Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. are widely regarded as two of the best hip hop artists in the history of the genre. Their untimely deaths left a void that would go unfilled for years, and thanks to their relatively short careers, fans and listeners missed out on unknown amounts of music.
Most people know about the feud between the two, as it was one of the biggest events in hip hop history, but very few people know that the two men were friends before everything went sideways. In this article, we’ll go over how Tupac and Biggie met, what started the beef in the first place, and the aftermath that ended up leaving the world without two of the greatest to ever do it.
A Friendship That Was Almost A Mentorship
During the early 90s, Biggie was still an underground artist looking for his breakthrough, while Tupac was one of the biggest acts in hip hop. With everything that would happen later might suggest otherwise, Biggie looked up to Tupac and often asked him for career advice, attempting to get him to manage his career for him instead of Diddy.
Biggie’s debut single Party And Bullshit was the track that got his career started, and the success that came with it gave him the confidence to finally approach Tupac. The two had both been born in the New York area and started something of a friendship in 1993. When asked by Biggie to be his manager, Tupac told him to stick with Diddy because he didn’t mix business and friendship.
The two would even end up recording a song together, though it would be the only released track to have both of their names on it. In 1994, Tupac and Biggie recorded Runnin’ (From Tha Police), featuring Stretch, Buju Banton, and Dramacydal. It was supposed to appear in Tupac’s Me Against The World but was left out because of the two falling out with each other. It’s the only official studio collaboration between the two.
Where It Went Wrong
Tupac was a huge success by 1994, having released a couple of very successful albums and starring in three movies. Personal problems left him needing to raise money for legal fees. In November of that year, he was scheduled to record with Little Shawn at Quad Recording Studios in New York and potentially reunite and record with Biggie himself. Neither of those recording sessions would ever happen.
When Tupac entered the building, two gunmen ordered everybody in the lobby to the floor. He hesitated and was shot five times before being robbed by the gunmen. On his way out, he gave Biggie and the rest of the Bad Boy affiliates in the lobby the middle finger.
No matter what anyone said going forward, Tupac believed he had been set up for that shooting by Diddy and Biggie. Only a few short months later, Biggie released a single titled Who Shot Ya? a song that Tupac took as being directed toward him as a diss. According to Biggie, it was related to drug dealers he used to deal with, but it didn’t change Tupac’s opinion on the matter.
In 1996, Tupac released Hit ‘Em Up, one of the greatest diss tracks of all time, as a direct diss towards Biggie. It covers everything from their relationship leading up to that moment, from Biggie crashing at Tupac’s place in California to the shooting that effectively ended their friendship.
He even claimed to have slept with Biggie’s estranged wife Faith Evans, though she would categorically deny the accusations. With Tupac already rightfully mad about the shooting, this song was what brought Biggie and the rest of the East Coast rap community into it in force. Now the anger lay on both sides, resulting in the culmination of the biggest rap feud in the history of the genre.
East Versus West Coast Rap Beef
At the same time that his beef with Biggie was heating up, Tupac signed with Death Row Records, a label led by Suge Knight and featuring prominent West Coast rappers like Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre.
It’s important to note that at this time, there was already a mild beef going on between rappers on the East Coast and their counterparts on the West Coast. Rap and hip hop culture had developed in New York, so artists on that side of the country often thought their version of it was superior. But artists on the West Coast had begun taking over in the 80s and very early 90s, with N.W.A. members and Tupac leading the charge so to speak.
Bronx rapper Tim Dogg released a song titled Fuck Compton as a diss track mocking West Coast rappers, especially those in N.W.A. Dr. Dre retaliated with a single on his debut album The Chronic. Their short beef ended up being a sign of things to come, with numerous artists on the West Coast having a problem with the condescending attitude of East Coast artists.
Knight formed Death Row Records in 1991 alongside Dr. Dre, Dick Griffey, and The D.O.C. Sean Combs was a new executive in New York, forming Bad Boy Records in 1993 with Biggie and Craig Mack as headlining artists. These two labels would become the faces of the East Coast versus West Coast rap beef throughout the 90s.
Tupac’s decision to sign with Death Row Records only solidified the two camps in their feud. With his ongoing drama with Biggie and Bad Boy Records, his addition to the Death Row label cemented both camp’s positions against each other.
The End of the Feud
Very few people know of Tupac and Biggie’s friendship, but everyone has heard what happened after the two fell out. And all of it went on in a relatively short period of time.
Only months after Tupac released his All Eyez On Me album and Hit ‘Em Up, he was killed in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada. The shooting was reportedly carried out by a Compton gang by the name of the Southside Crips to avenge the beating of one of their members at the hands of Tupac, with the person he beat being the gunmen who killed him. That report would be investigated, but the police only interviewed the suspect in the case briefly, never establishing a new suspect for the case.
Six months later, Biggie was killed in another drive-by shooting in Los Angeles. Both murder cases remain unsolved to this day. Members from both sides of the feud have been implicated in the events, though proof has seemingly never materialized.
In spite of Tupac and Biggie starting out as friends, and the massive publicity that came to their feud that boosted hip hop in the public mind, it ended with both of these talented artists’ deaths. After this, peace summits would ensue to officially end the feud, though the impact it had on hip hop history would never be anything less than everlasting.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.