March 10, 1997
Is the 'Rap War' for Real?
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Industry leaders long tried to dismiss a
simmering feud between West Coast rapper Tupac Shakur and his
East Coast counterpart The Notorious B.I.G. as just an overblown
Now both are dead, victims of almost identical drive-by
shootings six months apart, leaving fans and investigators
wondering if the coastal rivalry is more than an act.
No arrests have been made in the September shooting of Shakur,
25. The Notorious B.I.G.'s killing Sunday morning also shows
little promise of a quick arrest.
Shakur was in Las Vegas with Death Row Records founder Marion
"Suge" Knight on Sept. 7 when he was shot while sitting
in the passenger seat of Knight's car. He died in the hospital a
week later. Knight, who was slightly injured, has been described
as uncooperative by Las Vegas police.
The Notorious B.I.G., whose real name was Christopher Wallace,
had just left a party celebrating the Soul Train Awards when he
was shot by someone in a passing car as he sat in a parked GMC
Suburban. The 24-year-old was pronounced dead at a hospital.
Las Vegas police say they have no indication the two shootings
"We really can't say because we haven't spoken to anyone
from Los Angeles," homicide Sgt. Kevin Manning said.
"We don't know if there's any linkage."
Some have said the artists were victims of gang violence,
while still others say the deaths were the culmination of a
growing East Coast-West Coast rivalry that typifies the violence
of so-called "gangsta rap."
"I think that it's time that the authorities got serious
about recognizing that the East Coast-West Coast thing is
dangerous, and it's legitimate," said Don Cornelius, creator
and executive producer of television's "Soul Train"
But Phyllis Pollack, a publicist with Def Press in Los Angeles
who has represented several rap stars, said it's unfair to
speculate that the deaths were the result of a coastal feud.
"Sure, there's been this competition, but that's been
since day one," she said. "We don't have artists on the
West Coast saying, 'Let's kill off all of those East Coast
rappers so we can sell more records on the East Coast."'
The rivalry developed in the 1980s as West Coast rappers grew
more popular, surpassing many East Coast rappers' record sales.
The Notorious B.I.G., also called Biggie Smalls, was credited
with reviving the East Coast scene a few years ago, building his
gangsta rap persona around his troubled past that included time
he spent as a crack dealer.
His feud with Shakur, which went beyond any East Coast-West
Coast rivalry, was personal, and it accelerated in 1994 after
Shakur was robbed of $40,000 in jewelry and shot several times.
Shakur insisted Wallace was behind the attack, though Wallace
Shakur also claimed to have slept with Faith Evans, Wallace's
estranged wife, bragging about it in a song.
Jesse Washington, managing editor of VIBE magazine, which
sponsored the party Wallace attended, noted there was animosity
between the rappers. But he cautioned against reading too much
into their deaths.
"It's too early to attribute this to a coastal rivalry,
Tupac revenge or anything else because there's just so many
different possibilities and aspects to this whole
situation," Washington said.
More importantly, he said, the deaths are a "sad
reflection on the level of violence in our community."
"The saddest thing about all of this is they have
literally generated tens of millions of dollars in sales of
records, magazine sales and ratings," he said. "I mean,
these were two popular artists."