Who Shot Ya?

Evidence linking Suge Knight and the LAPD to the murders of 2Pac and Biggie Smalls

Artwork by Katie Heywood

Artwork by Katie Heywood

Duke. Christopher. These are the names that The Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac had for one another, respectfully. The homie-to-homie relationship of hip-hop’s most universal artists is made known within the first few minutes of Nick Broomfield’s 2002 documentary “Biggie & Tupac,” which suggests that the murders of B.I.G. and Pac were arranged by Death Row Records CEO, Suge Knight.

“I had no idea at this stage how many meals at Denny’s we would have to eat before we got Russell’s interview,” said Broomfield as he left the office of Russell Poole, the lead investigator of the Biggie Smalls murder who was forced to drop the case at the request of his superiors within the LAPD.

In the meantime, Broomfield explores the lives of the two rappers, meeting with Biggie’s mother and 2Pac’s estranged biological father to paint a portrait of two sensitive and thoughtful young men, who were largely the victims of what they saw and reported rather than what they actually engaged in.

From there, the filmmakers plunge into the drama that inflamed the East vs. West Coast rivalry, or rather, the events which popularized it (my note: see Tim Dog’s “Fuck Compton” from 1991, which predates the 2Pac-Biggie feud), the most important of which was the robbery and shooting of 2Pac in Manhattan’s Quad Recording Studios in 1994.

“While I’m in jail, strangers is telling me, ‘No, you don’t know? Biggie’s homeboys shot you,”’ said 2Pac in an interview after being bailed out on sexual assault charges by Suge Knight for a cool 1.4 million dollars. “And that’s what I’m doing. I know what I’m doing. I’m destroying ’em… I’m destroying ’em.”

In many ways Biggie tried his best to stay out of the polarizing tension that gripped the country’s coasts at the peak of rap’s rise in the 90s, and it was 2Pac who was the first to go in September of 1996, shot four times on the Vegas Strip following his friend Mike Tyson’s boxing match. Though it is widely believed that the LA Crips murdered 2Pac, as he and his entourage had been involved in the assault of one of the gang’s members earlier that fateful night, ex-Detective Poole stood by the notion that Knight was the orchestrator of the murder, being that he owed millions of dollars to 2Pac in royalties, and that Pac was poised to leave Death Row and sue Knight shortly before he was murdered.

While serving time in prison for the assault of Orlando Harris, the crip who was beaten viciously by Knight and other members of Death Row, ABC’s Brian Ross asked Knight whether or not he would tell police if he knew who killed 2Pac, to which he replied, “Absolutely—not. Because I don’t get paid to solve homicides, I don’t get paid to tell on people.”

Among the prime suspects of Biggie’s murder are three former LAPD officers who also served as bodyguards for Death Row Records, being that the hit had an unusually professional flavor that would have required the use of radio communication. First there is David Mack (who owned the same model of vehicle suspect in the case, possessed scanners and radio equipment in his home at the time of the murder, was spotted at a party by a member of Biggie’s entourage prior to his death, and later convicted of robbing a bank). There is also Rafael Pérez (Mack’s former partner and best friend, later arrested for drug trafficking, racketeering, and falsifying evidence), as well as Harry Billups (godfather to Mack’s children, who eerily resembles the police sketch drawn up using the help of Lil’ Cease, who was seated directly behind B.I.G. at the time of the murder).

Perhaps the most convincing piece of evidence comes from a man known as the Bookkeeper, who, while facing prison time for separate charges, speaks candidly under the protection of federal immunity about how he had met with Suge Knight about transporting money for the Biggie Smalls hit.

Though speculation has run amuck in trying to discover the true suspects and motives behind the deaths of the two rappers, the quickly-closed cases of both murders suggest a shadiness that is only compounded by the long rap sheet of Knight and his associates, who were, ultimately, both cops and bodyguards to a record label fueled by illegal profits. Though the documentary is but a loosely held web of conjecture, it sure as hell seems more plausible than the image of 2Pac lying on a beach chair in Cuba, drinking mojitos while waiting around to resurrect his career.