Additional reporting by Ryan J. Downey
The Los Angeles Times delivered a bombshell on Friday when it reported that the Notorious B.I.G. offered gang members $1 million to kill Tupac Shakur and provided the gun used in his 1996 murder.
The investigative report, which details the hours leading up to Shakur's fatal shooting, was written by Chuck Philips, who has covered the slaying extensively and spent more than a year researching the case. The Times piece places Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. Biggie Smalls, in Las Vegas on the night of the shooting and details a meeting that allegedly took place between the East Coast rapper and several Crips.
Citing gang members who spoke only on terms on anonymity, Philips asserts that not only did B.I.G. agree to pay the killers, but that he also insisted they use his gun, a loaded .40-caliber Glock pistol that he then placed on the table.
"The revelation of Biggie was shocking to me," Philips told MTV News on Thursday. "When this came up, I was just, ... 'I don't believe it.' So I went about trying to disprove it in various ways with various sources and that's not what happened. What I ended up writing is what happened."
Philips reports that Orlando Anderson, a Crips gang member long believed by many to be Shakur's murderer, pulled the trigger. According to the article, Anderson and several other Crips planned the execution in retaliation for a beating Shakur, Marion "Suge" Knight and their associates gave Anderson earlier that evening after a Mike Tyson fight at the MGM Grand Hotel.
Biggie had been feuding with Shakur and, according to Philips, had told the Crips he wanted the rival rapper dead, so the gang members figured they might get Biggie to pay them for the hit. (Biggie's ties to the gang stem from allegations that his record label employed Crips as security guards, although Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, the rapper's best friend and head of Bad Boy Records, has denied it.)
"If you go back to my stories that I wrote prior to this, I never believed hardly anything about [the Biggie/Shakur] feud," Philips said. "People kept telling me it was serious, and I didn't believe it. But apparently it was."
Although Philips' article is also based on police affidavits and other evidence, he said the details about the Notorious B.I.G. are based entirely on his interviews with the gang members. "As far as I know, no police ever interviewed [Biggie] about this crime when he was alive or anybody [at Bad Boy] or people he knew," Philips said.
Attempting to independently establish that Biggie was in Las Vegas, Philips combed videotape footage of the boxing match at the MGM, the same hotel Biggie was allegedly staying at, but did not find the rapper. He also called B.I.G.'s mother, Voletta Wallace, whom he had befriended while investigating reports on Biggie's killing, to check the rapper's alibi.
After learning of the allegations Philips' story was making, she told the reporter she did not want to speak with him.
It is not in his report, but Philips noted Thursday that a few of his sources believed Biggie didn't really want Tupac to be killed and that he was simply talking the talk. "In the rap world, some people are real and some people aren't real," Philips said. "The people who did this murder are real, and the people who killed Biggie are real, and those aren't the only people they have killed. It's a different world. So when this thing went down, it was a matter of pride. He couldn't say, 'I didn't mean it.' "
In Philips' article, he noted that "a handful of thugs and East Coast rap associates" were with B.I.G. at the meeting with the Crips. When asked if there were specific names his sources mentioned, Philips responded: "Not that I'm willing to talk about."
Philips said at least one of his sources was in the meeting with Wallace, but he would not say if any were among the four Crips in the white Cadillac that executed the drive-by shooting he so specifically describes. "All I'm going to say is that I think I have very good sources on the story."
In the second part of Philips' report, to be published Saturday, the writer examines the police investigation of Shakur's murder. While Orlando Anderson has long been pinned for Tupac's murder by reporters, police never charged him. Two years after Shakur's death, Anderson was killed in an unrelated incident (see "Tupac Murder Suspect Orlando Anderson Dead").
Philips' report also runs counter to a theory constructed by former LAPD Detective Russell Poole, whose ideas about the murders of both rappers are the subject of journalist Randall Sullivan's book "LAbyrinth."
Poole's analysis asserts Death Row CEO Suge Knight arranged to have his label's star rapper killed and that affiliates of the West Coast Mob Piru Bloods gang carried out the hit.
"LAbyrinth" suggests that Tupac intended to leave Death Row, an idea that his alleged conversations with a girlfriend and his firing of Death Row attorney David Kenner shortly before his death seem to substantiate. It also claims that Knight owed Shakur a substantial sum of money and points out that a bullet wound Knight claims he suffered in Las Vegas has never been verified by hospital or police records, or anyone other than Knight himself.
Poole was the lead detective investigating Biggie's murder, an assignment the highly decorated officer picked up not long after he had been looking into the shooting of sometime Death Row employee and LAPD officer Kevin Gaines. After conducting an exhaustive investigation, Poole concluded that Knight, an alleged hitman-for-hire named Amir Muhammed, and a group of rogue cops including convicted bank robber David Mack were all involved in the planning and execution of the murders of both Biggie and Tupac.
Poole eventually left the force, frustrated by what he claims was reluctance by the brass to follow up on his leads. It is his assertion, in Sullivan's book and a Rolling Stone article that preceded it, that several cops were associated with Death Row Records and street gangs and that his bosses simply did not want this information to come out.