Shock, fury and an alibi greeted a Los Angeles Times story on Friday that claimed the Notorious B.I.G. paid for the murder of Tupac Shakur.
The article accuses Biggie, real name Christopher Wallace, of meeting with members of the Crips gang in Las Vegas the night that Tupac was fatally shot and offering them $1 million to kill Tupac. The report also claims that during the meeting Wallace gave the shooter his own gun to use for the hit (see "Biggie Paid Gang To Kill Tupac, Report Says").
"We are outraged at the false and damaging statements," Wallace's family said in a statement. "For the record, Wallace was at his home in New Jersey on the night of Tupac Shakur's murder, with friends who will continue to testify for his whereabouts since he is unable to defend himself."
One of those friends, Junior M.A.F.I.A.'s Lil' Cease, told MTV News he felt the Times' story was preposterous and refuted Philips' allegation against his buddy.
"I got the article about seven this morning," said Cease, who had heard a vague description of the story the night before it was released. "I was just like, 'That's total nonsense.' "
Cease claims Biggie was in the New York recording studio Daddy's House the morning of the shooting, and that he then returned to his home in Teaneck, New Jersey, to watch that evening's Mike Tyson fight on pay-per-view. Cease said documentation exists confirming Biggie's studio session that day.
"We watched that fight at home," Cease affirmed. "Big was in the studio earlier that day, did what he had to do in the studio, then went back home and we watched the fight. We wasn't nowhere near Vegas."
Cease also refutes Philips' claim that Big had strong ties to the Crips and hired them to act as security guards when traveling to the West Coast.
"It wasn't no Crips rolling with us," Cease said. "We didn't really do no shows [in Los Angeles]. We did one show out there and that was '94, when we did the Puff Daddy, Mary J. Blige and Jodeci tour. That was the only time we performed out there. All that stuff, throwing up gang signs and stuff like that, that's just media hype. When we was out there, we never used no security from out there. Anybody that was with us was from New York."
Family and friends of the rapper stressed that Biggie would never have killed Tupac.
"Christopher's character was both sensitive and loving," his mother, Voletta Wallace, said in a statement. "Not only could my son not have participated in such a crime, but he also wept openly and was desperately saddened at the news of Tupac's death."
Faith Evans, Biggie's widow, said in a statement that there's no truth to what Philips wrote about her husband. "Our family continues to grieve over these and other lies perpetrated by irresponsible parties," she said.
Members of Wallace's family said they're considering a lawsuit against the Times "for untruthful statements and accusations which amount to character assassinations of someone who is himself the victim of an unsolved murder."
Writer Randall Sullivan investigated both rappers' murders for his book "LAbyrinth," which inspired the upcoming documentary "Biggie and Tupac," and he said he hopes the legal action will reveal the truth behind Philips' story.
Both he and former LAPD Detective Russell Poole, the main source in "LAbyrinth," agree with Philips that Crips gang member Orlando Anderson shot Shakur, but they believe Death Row Records CEO Marion "Suge" Knight was behind the crime.
"It sounds like the story was written by Suge, who wants to take some heat off of him[self]," Poole said.
"I think the real question to ask is how did Philips connect with the Crips?" Sullivan added. "Was it Suge Knight, which I strongly suspect it was? And what would be their motive?"
Knight declined to comment on Friday's Times article.
Philips said Crips wouldn't discuss the shooting in the months after it occurred, but that five years later he was able to find people willing to talk. "After it's all forgotten, people feel differently," he said.
"I believe the story we constructed for this paper, everything I have written in there," Philips added. "I heard lots of things and went down lots of paths with this story. It's not like I started out on Monday and ended on Friday. It was a period of more than a year, and countless interviews with individuals that I know no reporter has ever talked to and the police have never interviewed about what I have written here."
Donald David, the lawyer representing Shakur's family, said he was not surprised by the allegations in the Times, but that he believes there is "no evidence either one way or the other" that Biggie was involved in the crime.
"Afeni [Shakur, Tupac's mother,] still believes that the police have not done virtually anything to solve this murder, but she's not going to actively pursue it unless there is something that comes out, which is more evidence than what we've seen to this point," David said. "Chuck Philips has been a strong friend on this. He's done everything that could possibly be asked of him to try and get to the truth. But it's a lot easier for him to get people to talk than it would be for us."
The Notorious B.I.G.'s family, however, said the Times report is disrespectful to Shakur's family. "Both men will have no peace as long as stories such as these continue to be written," their statement read.