By - Ben Smith
Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G., is inarguably one of the most gifted hip-hop lyricists of all time. Sadly, his legacy as an artist will always be tied to the circumstances of his death on March 9, 1997, and the similar drive-by shooting death of his friend turned rival Tupac Shakur, which happened almost exactly to the day 6 months earlier.
No one has ever been arrested for either crime. This is an incredulous statement. Both men were music superstars that sold millions of records. They were gunned down in major cities, in plain sight, with one must assume countless witnesses. As Chris Rock once joked, “Tupac was gunned down on the Las Vegas Strip after a Mike Tyson fight. Now, how many witnesses do you need to see some sh-t before you arrest somebody? Sh-t, more people saw Tupac get shot than the last episode of Seinfeld.”
In the absence of any definitive answers or evidence, a cottage industry of conspiracy theorists, journalists and investigators has filled the holes left by law enforcement indifference and the streets’ code of silence. The most popular suspects for both murders seem to be the Crips and Bloods street gangs, however the motives and particulars vary from one book, article and DVD to the next. The following is a timeline of important moments related to both murders and the roots of each particular conspiracy theory. Hopefully one day the truth will be revealed and the families of the deceased will get the justice they deserve.
September 7, 1996
Tupac Shakur is shot repeatedly while riding passenger in a car with Death Row Records CEO Suge Knight, in Las Vegas, Nevada. They are in town to attend the Bruce Seldon vs. Mike Tyson boxing match at the MGM Grand. Earlier in the evening Shakur, Knight – who is a reputed member the Bloods street gang, and their entourage assaulted Orlando "Baby Lane" Anderson, an alleged member of the South Side Compton Crips gang. The attack is in retaliation for the robbery of a Death Row Records associate several months prior. Shakur dies from his injuries on September 13th. His body is cremated the next day. The Las Vegas Police initially say Anderson is not a suspect in the slaying, though he is held by police a month later in Compton, California, which has seen a surge in gang violence following the rapper’s death. No charges are ever brought against him or any other suspects in the slaying.
November 5, 1996
Tupac Shakur’s fifth album, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, under his new stage name Makaveli. Recorded the preceding summer, the album was originally scheduled to come out in March 1997 but is rush released by Death Row Records following Shakur’s murder. The record reaches #1 on the Billboard Album charts. The album’s dark subject matter and packaging spawns a number of conspiracy theories about Shakur, his death and the perpetrators. Some interpret the album title Don Killuminati to mean “Kill the Illuminati,” the Illuminati being a supposed shadow organization who control governments and implement predatory capitalism in their pursuit of an oppressive New World Order. They cite Tupac’s upbringing by his Black Panther parents and his championing of the poor and disenfranchised as proof of his evolving political character which ran afoul of the powers that be. Others believe the cover – which features a painting of Tupac martyred like Jesus via crucifixion, and the liner notes message "Exit 2Pac, Enter Makaveli" allude to the fact that Tupac has faked his own death, is still alive and like Christ, will one day return to make his presence known.
March 9, 1997
Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G., is shot four times while driving back to his hotel after attending a party hosted by Vibe magazine and Qwest Records at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, California. Wallace dies from his injuries that night. A week after Wallace’s murder, the Los Angeles Times cites unnamed sources in reporting that the killing was due to a financial dispute with members of the South Side Compton Crips, whom Wallace had employed as security during West Coast visits. No charges are ever brought against anyone in the killing.
Tupac Shakur’s mother Afeni Shakur sues Death Row Records to negate Tupac’s contract with the label. The suit claims unpaid royalties and names Suge Knight and Death Row lawyer David Kenner as defendants. Around the same time rumors begin to swirl that Tupac had planned to leave the label. This plus Knight’s gang ties and history of violence lead many to believe he had a direct role in Tupac’s murder.
May 29, 1998
Tupac shooting suspect Orlando Anderson is shot to death during an unrelated altercation with rival Crips gang members in Compton, California.
September 6th, 2002
In a Los Angeles Times article entitled “Who Killed Tupac Shakur,” reporter Chuck Phillips claims that Tupac Shakur’s murder was carried out by members of the South Side Compton Crips with the aid of The Notorious B.I.G. The article alleges that after the beating of Orlando Anderson at the MGM Grand, the Crips had met with Christopher Wallace in Las Vegas and solicited $1 million from him to carry out the hit and that he had supplied one of the guns used in the drive-by shooting. Lawyers and friends of Wallace vehemently deny the accusation and say he wasn’t anywhere near Las Vegas when Tupac’s shooting occurred, providing studio logs to show that he had been recording in New York City at the time.
Reporter Randall Sullivan publishes the book LAbyrinth, which is based on the experience and investigations of L.A.P.D. officer Russell Poole. The book claims that the murder of Christopher Wallace was arranged by L.A.P.D. officer turned bank robber David Mack at the behest of Suge Knight, who blamed Wallace and Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs for the murder of Tupac Shakur. Mack and Knight reportedly grew up together in Compton and both had a history of association with the Bloods street gang. Sullivan later wrote about the Wallace killing in Rolling Stone magazine, claiming the Los Angeles Police Department purposely did not fully investigate the Mack – Death Row connection because it would draw attention to the ongoing Rampart scandal, which found widespread corruption in the L.A.P.D.’s anti-gang unit. The article also alleges Combs specifically told witnesses and associates of Bad Boy Records not to cooperate with the police. The information in this book and the theories it put forth were the basis of the Nick Broomfield documentary Biggie & Tupac, as well as the wrongful death suit Christopher Wallace’s family brought against the city of Los Angeles. After several mistrials, witnesses recanting and conflicting evidence, the suit was dismissed in 2010.
John Potash’s book The FBI War on Tupac Shakur and Black Leaders examines the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s history of undermining African-American political movements and their possible involvement in the assassinations of such figures as Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Tupac Shakur. Based on 12 years of research and 100s of interviews, the author connects the dots between Tupac’s mother Afeni Shakur involvement with The Black Panther Party, her son’s message of Black political self-empowerment and the government’s covert COINTELPRO program which infiltrated the Panthers and other leftist groups it deemed threats to national security. Potash also produced a DVD on the book’s subject matter as seen above.
Declassified Federal Bureau of Investigation files reveal Tupac Shakur had been the target of an extortion scheme by the Jewish Defense League, a far-right religious-political organization with a history of violence. The case file said the JDL had targeted a number of hip-hop stars with anonymous death threats and then offered protection services for a fee. The FBI however does not find any evidence that the group was involved in Shakur’s murder.
Former L.A.P.D. detective Greg Kading self-publishes the book Murder Rap: The Untold Story of the Biggie Smalls & Tupac Shakur Murder Investigations. As an officer, Kading had worked on a multi-agency task force investigating the murders of Christopher Wallace and Tupac Shakur, which began in 2006 as a result of Voletta Wallace’s wrongful death lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles. In his book he claims Duane "Keffe D" Davis, a member of the South Side Compton Crips and the uncle of Tupac shooting suspect Orlando Anderson, confessed to being in the car that shot up Suge Knight’s BMW on the night of September 7th. The shooting had been commissioned by Sean Combs, who paid $1 million to have both Shakur and Knight killed. Anderson was the trigger man. In retaliation Suge Knight hired Mob Piru gang member Wardell "Poochie" Fouse to kill Christopher Wallace for $13,000. Inexplicably though, in 2009 Kading was taken off the case and the task force was dismantled the following year, after Voletta Wallace’s lawsuit was dismissed. Combs has categorically denied any involvement, saying in an email to reporters "this story is pure fiction and completely ridiculous.” The book is eventually turned into a DVD documentary.
The book Tupac 187: The Red Knight by Richard "RJ" Bond and Michael Douglas Carlin, and featuring contributions from the aforementioned Russell Poole, puts forth a new theory that the hit on Suge Knight and Tupac Shakur was a power grab for control over Death Row Records. It proposes that Death Row Records head of security Reggie Wright, Jr., himself the son of a Compton police chief, and Suge’s ex-wife Sharitha Knight conspired to take control of the label. To do so they hired a trio of Long Beach Crips to kill Suge and Tupac, including rapper Lil’ ½ Dead, whose cousin is Snoop Dogg. On the night of the shooting Wright had ordered the Death Row security team not to carry weapons. Wright has categorically denied he had anything to do with the shooting and no charges have ever been brought against any of the supposed suspects.
August 19, 2015
Russell Poole dies after suffering a heart attack while at the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department to discuss the Tupac Shakur and Christopher Wallace murders for an upcoming book entitled Chaos Merchants.
The Internet nearly collapses in upon itself after British tabloid The Sun publishes what it says is an image of Tupac Shakur alive and well and chilling in Cuba with singer Rihanna. Though later proven to be a Photoshopped hoax, it is the latest in a string of rumors about the rapper being alive and living in hiding. The Cuban connection, which has been a theory that supports Pac's machiavellian return, has been discussed for quite some time and received a boast from a 2014 TMZ video interview with Suge Knight. The former music mogul said “Tupac’s not dead n****. If he was dead they’d be arresting those dudes for murder. You know he’s somewhere smokin’ a Cuban cigar on an island somewhere”
The Investigation Discovery TV show Vanity Fair Confidential explores the Tupac Shakur shooting in the episode “Death Of A Warrior Poet,” featuring new interviews with Murder Rap author Greg Kading and the Compton police department.
While we're on the topic of conspiracy theories, you should watch the clip below. We discuss some shady happenings and unpopular beliefs related to the Grammy Awards.