Jay-Z (born Shawn Carter) is arguably considered one of the greatest rappers of all time; however, before Jay, there were a few greats that came before the MC including fellow New York native Biggie Smalls (born Christopher Wallace). Before we jump into the Flashback Friday interview with Jay-Z, let me give you some background information on what led to Biggie’s death. I’m going to try to summarize this as much as possible lol.
Before his death, Biggie was a rap superstar who had an ongoing beef with rapper and poet Tupac Shakur. Biggie and Tupac started as close friends, meeting each other in 1993 in Los Angeles. Biggie met Tupac through a local drug dealer, and Tupac invited Biggie and a few friends to his home, according to an article written by writer Ben Westhoff for VICE titled “How Tupac and Biggie Went from Friends to Deadly Rivals.”
Tupac and Biggie hit it off, and Tupac credited himself as the one who influenced Biggie’s style. He would often let Biggie perform at his shows.
In 1994, Tupac was in New York to shoot the film Above The Rim. He then became involved in some conflict with some Queen’s gangsters. Westhoff’s article explains that Tupac was modeling his character in the film “Birdie” after a notorious Haitian gambler named Jacques Agnant, better known as Haitian Jack.
While at a Manhattan club, Tupac noticed Haitian Jack and asked to be introduced. Because he ran in similar circles with Haitian Jack and his crew, Biggie warned Tupac to stay away from him. Despite Biggie’s warning, Tupac became fond of Haitian Jack, and the two began to get acquainted with Haitian Jack, introducing him to some local gangsters and high-end jewelry. Haitian Jack stated that Tupac loved the respect and recognition he got in New York.
“I think he wanted that same respect,” Haitian Jack said.
In November 1993, Haitian Jack and Tupac went partying at a club called Nell’s in Manhattan. Tupac met a 19-year-old woman named Ayanna Jackson. Getting close on the dance floor, the two went back to his suite at the Le Parker Meridien Hotel.
Four days later, Jackson met the MC at his suite again. Haitian Jack, Charles “Man Man” Fuller (Tupac’s road manager), and another man were also at the hotel with the rapper. Jackson alleged she was gang-raped and forced to perform oral sex. Tupac claimed he left the bedroom when other men entered and fell asleep. Jackson called the police, and all four men were arrested. Police reported that weapons were also found which Tupac claimed belonged to Biggie.
Tupac was charged with sexual abuse, sodomy, and illegal weapons possession. The prosecution said Tupac offered Jackson as a reward to his homies. The poet and MC denied this but told VIBE magazine he felt guilty for not protecting Jackson against the other men that were there. Tupac and his road manager had separate cases from Haitian Jack. Haitian Jack did plead guilty to two misdemeanors and avoided being sentenced to jail. Tupac felt as though Haitian Jack was a snitch and told a New York Daily News reporter that Haitian Jack had set him up.
Soon after the incident, Tupac agreed to record a verse for an upcoming artist named Little Shawn. Little Shawn was close to Biggie and Puffy (now P.Diddy/Sean Combs). Tupac met his manager Jimmy “Henchman” Rosemond through Haitian Jack, and it was said that Tupac would be paid $7,000 for the feature. Calling out Haitian Jack ultimately led to the Quad Studios incident.
On November 30, 1994, Tupac arrived at Quad Recording Studios in Times Square. Tupac came with three men and encountered another trio wearing army fatigues. This was considered a hot style in Brooklyn (Biggie’s home turf) at the time, so Tupac assumed that they were with Biggie.
Lil’ Cease, Biggie’s homeboy and also an MC, yelled down from upstairs that Biggie and Puffy were in the studio recording. Before Tupac could make it onto the elevator, the men in army outfits drew 9mm guns and ordered them on the floor. Tupac reached for his gun and was shot, beaten, and robbed of his jewelry.
He played dead until the men left and then took the elevator upstairs. When the elevator doors opened, Tupac saw Puffy, Biggie, and Henchman. Pac claimed the men looked surprised and guilty, but Puffy said that everyone showed love and concern to the wounded rapper.
Tupac claimed he took five bullets, including shots to the head and scrotum. A retired NYPD cop, Bill Courtney, believed the stick-up was a response to Tupac’s comments against Haitian Jack to the New York Daily News reporter. “A message was being sent to him not to name-drop,” Courtney said.
In 2005, Henchman spoke about the incident to VIBE. “Nobody came to rob you,” he said. “They came to discipline you.”
In 1994, Biggie and Puff denied involvement in the crime that took place at Quad Studios as well as Haitian Jack. After a separate conviction, Haitian Jack was deported back to Haiti in 2007.
Feeling like Biggie and Puffy knew about the shooting but failed to warn him or share any information with him infuriated Tupac. Soon after the incident, he was sent to prison after being found guilty of allegedly sexually assaulting Jackson. To add insult to injury, Biggie dropped “Who Shot Ya,” in 1994 the time he was in prison which Tupac thought was aimed at him. However, Biggie made it clear that his record had nothing to do with Tupac even though the timing of it was a bit strange.
“He owed me more than to turn his head and act like he didn’t know niggas was about to blow my fucking head off,” Tupac said later. “You don’t know who shot me in your hometown; these niggas from your neighborhood?”
While serving time at Clinton Correctional Facility, a maximum-security prison in upstate New York, Suge Knight, the head of Death Row Records heard about Tupac’s situation and wanted to help him. Tupac signed a deal with Death Row Records and as a result was released from prison before completing his sentence. From then on, things hit the fan especially after Knight took shots at Puffy and his Bad Boy Records label during his Source Awards speech on August 3, 1995.
Tupac was officially riding with Death Row and dropped “Hit Em Up” on June 4, 1996, and well ladies and gentlemen, the East Coast vs. West Coast beef was ingrained in hip-hop history.
Never settling the beef, Tupac was shot while in Las Vegas on September 7, 1996, for the Mike Tyson-Bruce Seldon boxing match. While in the lobby of the MGM Grand hotel, Tupac and his entourage got into a fight with an LA street gang member named Orlando Anderson.
Soon after, he left in a car with Knight and reportedly, Anderson and three affiliates including his uncle Duane Keith “Keffe D” Davis spotted the MC being called after by excited fans. It was reported that the four assailants were in a white Cadillac and pulled up alongside Knight and Tupac at a stoplight on East Flamingo Road and opened fire on them.
Anderson has been reported to be the one to shoot Tupac several times. At least 12 shots were fired, and one bullet grazed Knight’s head. Pac later died at the University Medical Center on September 13, 1996.
With the recent death of Tupac still on the hearts and minds of people, Biggie wanted to move past the whole East Coast vs. West Coast war. The Undefeated writer Justin Tinsley wrote in his article “The notorious night Biggie was murdered in Los Angeles” that fifteen days before his death, Biggie and Puffy went onto “The Steve Harvey Show” with Death Row star Snoop Dogg. Snoop and Biggie shook hands and agreed to move forward by working with each other. The Notorious B.I.G. was also in California to promote his Life After Death album.
After leaving a party in Los Angeles following the Soul Train Awards, Biggie was sitting in an SUV when another vehicle pulled up next to his, firing at least five gunshots. Biggie was hit four times and died later that night at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on March 9, 1997, six months after the murder of Tupac.
Both Tupac’s and Biggie’s deaths are unsolved. Where does Jay-Z come in all of this?
Jay-Z was making big noise in the hip-hop world around the time Biggie met an early grave. He dropped Reasonable Doubt on June 25, 1996, and In My Lifetime, Vol. 1 on November 4, 1997.
Both of the MC’s being from New York, it’s obvious Jay-Z would feel something for his fellow MC and Brooklyn native. During an interview, Jay-Z talks about Biggie being shot.
Years later, we now know Jay-Z as one of the greatest MC’s to rock the mic and build a business empire. It’s nice to go back and see him honoring the late B.I.G., who along with Tupac, lost his life too young and too soon.
Check it out below: