“You want to set it off?” The two sat a table in an unknown location. They had water, weed, and alcohol on deck. At this very moment, they were unaware of where their careers would end up, what kind of legacy they’d have on hip-hop, and the unfortunate truth that they wouldn’t be friends forever. They were the Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur.
Their friendship began in 1993. Biggie would meet Tupac on the set of Poetic Justice in Los Angeles. During this encounter, it’s been reported that ‘Pac was playing “Party & Bullshit” over and over while on set, which was flattering for an upstarting Biggie. It was his first single and ‘Pac was already an established name.
The two would hang out at ‘Pac’s home, also in L.A., and smoke. “I always thought it to be like a Gemini thing,” Biggie said to Vibe. “We just clicked off the top and were cool ever since.” D-Dot said that their relationship was sort of like a teacher-student. ‘Pac was giving Biggie his advice being the more experienced rapper at the time. The advice would one day come back to haunt Tupac’s mindstate.
If there’s one thing that Tupac valued more than anything out of his friends, it was loyalty. After his 1994 Quad shooting, he would become mortal enemies with Biggie and Puff Daddy. The hate stems from Biggie allegedly knowing ‘Pac would be set up. Considering that the two were close to Jimmy Henchman, it’s a possibility and that would be enough to consume ‘Pac. Add in the fact that Lil Shawn (Biggie’s friend) invited ‘Pac to that studio session. It’s never been confirmed if Biggie did in fact know, but Treach, of Naughty By Nature and a close friend of ‘Pac, says that this is what ‘Pac believed. He knew who shot him and put it in “Against All Odds” and Jimmy eventually confessed to it. “I know who got me,” Tupac told Treach. “I want to see who I can trust now.”
More evidence would build up in the following months for Tupac’s case to be true. February 20, 1995 was the day B.I.G. released “Who Shot Ya,” a record that mainly perceived as a diss to Tupac. In his September 1996 Vibe cover story, Biggie would claim that the song was not what everyone made it out to be. He’d tell media that the record was made long before that fateful night in November ’94. ‘Pac is someone who was paranoid, so this only added to his suspicion. “Even if that song ain’t about me,” Shakur told VIBE, “You should be, like, `I’m not putting it out, ’cause he might think it’s about him.’”
There’s a huge contrast between how Tupac felt about Biggie vs. how Biggie felt about Tupac. The two were on opposite ends in 1996. ‘Pac took every chance he could to trash Bad Boy, while Biggie belittled the situation.
It’s disturbing to read Biggie’s comments in Vibe now. The author wrote that he seemed visibly bothered discussing the beef. “I’m still thinking this nigga’s my man,” he said. “This shit’s just got to be talk, that’s all I kept saying to myself. I can’t believe he would think that I would shit on him like that.”
Hearing Tupac speak about Biggie is like the equivalent of opening up a soda can that’s been shook up for a long time. His issues were deeper than just believing B.I.G. knew who shot him. Could this beef have happened no matter what? In one interview with Sway, he takes aim at Biggie’s whole style being a rip-off of his. How long can someone feel that way without saying anything? ‘Pac might’ve been a time bomb even if the Quad shooting didn’t set him off. He constantly reminded the world that he was having sex with Faith Evans, Biggie’s wife, and how many laps he was running around Bad Boy.
After ‘Pac passed away, Biggie was shocked. His first reaction when he heard he got shot was that ‘Pac would pull through. “Even though we were going through our drama,” he says, “I’d never wish death on nobody. Ain’t no coming back from that.” Faith Evans recalled the night ‘Pac died. “I remember Big calling me and crying. I know for a fact he was in Jersey. He called me crying because he was in shock. I think it’s fair to say he was probably afraid, given everything that was going on at that time and all the hype that was put on this so-called beef that he didn’t really have in his heart against anyone.”
Friendship in hip-hop is rare. More times than any, the music industry doesn’t allow friendships to continue. For every Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz, there’s at least two Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan situations. Tupac and Biggie were the biggest example. The rap game brought them together and also tore them apart. It was a product of misunderstanding and jealousy. That combination set forth one of the biggest beefs of all time. If only Tupac never got shot. If only Biggie convinced ‘Pac he had nothing to do with it. Where would they be in 2016?