BY WARREN COHEN
November 2002 (403 words)
HIP-HOP artists are up in arms over a recent Los Angeles Times article that blames Biggie Smalls for Tupac Shakur's 1996 murder and fear the story will reignite a bloody East Coast- West Coast gang war.
"If people believe this, it's gonna be more bloodshed," warned Money B of Digital Underground, the Bay Area group that gave Shakur his start. "And the people getting hurt are black people - gang members and rappers."
"It could escalate to something," said Lil' Cease of Junior M.A.F.I.A., one of Smalls's closest confidants. "People think it's a game, but when it's really on, it's a serious situation."
Def Jam and Phat Farm founder Russell Simmons immediately challenged the accuracy of the article, which appeared in the Times on September 6 and 7, and said he believes it could rekindle the battle. Simmons also blames the media for fanning the flames of the rap rivalry.
"The media was the greatest instigator of what they named and promoted as the East-West Coast war," Simmons told Blender. "They made whole communities angry at each other. Lives were lost because of their characterization of an argument between two people."
Nick Broomfield, the controversial lo-fi documentary filmmaker behind the recent Biggie & Tupac, agrees. "A lot of people have used the 'two sides' idea to create frictions in the hip-hop community," he said. The 6,600-word article claimed Smalls was in Las Vegas on September 7, 1996, the same night Shakur was shot there. After being approached by members of the Southside Los Angeles Crips gang, Smalls allegedly agreed to pay them $1 million if they killed Shakur, who was in town that evening to watch a boxing match.
The story further alleged that Smalls - who himself was gunned down on March 9, 1997 - gave the gang members his gun, a .40-caliber Glock pistol, to shoot Shakur. Crip Orlando Anderson, who had an altercation with Shakur earlier in the evening, is believed to be the trigger man. The article has been denounced by Smalls's mother, Voletta Wallace, and by Smalls's former comanager Wayne Barrow, who insists Smalls was in Manhattan the day of the murder.
Shakur's former bodyguard Frank Alexander, who saw the crime unfold from one car away, also refutes writer Chuck Philips's depiction of the events.
"The article is Philips's bizarre imagination of what happened," he told Blender.
When contacted by Blender, Philips said, "I stand by my story."
Copyright 2002, Blender. All rights reserved.