Twenty years later, there are few developments more significant in Hip-Hop than the events that unfolded around the feud that arose between Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. That bad blood started when Tupac was shot in the lobby of Quad Recording Studios in New York City, in 1994. There to meet Biggie and Bad Boy Entertainment CEO Sean “Puffy” Combs, Tupac believed the two men knew he would be ambushed and either set it up or allowed it to happen.
While Tupac was in prison the following year, on charges of sexually-abusing a fan, Suge Knight created a beef of his own with Bad Boy, during the 1995 Source Awards, with his infamous comments during an acceptance speech where he said “Any artist out there that wanna be an artist, stay a star, and won’t have to worry about the executive producer trying to be…all in the videos…all on the records…dancing…Come to Death Row!” When Snoop was booed on stage minutes after the remarks, he upped the ante, making the conflict an East vs. West matter. “The East Coast ain’t got no love for Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg and Death Row?!,” he menaced. A year later, Tupac was on Death Row Records, and the rest is history.
Despite these very public events, many believe the media at the time, namely publications like VIBE, The Source and Rolling Stone, perpetuated and possibly escalated the feud through their coverage. VIBE, in particular, is cited due to its 1996 Juice issue which featured Biggie and Puffy on the cover, with a caption that read “East vs. West.” As part of an overall retrospective of what the year 1996 meant in Hip-Hop, Complex conducted a round table discussion with many of the key players involved in the media coverage of Hip-Hop at that time. Participants included Alan Light (former Editor-In-Chief, VIBE), Selwyn Hinds (former Editor-In-Chief, The Source), Dan Charnas (author of The Big Payback) and more.
The panelists offer btheir recollections of the events as they unfolded, their rationales for their approach to the coverage, and their perspectives in hindsight, even taking some responsibility for the deaths that ensued. It’s a fascinating look back in time by the people who documented the history.