unfortunately proved lethal. And and it’s all comes back. You’ll keep it real. So keep a real like, you know, just like it should’ve just been entertainment. It really should have just been, you know, the ability to talk about one’s world, even the more unsavory elements of the world, without being expected to actually be a part of that world. And I think the thing was, was that both Christopher Wallace and Tupac Shakur were beginning to figure out right before they each got killed that there could be a separation, that they didn’t necessarily have to get caught up, that even as things were pushing around them, that they could separate themselves from that. And unfortunately, neither one got the chance to fully realize that.
S18: So what sort of forces do you think then pushed them to keep it real in such a way that endangered their lives?
S17: Well, it’s not really forces. I mean, let’s use a New York analogy. If you’re from Queens, you have a higher likelihood of being a Mets fan.
S19: Mm hmm. Right. If you’re if you’re if you’re from the Bronx, you have a higher your likelihood of rooting for the Yankees. And you might like the other team, but you might not walk through your neighborhood wearing the other team’s hat.
S20: And that’s just it is in your affiliation is no deeper than that. Mm hmm. And so when it comes to gangs and becomes how many different gangs are like split up over L.A., essentially the way that people get caught up is that they are coming up from the street. They come from a neighborhood. Either maybe they actively bag, maybe they don’t, but they know people around them that do do that. And all it is that the rappers essentially are to a certain extent are mascots for that neighborhood. And so if you want to be able to go home, if you want to be able to walk around where your hundred thousand dollar Jacob Chane or whatever it is that you feel represents how well you’re doing and not get robbed, you have to be affiliated with some of the people that for security reasons are around you. Right. And it’s just no deeper than that. So what happens is that like it’s not necessarily that rappers, although some some actually are active there, some would just like to talk a lot of shit. Things happened because it’s not those guys that start the problems. It’s the people from the neighborhood they’re trying to eat that are eating off of that that end up causing the beefs or end up to escalating things to a point where things get crazy. And then it’s like people already in hip hop already you’re talking tough and then you’re talking tough and then you’ve got people around you from a certain neighborhood. And so you start talking things about them or talking. So, yeah, you know, I got so-and-so behind. These are shot people out and records. And the next thing you know, it’s like street stuff, real street stuff because interfering with hip hop stuff and nobody is really old enough to have any perspective. And so the thing is, is that had been and had Tupac been able to reach their 30s and 40s, I think they would have a completely different read on everything that happened and everything that they got angry about and everything and everything that they were making records and talking about or any of the things are happening outside of them that were happening. I think that the whole approach to the whole perspective on it would’ve been different. Right.
S21: You know, Tupac thought or at least said he thought who shot you could have been about him. Frame Big in Nosheen, Meric and Chico.
S16: We’ve had she go in, hear all these people say, no, that’s not all about him. That was recorded long before him.
S21: Do you think there is any possibility that who shot you was about?
S17: Not at all. No. The record was not about Poch. Big have three different kinds of freestyle modes. He had battle emcee mode. He had gangsta rapper M.C. Battle Mode, which in which he would make street tough talk and metaphors about, you know, coming at somebody in a gangster like way in a freestyle mode, somebody who’s got a or is a record like that. And then there was the straight of story rhymes that, you know, that that he would have likely reason version one more chance like him in loot. You know, like everyday struggle. So who shot you? It kind of falls in the category of gangster battle rhyme, which is basically he’s talking to a mythic person and talking about it, a freestyle manner. And at the same time, a street man, how he would come at somebody. And if you look at the data, I think he said he recorded it right after the Jason’s lyric premiere. Ah, that night or it was in and around that. And at the time, I mean, there was there was no beef with to buy that period. But like it was one of those talked tough rhymes that the beat brought it out of them like big was just like he was inspired by by the music. If he heard a song like that, it was just like you got a a tight snare. And it’s this all the space on that record. I mean, big was just gonna come with the ride. They just cut through all the noise. That’s the thing about that. It’s a manifesto. It’s it’s a bold rhyme. It’s just all these different things as dramatic as all hell. It was tailor made. But it’s not specifically about Tupac. Where Tupac gets pissed, of course, is that after he gets shot and after all this back and forth, it’s happening, some of which park is putting out there, like with that last interview with Kevin Powell. And, you know, when he’s in Rikers and all this stuff has happened out there, Pop was pissed off that the record will come out with all this stuff that’s happening and all this drama in terms of who did what or who did not do what. The fact that they even released the song, I missed all that he took as deeply disrespectful.
S22: So it’s not that big. You wrote the rhyme of bottom. It’s that I miss all this craziness. He’s going to release this rhyme that could be best inferred.
S17: I always kind of think. Their relationship with Tupac as Muhammad Ali and Biggie as Joe Frazier, because whether people really remember this or not, Muhammad Ali was the antagonist in that relationship. He was always the one taunting Joe Frazier. He was always the one talking the most shit. But.
S15: It was never personal for Ali because Ali was building up one big fight to the next big fight to the next big fight. It was what he was a genius at. Whereas from an internal standpoint, even though Frazier never really came out against Ali, he was deeply hurt by all the things that happened. You know, Tupac was always able to spot an opportunity where even if he was frustrated by what was happening at the same time, he would talk about it in a way that would blow up what’s already there.
S22: And then he just kind of escalated. But then I think it escalated and got out of hand in a way that I don’t think either either one of them would have ever anticipated.
S18: First of all, I can’t believe I’ve never heard anybody use the Ali-Frazier analogy with this before because it makes so much sense. But so when you first met him, you talk about meeting him at these three different points in your life and his life, really. And so like that first time on the stoop on same terms, do you mind sort of painting a picture for us like who he was and what that was like meeting him for that first time?
S17: It was funny. OK. So Carr dropped me off, jobst me off right on St. James.
S22: And Big is, you know, on his stoop. And he literally is like just kind of holding court. He’s just kind of chillin, you know, and we end up talking and we’re on St. James. And if you look up the street, you see Fulton Street, you look the other way is another street. Every other car that was passing on Fulton was playing a different track from ready to die. I mean, you would think it was like like a big theme park. It was it was crazy because that’s how much he was just in the right guy, so to speak, of what was happening.
S15: That’s where that story came from. Like a millibar interview of trife and larceny. Come up to him and try to borrow guns. So so that they can rob somebody. And then he says he doesn’t know where it is. And as soon as as soon as they leaves, I know exactly what gun.
S17: And they have this whole thing about how it’s like he’s trying to get these kids from around the way to leave with him as part of his answer us, because now that he’s about to tour and see the world, he’s trying to get them out of the craziness of Brooklyn. He was charismatic. I mean, he was cool. He was funny. He was irreverent. He was just as colorful as the rapper whose tape I was obsessed with.
S15: And he was proud of the fact that he grew up in Brooklyn. And so when you went to visit him and you will go to St. James, he’s right there. You know, it’s like.
S18: I’m not changing it for shit with his mentality of time, given all of that, like, Puffy obviously had different instincts for him. So why what do you think of that partnership? Like what sort of influence, if any, did Puffy have over Biggie in that way?
S23: He loved Puff. I mean, Puff was responsible for changing his life. Puff was was responsible for telling him to rhyme about selling drugs instead of actually selling drugs and proving to him that it could be more lucrative to write about the NACS live it. So he always credited Puff for that. But yet there was always a certain kind of disconnect. I mean, like from the standpoint of big all day could do battle raps and didn’t necessarily want to do Big Poppa, didn’t necessarily want Juicy to be his first single. I mean big he probably would have preferred machine-gun funk. I mean because his his style at the time was really more, you know, Timberland boots and Carhartt and kind of a dark street corner type shit as opposed to, you know, glossy live look good in the club, you know, wear in the suede leather jacket, kind of big pop of video things. Puffy really understood. His expertise was giving rhythm and blues hip hop cred because Puffy didn’t invent the R&B hip hop blend.
S15: I mean, you’d have to really chart talking about like Ron G and talk about other people with those early mixtapes that were really the first kind of blend them.
S22: But Puff realized, wait a minute, if I take this formula and I refine it and I kind of create this vibe or this feeling that we’re gonna call hip hop soul, I can sell more records because ultimately women are are the consumers that are actually buying records as opposed to their male counterparts who dislike listening to records on the radio. So then when it comes to his records and it comes to his first singles, he’s like, how do I package big in a way that makes him appealing to women, makes them appealing to radio, and doesn’t necessarily cut a street credibility, but then save the hardcore street records for the B-sides and for the album itself. And that ultimately became, you know, the deal that he and big made so that everybody was happy. Is that like if you give me Big Poppa, if you give me juicy, if you give me the single that I can sell to radio, you can always have. Side. You can go as gangsta and as hard as you want. And that’s how you get a B-side like Who Shot You? You know, that’s how you get, you know, the biggie that would show up on mixtapes. Like some of the best Biggie Smalls records aren’t official releases. It’s those mixtape cameos that did that he would make, you know, like real niggas do real things when he’s rhyming over. Overall, the death row records of songs and had big live long enough for things to kind of accelerate and big had the opportunities to do say what Gucci Mane or what Lil Wayne has done with their mixtapes, where they just have a whole different phenomena, whole different way of expressing themselves that nothing to do with their quote unquote official releases.
S15: I mean, big what taken to that? Like a fish to water because he was so prolific. Yeah.
S16: For people that like only remember him through, you know, top 40 hits, that sort of thing. Can you explain to people what made him so good and what made him so, so much of a standout relative to his peers and even, I guess, you know, still regarded a part of the way to differentiate big in two pockets, talk about what they did differently.
S23: Tupac was a blues artist. I mean, he would just basically cut open his veins and bleed on the track. He had this way of encapsulating the pain and the soul of what was happening in the street. And even when he was telling somebody else’s story, he would kind of personify it. And POC was so quick. Whereas Biggie was more like a jazz artist, like a be-bop artist. I mean, yes. I mean, you know, Charlie Parker at times played the blues, but his approach was lyrically more intricate in terms of his rhyme patterns, the way that the biggie could embody a track, the way that his storytelling style was different. When you look at how big could change his style, basically using you like his version of PSA and then to do, you know, bone thugs, notorious thugs and then basically use their style to to rhyme and then at the same time also have his own narrative style and then also have his own freestyle style. The thing that was interesting about big was not only was he versatile rhythmically, not only could he basically change his style to match whatever beat was happening. There was a clarity to his vocals. There was a clarity to the way that he rhymed. It was almost like you could see subtitles when Biggie arrives. And then, I mean, he would turn it on and off. I mean, so, for example, like with the gangster narrative, like somebody’s got to die. That’s incredibly visceral. But then again, like, you know, I’ve got a story to tell is also incredibly visceral. You know, the way that he breaks the story down, the way the destruction of the story. I mean, like I constantly steal from big as a screenwriter just in terms of thinking of different perspectives to enter a scene. I still can’t call on the best. And the only reason I still say rock em is better is because big said rock n was better. But he’s definitely top three, top four hands down.
S16: You know, you have pretty much the most comprehensive account of the quad shooting. First of all, I mean like that must have been extremely hard to put together to get these people to talk about these details. But also just sort of, you know, the benefit of hindsight.
S21: Did you think when that happened that it would lead to what it did?
S24: Well, you got to understand, I mean, it’s like there’s a perspective of covering it life where my colleagues at Vibe magazine were just kind of like dumbfounded by what happened. I think the thing you have to understand about all of us back then is that we were not trained journalists. We were fans who started writing about hip hop because we loved it and we wanted to protect it.
S22: But we lacked a separation. We lacked, I want to say, a journalistic, not integrity, because, I mean, we wouldn’t make anything up.
S24: But I don’t think in writing about the music and writing about what was happening, I don’t think any of us recognize the power of putting it in print and how it would take things to another level by legitimizing it, by writing about it.
S15: You know, it wasn’t like Vibe or any one writing for Vibe or the source or any of us. It isn’t like we started the quote unquote, East Coast, West Coast war. But in writing about it, we gave it a legitimacy from both sides that they use to spur things onto a much higher level.
S25: And I think in retrospect, that’s the biggest frustration of all of it. You know, is that they just had to be another way.
S16: So does that carry over to them when when Tupac gets out of prison and basically starts that 11 month run where he’s, you know, kind of wild and out, you know, saying things about big and facing and puffy and badboy like even through all of that? It didn’t occur to you like, man, this could go to a really ugly place.
S26: Well, there was no precedent for it. And you have to remember, this is pre-Twitter.
S24: Mm hmm.
S26: I don’t think people understand, like, how things would have been if there was like Instagram and everybody having basically or a recording and a movie studio in your pocket, you know, which we take for granted with our phones nowadays. Back then, it wasn’t like that. It’s like somebody would say something. Somebody write it. It would take a month and a half to come out and then it would take another month for to get published. You know, so I mean, comparatively, it was like carrier pigeons or the Pony Express. People, you know, can compare to to the way that information is delivered nowadays at the speed of thought or the speed of mis thought, to be perfectly honest.
S27: You know, I think the thing was, was that you have a situation like quod where Tupac gets pistol whipped and shoots himself and then it becomes this thing where I got shot in the head and they would try to kill me as opposed to it being like the other accounts that you hear where it was just basically like these hustlers that were trying to embarrass and hurt Tupac because of, you know, the people that he was around at the time.
S28: Like, you know, in mind, these are things that that POC 20 years after. I’m not revealing any secrets.
S27: I mean, these these these are things that Tupac talked about and people that have talked since what’s happened, whether it’s, you know, Kings hat, whether it’s Hason Jacko or the various books. And, you know, it’s all out there. But what happens is that rather than having any kind of balance or perspective, people get caught up in magazine, gets caught up in okay parks in Rikers. And he’s just been sentenced. And this is going to be the last time we talked him for he goes away to jail for how many years?
S25: And then Tupac says, like he gives the really kind of inflammatory interview that he gives, pal, which in turn, as he talks about in that interview, was a reaction to being in jail and reading the Turay Village Voice piece called The Professional Way, where he talked about how, you know, Tupac was basically the living embodiment of the Whitney Museum exhibit on the plight of the young black male and POCs reaction to reading that was being angry because he’s saying that all people were just looking at my life now as this canvas, like I’m not a real person. And then he gets frustrated as fuck and I want to talk and then goes on record with Kevin and just lets loose on all of these things. And then when they’re unable to get reaction quotes from all the people named published the piece. And then after the piece comes out, then everybody comes back and then has reactions. But at that point, everything just kind of completely blows up, you know. So then what happens is all of a sudden the facts begin to get muddy. But the train’s already moving. The train’s already left the station. And all these tensions are just are just becoming bigger and bigger and bigger. And then, you know, a bunch of things happen that really take things to a whole nother level.
S16: I mean, it’s hard to blame anybody for anything that happened, but looking back, what do you make of Biggie going to California so soon after Tupac’s death?
S21: And it kind of film a little bit like a. You know, like a victory lap in a way.
S16: I mean, not that he was minimizing or mocking Tupac’s death, but it was just like a really long trip that some people say in retrospect, maybe that was not the best decision.
S25: It’s hard because from a business standpoint and from a recording standpoint, Biggie, Tupac. Didn’t do anything wrong or inflammatory on purpose. I think what happened is that they misunderstood how the West Coast is. And what I mean by that is that like if you’ve got a beef with somebody in Brooklyn. If you move to Yonkers or you move to Westchester, it’s not that deep Hosanna.
S15: Whereas on the West Coast, you literally have people that have been killing each other because somebody stepped on somebody’s shoe at a party twenty five years ago and got into a fight and killed somebody. And then it has been escalation back and forth ever since for twenty five, thirty thirty five years.
S25: Like it just lingers. It just beef begets beef begets beef. And even if there wasn’t anything illegitimate happening with some of the people that were around each on Tuross because they were affiliated with sets that were perpetually at war with each other.
S22: Without fully understanding it, they were taking on those neighborhood beefs. And so it it wasn’t like Puff hired Gavin de Becker and you had like, you know, older white security guards that are ex FBI or ex Secret Service, you know, being around big and being around those guys.
S17: I mean, you know, Gunnar’s and Puff was like 26, 27, 28. And so they would get people that were around, you know, some of us who were affiliated. That’s what begins to happen, is that all of a sudden it’s like you’re stepping with a neighborhood regardless of whether or not you really understand what’s happening. I mean, from Byxe perspective, I think big from having talked to him during that period, which neither one of us knew was going to be the last days of his life, because whole thing was like, look, the weed is positive. The women’s positive in the sunshine is positive. Like, I don’t need to be going anywhere right now. And that’s why he honestly canceled the trip. He was supposed to catch the red eye to fly to London the night that Spoto and his studies like, you know what? Now.
S15: You know, I’m not I don’t feel like getting on a plane for 12 hours. I don’t feel like, you know, going to London and from his Rumi’s words, eating bad food. Aksa, I’ve been in London. Who’s ex pretty good. But, you know, the thing was, I think he wasn’t he would necessarily feel feeling he was a exploratory at the time. And he does want to go from party to party. You know, I’m saying he wasn’t even thinking about or I don’t think they fully understood just how much danger he was in. And even like when he heard the boos that night at Soul Train Awards, everybody, WPX says, yo, as soon as he heard those boos, we should’ve just been out of there and nobody was, because I think they just thought that was just like hate but not like hate.
S22: Hate it, right. They weren’t necessarily understanding how when Tupac died, when all those different death row gang beefs began to fall apart.
S29: We’re placing ourselves in danger by even being out here right now and not letting things kind of blow over for a while.
S22: That was the one thing I can tell you was I reviewed a show the week before Big got killed. It was a show where I think it was Mary J. Blige, Faith and Nas on the same bill, a house of Blues. What I remember was that Puff was in the foundation room, and I remember that you could have the pan when he walked in because everyone was like, yo, like, what’s he doing? Why is he out here right now?
S24: I don’t think that anybody knew of any legitimate threats except for those people that were close and really were plugged into the street like that.
S22: But there was enough chatter where on a casual level, even someone like myself would be like, yo, like, why are you out here? What’s going on? And just because you and Snoop appeared on Steve Harvey doesn’t necessarily mean that people are that are getting so caught up in what’s happening fully have like, you know, forgiven what’s happened. And people are still kind of mourning or angry about, you know, the atmosphere was really bad. Post to box death, Assunta all the way around. They misinterpreted things because nobody ever thought that it would get to the level that it got.
S24: You have to understand that, like there was no precedent for what happened. You just try to be go about your business, but without really realizing just how real it is.
S18: Unfortunately, obviously, you’ve had a lot of time to think about it, but like you seem really thoughtful about like how naive everybody was and how young everybody was once what happened happened.
S24: Everybody has a different perspective now. I mean, perfect example is like what happened between J.C. and Nas. When you start going from takeover to ether and then from ether to, you know, like super ugly, like things could have gotten equally as ugly as violent because, you know, both Nas and Jay-Z have street pedigree or they have people around them that if it needs to go there, it can go there.
S27: But they took a completely different route. And honestly, I you know, I can’t speak for either one of them, but, you know, they’re friendly, they’re cool. And it’s because I think that and seeing what happened, they have a different perspective now after what happened with big and after that, what happened with Tupac. I don’t think you really see any beefs go.
S25: That far.
S27: And when they do or when there is kind of some back and forth, I think it’s because the cats are so young and they’re just so, so close to the street that, you know, they’re getting caught up in things. But anybody that has any kind of older perspective, they remember what happened to Biggie. They remember what happened with Tupac. And to say, you know what, that squashes. So we had to figure out something else. It is rare that you see things escalate to the point where things happened. You know, the way that unfortunately happened.
S18: You mention, you know, Biggie was at his most introspective in that final interview. What was that like? Because, I mean, obviously, you know, this is a very tense time in his life. He’s broken his leg. He’s having marriage problems. You know, I think there’s a court case going on. You call him really introspective. What was going on?
S30: You know that last month Big was shot of rebuild. He just recorded Life After Death, which he knew was an incredible record. The thing was that was interesting was they were so afraid of the record leaking that the only place you could hear the album was you actually had to go to Daddy’s house in New York and play it because they wouldn’t even like Puff didn’t even, like, have a date with him or anything else or any kind of copies. They’re were just so afraid of it leaking. And because I was on the West Coast, I wasn’t able to go out to the listening parties or sessions that they had a daddy house to hear the whole album. So when I was talking a big because we couldn’t talk about the music. I chose to say, OK, what piece hasn’t been written before? I said, OK, well, let’s talk about your childhood. Let’s talk about who it is you wore and how that influenced the person that you are. And then at the same time, let’s also talk about what’s going on, because you now have gone through some things and we just hit it off. The first interview that I had with him years before on his stupid St James was good. But those two interviews, we got deep. We got deep into his childhood. We got deep into his perspective on his life, all of which fully influenced not only, you know, unbelievable life, death and afterlife and choice b.i.g., which I wrote, but also the screenplay for Notorious. A lot of those moments came directly from those interviews. Like, for example, the scene where Biggie has all of his kind of street, like more flashy name brand clothes on the roof as opposed to what he leaves the house. Wearing like that came directly from an anecdote that big gave me or without I’ve always described it. Is that like Christopher Wallace was to biggie what Peter Parker was a spider man and essentially. Peter Parker’s main fear is that Art May’s going to find out that he’s Spider-Man and Chris for Wallaces, biggest fear was that his mom was going to find out that his Biggie Smalls, not the rapper. But the kid selling drugs and the kid that was, you know, basically doing wrong, so to speak.
S15: And it was he was constantly trying to balance these two different personas. So the thing was, was that he was always kind of these contradictions. But the biggie that I talked to when we were in his hotel room, we were waiting to see him appear on the Soul Train Awards. So he’s back in this chair. It’s me, Greg.
S28: Young and big and big. Has this room service pizza like to play at a big party? They had the pizza like lean back. It was balanced on his stomach. And so he’s kind of eating the pizza at the same time that we’re talking and he gets on the awards and watching it with him.
S25: The boos weren’t really very loud. You can really tell what they were saying. It didn’t really seem like it was any any big deal of the time, and he was talking about how he wanted to essentially buy a house in Atlanta.
S26: And he was talking about how he wanted to give Chiana away at her wedding and he wanted to see S.J. graduate from high school. And, you know, all these different things that he said wasn’t going to happen if he was out there while. And what he was basically describing was that he realized that he could have a rap persona, but that he could also live a different life, that nothing to do with that rap persona. I mean, essentially, he kind of wanted to do what T.I. and Tinie are doing on their reality show where, you know, T.I. makes records. And then at the same time, he’s got this domestic life with his kids. That was Big’s dream. Was he basically wanted to be the suburban soccer dad that occasionally made Hip-Hop Records? It’s something that I constantly think about when I’m around my kids now. The life that I’m living his life, the Biggie Smalls dreamed about had nothing to do, you know, with being the world’s biggest gangster. Having these mansions and these women or any of the kind of flashy gangsta lifestyle stuff, it was a completely different thing.
S18: You know what I mean? Is there anything that gets left out or missed that you think that we should be trying to convey about big as we go about this project?
S29: Well, Biggie and Tupac had an actual friendship. They really did. And I think it’s sad how that friendship died and might have had a chance to resurrect itself differently despite everything else. Had they both lived?
S24: I think Tupac had he lived, would have gone one of two directions.
S15: He might have gone into politics. But I think ultimately what would happen with Tupac is that he would have become a 20 million dollar, you know, a project actor. I think that as an actor, like, he had such prowess and he was so good, like I think that he finally would’ve figured it out.
S22: He would balance it out. And I think, like the kinds of things that you see Donald Glover doing is what Tupac probably would have ended up doing. I think we’re big. I think big really would have become the entreprenuer that Jay-Z and Puffy ultimately became the things that that J. Did we Rocawear and Puff did with Sean John? These are all ideas. The big. It was talking about first whether it was clothing lines, whether it was restaurants. I mean, those are all the things that Biggie talked about doing. You know, and so when I see those guys, I always think that big really might have evolved as an entrepreneur. And, you know, I think it really would have excelled at that. I think the thing that kills me is that hip hop evolved. You know, you always go back to to to that line. You know, whoever thought that hip hop would take it this far.
S29: And 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 Tupac didn’t get to do. It’s just really frustrating because when they both got murdered, there were thousand dollars. And now rappers have evolved into, you know, million and billionaires. And that explosion didn’t happen until after both of them died.
S22: It’s not just talk about their deaths, but also to look at how things blossomed after. But then at the same time, I understand that like, you know, these were real guys. These were real friends. These were real people. I think people are so used to thinking of them as icons that the actual people get lost. That was one of the reasons ultimately why I wrote the book. Unbelievable. The Lab Life, Death and APH Life, Notorious B.I.G. Was because I remember at one point Kathy Scott wrote her book about Tupac’s murder. And then Kathy Scott’s book actually had a photo of Tupac’s death photo, which inflammatory as it is.
S29: You could halfway say there was some kind of news value to it because of the fact that there was so many people saying that Tupac faked his death. And then at the same time, a few months or a year later, Randal Sullivan’s hardcover edition of Labyrinth came out and Biggie’s autopsy photo was in there.
S22: And what it made me think about was you had two different rappers who was supposed rivals with two competing books. Now that both had autopsy photos. And if you didn’t know anything about either one of them, in terms of their music, in terms of their artistry, you would think that, OK, it’s like you just have these two competing corpses, that the only thing that outlandish that they did that’s noteworthy is the fact that they died in this spectacular fashion with a couple of hit records between the two of them without really understanding all these different forces behind them in terms of their artistry, in terms of what they’re trying to say and how things got twisted and ultimately jacked up. And so that was really one of the things when I was writing Unbelievable made me really want to write the book was because I saw it as an opportunity to not only write about Biggie’s life, but also to place it within a larger historical context.
S30: So many authors also did the same thing with Tupac was because there had to be something to balance out this cottage industry of people trying to get behind their murders psyche. After a while, the corner of, you know, whether it’s Kovalyov Flamenco or, you know, Wilshire Boulevard, all of a sudden it’s like one big Dealey Plaza.
S25: And yes, you can’t get into all the JFK intricacies that was the mafia was the government. But ultimately, I think in getting so caught up in that you also lose sight of the people involved and who it is they were trying to be and the legacies that they left behind.
S31: I’m so grateful. Thank you so much. This was amazing, man. Thank you for everything.