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Murder of Tupac and Notorious B.I.G.

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The Murders of gangsta rappers Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G.

Death Row Records Logo

The logo for Death Row Records is a blindfolded black man strapped into an electric chair at the moment of execution. Death Row is the label that made rappers such as Snoop Dog, Dr. Dre, and Tupac Shakur famous, and its logo is emblematic of the violent posturing adopted by many gangsta rap artists not just Death Row artists in their quest to sell their music. 

A rapper’s public face is frequently a gangbanger’s scar face, whether he has a genuine gang affiliation or not. But as rap’s popularity grew in the 1990s, the violent posturing turned real. Tales of beatings and public humiliations surfaced. Rappers slandered one another with increasing viciousness and frequency.

An East Coast-West Coast feud developed, pitting Death Row Records, which is based in southern California , against New York ‘s Bad Boy Entertainment. The feud eventually escalated from a battle of words to a bloody war. Its two most prominent casualties were the rival rappers Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G.

The circumstances of these two deaths were remarkably similar. Both young men were shot multiple times while sitting in the front passenger seats of their vehicles. Both victims were rushed to the hospital by their own entourages. Notorious B.I.G., who was born Christopher Wallace and was also known as Biggie Smalls, was dead on arrival. Tupac Shakur lived for six days and endured multiple operations before succumbing to his wounds.

Both incidents followed major public events and took place on crowded streets. Shakur was killed in Las Vegas . Notorious B.I.G. was gunned down in Los Angeles . In both instances, witnesses refused to come forward and help the police. Gang enmity between the Bloods and the Crips appears to have played a part in both murders.

Both rappers were very successful and among the most popular artists in rap music. Tupac Shakur was the top-selling artist for Death Row Records. Notorious B.I.G. enjoyed the same status at Bad Boy. Ironically, just before their deaths, both men had become disillusioned with the industry. Shakur was taking steps to sever his relationship with Death Row. B.I.G., who had two small children, was talking about getting out of the business entirely.

Top record executives were present at both murders. Death Row CEO Suge Knight was behind the wheel when Tupac Shakur was gunned down. A bullet fragment grazed Knight’s head. Knight camped out at the hospital with Shakur’s family while the rapper fought for his life.

Similarly Bad Boy founder Puffy Combs (a.k.a. Puff Daddy and P. Diddy) was in the vehicle right behind Notorious B.I.G.’s car when B.I.G. was shot. Combs ordered their caravan of vehicles to go directly to L.A.’s Cedar-Sinai   Hospital , and he was with B.I.G. as he was wheeled into the ER. Combs got down on his knees and prayed for God to save B.I.G.’s life.

Posthumously released recordings by both rappers have sold in the millions and continue to sell.

Despite exhaustive police efforts and investigative reporting in the press, the murders of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. remain unsolved. Rumors and theories have proliferated in the years since their deaths. Some believe that Shakur’s murder was ordered by B.I.G. who in turn was murdered by Death Row loyalists and carried out by members of the Bloods, some of whom were also California  police officers. Others feel that the murders were a deliberate attempt to escalate the East Coast-West Coast feud and keep rap in the headlines in order to sell records. 

It has also been suggested that Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. were innocent bystanders and that the intended targets were actually the CEOs, Suge Knight and Puffy Combs. And the ultimate conspiracy theory holds that the record executives conspired to have these artists killed because dead rappers rappers with legal problems that cost their companies money are more profitable than live rappers.

The deaths of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G., just six months apart, are without a doubt related. But the question remains: Who killed them? And why?

Competition between rival record companies is natural, but when it came to the premier rap labels, Death Row and Bad Boy, the rivalry went from nasty to vicious to deadly in short order. Despite many denials and explanations issued by both companies, the antagonism between the labels was at least partly fueled by their larger than life founders, Suge Knight of Death Row and Puffy Combs of Bad Boy.

Marion  “Suge” Knight was raised on the same streets in Compton , California , where the infamous street gang, the Bloods, made their name. His parents called him “Sugar Bear” as a child because of his sweet nature, and the nickname stayed with him, later shortened to “Suge.” He didn’t run with the gangs when he was in high school, preferring to play sports and capitalize on his extra large size. He grew to be six-foot-three and weighed over 300 pounds, and eventually played professional football with the Los Angeles Rams during the strike-plagued 1988-89 season.

He worked as a bodyguard for singer Bobby Brown, then in 1990 started promoting gangsta rap acts. Two years later he formed Death Row Records in association with Interscope Records. But according to Ronin Ro in his book Have Gun Will Travel: The Spectacular Rise and Violent Fall of Death Row Records, the seed money for Death Row came from a convicted drug dealer named Michael Harris who put up $1.5 million. Death Row went on to make hundreds of millions of dollars, but allegedly Harris never saw a return on his investment.

As the prime mover behind gangsta rap, Suge Knight was able to walk the walk, reportedly doling out beatings to whoever crossed him. Though he had avoided the Bloods when he was growing up, he embraced them when he became head of Death Row, allying himself with the Mob Piru Bloods (named after Piru Street  in Compton ) and proudly wearing the Blood color, red. He had red suits and fedoras made for himself and even had his house painted red.

Bad Boy founder Puffy Combs was a straight arrow by comparison. Though Combs often said that his father was a Harlem  drug dealer, according to Randall Sullivan in his book LAbrynth, Combs’s father died when Puffy was two and a half years old. Combs had attended an all-white Catholic school and became an altar boy. At age 11, his family moved to suburban Westchester County , north of New York City , where Combs worked two paper routes. 

He later went to an all-boys prep school in Manhattan , then enrolled at Howard University where he majored in business administration. His drive to succeed and knack for discovering musical talent earned him a job with Uptown Records where at the age of 22 he became vice president for A&R. Threatened by the up-and-comer, the president of Uptown fired Combs, but the young entrepreneur bounced back a few months later, signing “a $15 million distribution deal with Arista Records.” (Combs would later brag that his company, unlike Death Row, was founded with legitimate money.)

The former altar boy did have his problems with the law, a condition that became de rigueur for anyone who was anyone in the rap world. In December 1999, Combs was arrested and charged with gun possession and bribery after a shooting incident at Club New York , a Manhattan  night club. Victims testified that they had been shot by Combs who fled the scene with his then-girlfriend singer/actress Jennifer Lopez. He allegedly offered his driver a bribe if he would claim that a gun found in Combs’s Lincoln Navigator belonged to him. Combs, who was represented by attorney Johnnie Cochran, was ultimately acquitted on all charges.

Over the years Bad Boy Entertainment has been rumored to have an affiliation with the Crips gang, the arch rivals of the Bloods, using them for security work, but Combs has always denied any official alliance between his company and the Crips.

The East Coast-West Coast feud had largely been a war of public insults and nightclub brawls until November 30, 1994. Death Row superstar Tupac Shakur and Bad Boy newcomer Notorious B.I.G. had been friends despite the bitter rivalry between their labels. Shakur, a wiry bantam weight, had been brought up in New York , Baltimore , and San Francisco , and though he declared his allegiance to the West Coast, it didn’t keep him from associating with East Coast rappers. 

Notorious B.I.G., as his name implies, was a rotund man who weighed over 300 pounds and was known for his quick wit and clever rhymes. While Shakur was in New York  in November 1994 awaiting sentencing on a sexual-assault conviction, he’d been invited to record with another East Coast friend, Little Shawn, at Quad Studios in Times Square .

Quad Studios, which takes up five floors of a midtown office building, was a busy place that night. While Little Shawn was recording on one floor, Junior M.A.F.I.A., a teenage rap group sponsored by Notorious B.I.G., was recording on another floor, and B.I.G. and Puffy Combs were working on a video on yet another floor. Tupac and his entourage arrived at the building shortly after midnight  on November 30. As they were getting into the elevator, three armed black men ambushed them and stole their jewelry. Tupac’s alone was worth over $35,000. Tupac lunged at one of the gunmen in anger and was shot five times—in the head, groin, and left hand. Despite his wounds, Shakur was able to get upstairs where he paced and ranted that he’d been set up. He was taken to Bellevue Hospital where he underwent surgery.

The next morning Notorious B.I.G. visited him there. Against his doctors’ advice, Shakur checked himself out and continued his convalescence at actress Jasmine Guy’s apartment. He made it to court for his sentencing the next day and was ordered to serve four and a half years at the Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York .

While imprisoned, Shakur had time to think about the ambush and came to the conclusion that it was ordered by Puffy Combs and B.I.G. He went public with his feelings. B.I.G. defended himself, calling the accusations insane and offensive, and demanded an apology from Shakur. He didn’t get one. Suge Knight’s publicist issued a statement, calling the incident “the result of jealousy between immature rappers.” In the meantime, Shakur’s album All Eyez on Me became the number one recording in the country.

The next fall Shakur cut a deal with Suge Knight. The rapper agreed to sign a three-year contract with Death Row Records in exchange for Knight putting up the bail money for Tupac’s release pending an appeal of his conviction.

Hit ‘Em Up: On September 24, 1995, the West Coast contingent suffered another blow, and this time it was fatal. The occasion was a late-night birthday party for a record producer at the Platinum House in Atlanta . Suge Knight and Puffy Combs were in attendance with their respective entourages. A fight broke out outside the nightclub and shots were fired. Jake Robles, a Death Row employee who was also a Mob Piru Blood, lay on the ground, seriously wounded. Robles was a close friend of Suge Knight. Witnesses accused Puffy Combs’s bodyguard of the shooting, and Knight immediately put the blame directly on Combs.

A few days after Jake Robles’s death, Mark Anthony Bell, an independent record promoter from New York , was contacted by a mysterious stranger who promised him a record deal if he “cooperated.” According to Randall Sullivan in LAbyrinth,  Bell had gone to high school with Puffy Combs and had done some work for Bad Boy. The stranger asked Bell to write down the home addresses of Combs and Combs’s mother on a piece of paper and drop them on the ground where it could be retrieved. The stranger assured Bell that his “help” would never be revealed. Bells refused to give out any information about Combs, suspecting that the stranger was in some way connected to Death Row.

Three months later Bell  attended the Death Row Christmas party at Chateau Le Blanc in Hollywood . When Suge Knight arrived, he went over to Bell and asked, “Why didn’t you cooperate when you had had the chance?” Bell told him that he didn’t know Combs’s home address. Knight invited Bell up to the V.I.P. room for a little talk. Six other men accompanied them, including rappers Dr. Dre and Tupac Shakur.

In the V.I.P. room, Knight continued to question Bell  about Puffy Combs. When Knight didn’t get the answers he wanted, “an especially scary-looking Blood” punched Bell in the face several times. “This is for Jake,” the Blood said, then promised to kill Bell .

Suge Knight left the room and went into the bathroom. When he returned, he was holding a champagne flute filled with urine. He ordered Bell  to drink it. When Bell refused, the Blood hit him again. Bell took the glass as if he was going to drink it, then suddenly dropped it and ran for the balcony, intent on escaping. The others caught him as he tried to leap over the railing. They hauled him back into the room and beat him savagely, taking orders from Knight who shouted, “‘Body blows only!'” Bell finally played dead and the beating ended, but not before his assailants stripped him of his wallet and jewelry.

Suge Knight awarded special friends with expensive Death Row medallions that featured the company’s electric-chair logo in gold and diamonds. In July of 1996 a Mob Piru named Tray Lane was wearing his medallion while shopping with two fellow Bloods at the Foot Locker at the Lakewood Mall in California . A group of seven or eight Crips entered the store and jumped the three Bloods. During the melee one of the Crips took Lane’s Death Row medallion. It was a relatively minor incident in the ongoing gang war, but it would prove to be the spark that touched off an explosion in the East Coast-West Coast feud, resulting in the murders of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G.

At 8:45 P.M.  on September 7, 1996—two months after Tray Lane was robbed of his Death Row medallion—Lane was in the lobby of the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas . He was with Tupac Shakur, Suge Knight, and a group of Mob Piru Blood bodyguards. They had just attended the Mike Tyson-Bruce Seldon prizefight at the hotel—one of Tyson’s many Round 1 knockouts—and were on their way out when Lane spotted a young man across the lobby. The young man’s name was Orlando Anderson, and Lane recognized him as one of the Crips who had beaten him and stolen his medallion. Lane’s group rushed Anderson , knocked him to the ground, and proceeded to beat, kick, and stomp him. The 30-second incident was caught on tape by the hotel’s security cameras. It showed Shakur and Knight participating in the assault, Shakur throwing the first punch. By the time the police arrived, the Death Row contingent was gone. Anderson refused to press charges.

Later that night a caravan of luxury vehicles was wending its way through the congested streets of Las Vegas , heading for Club 662, a known Blood hangout. (662 is California  penal code for death row). It was a Death Row Records caravan, and Suge Knight was behind the wheel of the lead car, a black BMW 750. Tupac Shakur was sitting in the front passenger seat. At around 11:17 P.M. , Knight pulled to a stop at a red light on Flamingo Road . The streets were jammed with tourists. Shakur was flirting with a car full of girls to the left of the BMW so he didn’t notice the white Cadillac with four black men inside pulling up on their right. A hand holding a gun emerged from the Cadillac’s backseat through the driver’s window. Shots were fired into the BMW.

When Shakur realized what was happening, he tried to jump into the backseat for cover, but he was hit four times in the chest. A bullet fragment grazed Knight’s head, but he still managed to maneuver the BMW around the stopped traffic, making a u-turn and heading back toward the Strip. The other vehicles in the Death Row caravan followed him. He finally stopped when he ran his car into a curb. When the police arrived, they called for an ambulance for Shakur and ordered everyone else out of their vehicles, treating the Death Row entourage as suspects. In the meantime the white Cadillac slipped away into the night.

Shakur was rushed to the University   Medical Center where doctors performed emergency surgery to save his life. In an effort to stem the internal bleeding, surgeons removed his right lung. Suge Knight stood vigil at the hospital with Shakur’s family, waiting for hopeful news. His heart stopped beating several times, and doctors revived him. Finally Shakur’s mother Afeni decided not to resuscitate her son if he went into arrest again, explaining to reporters that “it was important for his spirit to be allowed to be free.” Six days after he was shot, Tupac Shakur died.

When Shakur’s body lay face up on a gurney about to be autopsied, his infamous tattoos were fully displayed, including his signature phrase, THUG LIFE, in large letters in a semi-circle around his abdomen.

In “Who Killed Tupac Shakur?” a controversial two-part article published in the Los Angeles Times, journalist Chuck Philips presented evidence that Notorious B.I.G. was behind the murder of Shakur. According to Philips, after Orlando Anderson’s beating at the hands of the Death Row Bloods, Anderson went back to his hotel room and called his brother Crips who hastily put together a retaliation plan. The Crips, figuring that they could make some profit off a hit on Shakur, sent an emissary to Notorious B.I.G. who Philips contends was in Las Vegas for the Tyson fight, staying at a hotel under another name. The emissary negotiated a $1 million fee for the murder of Shakur whom B.I.G. had allegedly come to despise not only for being a staunch member of the West Coast rappers who disparaged him regularly in public but also for releasing a song called “Hit ‘Em Up,” in which he boasted of having had sex with B.I.G.’s estranged wife. But according to Philips, B.I.G. agreed to pay the fee on one condition: the hit had to be done with his own gun. In Philips’s scenario Notorious B.I.G. gave the Crips’ emissary his “.40-caliber Glock pistol.”

In the meantime the Crips had organized a team to hunt down Shakur. Philips writes that they had two cars, a late-model white Cadillac and an older yellow Cadillac driven by a lone Crip armed with an AK-47 assault rifle. Their plan was to take out Shakur at Club 662, but when they happened upon the Death Row caravan on Flamingo Road , they seized the opportunity and struck.

Vibe magazine, however, cast doubt on this scenario when it presented a time line of the events as Philips describes them. On fight nights, the streets of Las Vegas are always jammed with vehicle and pedestrian traffic. The shooting occurred two hours and thirty-two minutes after the beating of Orlando Anderson. According to Vibe, the Crips couldn’t possibly have gotten a hit team on the street in that time. They would have needed at least another 22 minutes and probably much more.

Furthermore, Notorious B.I.G. claimed he was not in Las Vegas  on the night of Shakur’s shooting, and he had an alibi. Witnesses swore that B.I.G. was in a studio in New York recording new songs that night. His best friend, rapper Lil’ Cease, claimed that they both went back to B.I.G.’s home in New Jersey after the recording session to watch the Tyson fight on television. As Sam Anson points out in his Vibe article, it should have been relatively easy to confirm that “a 6’3″, 315-pound black celebrity with an entourage” was present in Las Vegas on the night of the shooting, but the Las Vegas police have been unable to confirm B.I.G.’s whereabouts that night.

The murder of Tupac Shakur remains an unsolved homicide. So is Notorious B.I.G.’s.

Life After Death: Six months after the death of Tupac Shakur, Notorious B.I.G. was in Los Angeles  for the 11th Annual Soul Train Music Awards at the Shrine Auditorium and Expo Center . When he took the stage to present an award, the audience booed him.

He leaned into the microphone and tried to lighten the mood. “What’s up, Cali ?” he said.

The booing increased and continued through his presentation of an award to singer Toni Braxton.

B.I.G. left the stage deeply embarrassed. He had been trying to distance himself from the rap feuds and just make music, but rumors were circulating that he was in some way responsible for Shakur’s murder.

A party hosted by Vibe and Qwest Records was scheduled for the next night at the Petersen Automotive Museum on Wilshire Boulevard . According to Cathy Scott in her book The Murder of Biggie Smalls, B.I.G. wasn’t in the mood for partying after being booed at the awards ceremony, but he agreed to go “because Puffy Combs had asked him to go.” They were both eager for the release of B.I.G.’s next album Life After Death ‘Til Death Do Us Part later that month, and being seen at the party would be good promotion.

Witnesses reported that B.I.G. had a good time at the party. He spoke to old friends and met several flirtatious women. Some asked him to dance, but he was walking with a cane, still on the mend from a leg injury due to a car accident, so a few of the women danced suggestively in front of him as he sat and watched. The party was the place to be that night as 2,000 people crowded the museum space, and outside 200 more jostled to get in. By midnight  fire marshals decided that the museum was dangerously overcrowded, and at 12:35 A.M. they shut the party down and ordered everyone out. The crowd disbursed, disappointed guests heading for the doors. B.I.G. was moving slowly with his injured leg, so he, Puffy Combs, and the rest of the Bad Boy entourage hung back and let the others go first. They walked to their two rented G.M.C. Suburbans, a black one and a dark green one, which they’d parked on the street because the valet parking lots were full by the time they had arrived. B.I.G. got into the front passenger seat of the dark green Suburban along with two friends and his driver. Puffy and his friends piled into the black Suburban. At night, the two vehicles looked identical.

Puffy’s vehicle pulled out first, followed closely by B.I.G.’s and then a Ford Blazer carrying their bodyguards who were all off-duty Inglewood  police officers. All three vehicles drove to the intersection of Fairfax Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard where they stopped for a red light. They were heading for an after-party. The stereo in Biggie’s car was pumping, playing his new album.

While they waited for the light to turn, a man called out to the green Suburban. Thinking it was a fan who just wanted to wish him well, B.I.G. rolled down his window. Then, a dark-colored Chevrolet Impala pulled up along the right side of B.I.G.’s vehicle. The driver—a black man wearing a suit and bow tie—pulled out an 9mm automatic pistol and opened fire on the rapper. B.I.G. was hit several times in the chest. Puffy got out of his Suburban and ran to B.I.G.’s side as the Impala sped off, but B.I.G. had already lost consciousness. They raced to get him to the hospital, but B.I.G. was already gone.

LAPD detective Russell Poole was assigned to the case, and his tireless investigation led him to believe that the man in the bow tie who fired the shots was Amir Muhammad, a.k.a. Harry Billups, a southern California  mortgage broker and close friend of former LAPD police officer David Mack, who witnesses also put at the scene of the crime. Mack might have been the “fan” who had enticed Biggie to roll down his window. Detective Poole discovered that as well as being a police officer, Mack was a member of the Mob Piru Bloods and had a close association with Death Row founder Suge Knight. Poole learned that Mack was one of many LAPD officers who were also gang members. When police obtained a warrant to search Mack’s home, they found a “shrine” to Tupac Shakur. But by the time investigators caught up with Mack, he was serving a 14-year prison term for bank robbery, and he refused to cooperate. Police efforts to find Amir Muhammad were unsuccessful. He had simply vanished.

Notorious B.I.G.’s body was flown back to New York  where he was given a grand funeral in his native Brooklyn . To this day his mother, Voletta Wallace, demands to know who killed her son, but the case remains unsolved. Was his murder payback for the killing of Tupac Shakur? Or, as Detective Poole came to suspect, were the motives for both murders more insidious than that?

In 1999, Detective Russell Poole resigned from the LAPD in anger and frustration over what he perceived to be the city’s deliberate unwillingness to let him get to the bottom of the Notorious B.I.G. murder. The shooter, Amir Muhammad, was connected to Mob Piru cop David Mack who was connected to Suge Knight. The evidence Poole  had collected increasingly pointed the finger at the Death Row founder. But Knight had friends in high places.

According to Randall Sullivan in LAbyrinth, Knight had a guardian angel in LA County Deputy District Attorney Lawrence Longo. When Knight was facing sentencing for the brutal beating of record promoter Mark Bell, Longo “recommended a nine-year suspended sentence, with five years of probation” even though ten months earlier Knight had pleaded guilty to felony assault. (In Have Gun Will Travel, Ronin Ro reports that   in July of 1992 Knight had “pistol-whipped” George and Lynwood Stanley, a rap duo, then forced them to strip naked and robbed them because they had dared to use a pay phone at the Death Row offices when Knight was expecting a call.) Knight served a one-month sentence at a halfway house as a result of the Bell assault. A few months later, Deputy DA Longo’s daughter became Death Row Records’ first white recording artist, and Suge Knight moved into Longo’s Malibu Colony home, renting it for $19,000 a month.

But if Knight in fact was the man who ordered Notorious B.I.G.’s murder, what was Knight’s motive? Some have speculated that it was simply payback for Tupac Shakur’s murder. Knight had lost the best-selling rapper in the Death Row stable, so he wanted Puffy Combs and Bad Boy Entertainment to suffer an equal loss — an eye for an eye.

Others believe that the Crips were responsible for both murders. One theory holds that Notorious B.I.G. had agreed to pay the Crips for killing Shakur, then changed his mind and reneged. His punishment for stiffing the Crips was a death sentence. Another theory claims that Bad Boy Entertainment had asked Crip members to work as bodyguards while they were in L.A. for the Soul Train Music Awards, but the gang’s price was more than Puffy Combs had wanted to pay, so he hired off-duty Inglewood  cops instead. Killing Biggie was the Crips’ response to getting their walking papers.

But the most sinister theory fingers Knight for both murders. Before his death, Tupac Shakur was becoming a problem for Knight. The star was questioning Death Row’s method of bookkeeping, which indicated that Shakur owed the company $4.9 million even though he had earned the company $60 million in record sales. Unhappy with his Death Row contract, Shakur was rumored to be looking for a new label once he’d completed his three-album obligation. Shakur also had a burgeoning acting career after having appeared in several movies, including Juice, Above the Rim, and Gridlock’d. Shakur’s allegiance to Death Row might have been slipping, but Death Row possessed tapes of 200 unreleased songs recorded by Shakur, raw material for future albums. In the record business, death has a way of increasing public interest in an artist. As Cathy Scott quotes one unnamed record industry insider: Tupac was “‘worth more dead than alive.'”

According to this theory, the killing of Notorious B.I.G. was a cover for Tupac Shakur’s murder, meant to make both killings appear to be the products of the East   Coast-West Coast feud. The fate of 19-year-old Yafeu “Kadafi” Fula appears to add some credence to this theory. Fula, who was one of Shakur’s backup singers, was the only witness willing to come forward and identify the killers. The Las Vegas police declined to interview Fula thoroughly and released him. Two months later Fula was shot to death in a housing project in Orange , N.J. “Execution style” is how the police in Orange described Fula’s killing. Like the murders of the two rappers, Fula’s murder remains unsolved.

Author Cathy Scott in The Murder of Biggie Smalls suggests that Puffy Combs might have had Notorious B.I.G. killed for the same reason that Suge Knight might have had Tupac Shakur killed—money. It was costing the impresarios more and more to keep their stars happy, and dead stars sell records without the bothersome upkeep. In the weeks after their deaths, both stars had albums that shot to the top of the charts. Notorious B.I.G.’s posthumous release Life After Death debuted at number one and   sold 690,000 copies in its first week.

But if Suge Knight actually had ordered a hit on Tupac Shakur, would he have put himself in the line of fire, behind the wheel of the BMW just a few feet from the intended target? Thirteen bullets were fired into that car, and Knight was hit by one.    It seems highly unlikely that Knight would have chosen a plan this risky.

It has also been suggested that Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. were not the intended victims of their killers and that Suge Knight and Puffy Combs were the real targets. But again, common sense makes this theory implausible. In Shakur’s case, would a shooter actually mistake the whippet-thin Shakur for the king-sized Knight? Conversely, would B.I.G.’s murderer have confused the 300-pound rapper for the trim and fit Puffy Combs who wasn’t even in the same vehicle? Unlikely.

So who did kill Shakur and B.I.G.? Police in Las Vegas  and Los Angeles continue their investigations, but the cases have grown cold. Unless a surprise witness comes forward, the prospects of solving these crimes grow dimmer as the years go by. Nevertheless, Notorious B.I.G.’s mother, Voletta Wallace, is determined to find out who killed her son, and she has filed lawsuits against the City of Los Angeles and the LAPD in her quest to get answers. Tupac Shakur’s mother, Afeni Shakur, also wants answers, and she rejects the theory that her son’s murder was simply gang retaliation for the beating of Crip Orlando Anderson.

Suge Knight spent almost five years in prison on a parole violation for taking part in the beating of Orlando Anderson. He is free now and continues to run Death Row Records, which he renamed Tha Row Records in 2001. Puffy Combs, who now calls himself P. Diddy, remains the head of Bad Boy Entertainment. In 1998, he branched off into men’s fashion with his Sean John collection. In 2003, he donated $2 million to the “children of New York City ” for their “health and educational needs.”  ~ Anthony Bruno

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