[Posted by WLS]
[This post is by guest blogger WLS, and not by Patterico. It concerns a topic which Patterico has alluded to previously but has expressed a reluctance to post about himself, for reasons mentioned below.]
Here is the basic background as a setup here. In the mid-1990s there erupted a juvenile “feud” between East Coast and West Coast “Rappers,” with the two primary antagonists being Bad Boy Records (headed by Sean “Puffy” Combs), and Death Row Records (headed by Suge Knight). In November 1994, popular unaffiliated rapper Tupac Shakur was beaten and shot outside a recording studio in New York, supposedly because he was not showing sufficient respect to the East Coast group. This incident was the subject of a now discredited story published by L.A. Times reporter Chuck Philips on March 17, 2008, which seems to have been taken off the website.
What is true, however, is that a war of words in print and song lyrics erupted between Shakur and members of Bad Boy records following this episode, and Shakur thereafter signed on with Death Row Records, which was run by Suge Knight, a notorious L.A. Blood gang member. Shakur’s first album for Death Row was full of taunts and threats against various persons connected to Bad Boy Records. Rappers for Bad Boy responded in kind. Several shootings involving members of one or both groups took place over a span of time at various parties and events.
Shakur was one of Death Row’s biggest-selling rappers. Around the same time Christopher “Biggie” Smalls, aka Notorious BIG, was Bad Boy Records’s biggest-selling rapper. On September 13, 1996, Shakur died from gunshot wounds he had suffered six days earlier in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas, a crime that remains unsolved. Six months later, on March 9, 1997, Biggie Smalls was killed in a drive-by shooting outside a party in Los Angeles. That murder also remains unsolved.
Various theories have developed over the years concerning the killings. One is that Shakur was killed by associates of Bad Boy Records, and Smalls was killed by associates of Death Row in retaliation. Another theory is that both killings were gang-related, as it has been suggested that various affiliates of the L.A. Bloods and Crips street gangs working for both groups, but also making money distributing cocaine on each coast, committed each murder in retaliation for drug deals gone bad. Yet another theory is that Suge Knight of Death Row records was responsible for both murders — Shakur for being too independent and wanting to work outside the confines of Death Row records in pursuing an acting career (with his death allowing Death Row to cash in commercially on his martyrdom), and Smalls simply to antagonize Bad Boy and to make it look like his murder was committed in retaliation for supposed involvement by Bad Boy in the murder of Shakur — in other words, a creative way to frame Bad Boy for the murder of Shakur that Knight had ordered himself. This was the theory developed by LAPD Police Detective Russell Poole, as explained more fully below.
Who is Chuck Philips? He is a self-described “investigative” reporter for the L.A. Times who has long covered the L.A. music industry, winning a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on corruption in the industry in 1999. I put “investigative” in quotes based on his performance in the article that has renewed this controversy, since it appears that he did little if any “investigating” prior to printing a bunch of claims based on fabricated documents. Philips has written several pieces over the years on the subjects of the murders of Shakur and Smalls. His reporting was taken to task in dramatic fashion in this 14,000-word piece in Rolling Stone in 2005.