The 1997 murder of Christopher Wallace, b/k/a/ the rapper The Notorious B.I.G., remains unsolved. Last week, the case became both more transparent and more suspicious as the FBI opened up its files into an investigation about not just who shot Biggie Smalls, but also who helped orchestrate the killing. Popular accounts and common conspiracy theories about Biggie’s death usually allege some combination of 2Pac and Suge Knight’s Death Row records camp, LA’s Crips gang, and corrupt L.A.P.D. officers being the masterminds behind the murder. The FBI’s files, which span from 1997 to 2005, do little to prove or dispel these allegations–although they do make for sadly sinister reading.
While the first wave of reports has concentrated on the contents of Biggie’s pockets on the night he died–marijuana, a pen, an asthma inhaler, three “larger size” condoms, and a driver’s license issued in Georgia–the reports also contain insights into the often-nefarious side of the mid-’90s rap scene. So for those without the patience or printer ink to scour through the 350-plus pages–which include heavily redacted witness statements, a sketch of the crime scene, internal memos, and even a reference to a Village Voice article (on page 48 of Section 1)–here are ten insights into music-business-related matters.
Biggie Allegedly Had Real-Life Links To The Genovese Crime Family
One of hip-hop’s most fabled supergroups that never came to fruition, The Commission was B.I.G.’s idea of a musical mafia movement that included Jay-Z, Lil Cease, Lance ‘Un’ Rivera and Puffy, and saw them all adopting crime family-style names. According to the FBI, this wasn’t just mythical thinking; the report alleges that the rotund rapper had links to New York City’s Genovese crime family. Founded by Lucky Luciano, the family was until recently headed up by Vincent Gigante, who was particularly known for feigning insanity as a legal defense mechanism. Although the report doesn’t provide further details of the specific nature of the links, it does add that Biggie was being investigated for “for gun violations and possible murders” while also being surreptitiously photographed out in Los Angeles.
2Pac Might Have Signed To Puffy’s Bad Boy Records
A “short chronology” of the circumstances leading up to Biggie’s murder includes an entry dated November 7th, 2002 that states–either erroneously or intriguingly–“TUPAC was signed by BAD BOY records.” Discographically speaking, this never happened. There are rumors that music manager Jimmy Henchman had early ties with Bad Boy Records and attempted to hook up a deal between Puffy’s nascent label and the Black Mafia Family (B.M.F.) street organization, with the latter helping to fund the label in return for offering protection. This urban fable says that Henchman and colleague King Tut at one point made an attempt to force 2Pac to sign to Bad Boy, which he refused, possibly because he suspected that they were involved in an incident at Quad Studios in Times Square where 2Pac was robbed of $100,000 worth of jewelry and shot five times. (Never one to bite his tongue, 50 Cent addressed the incident around the 3:42 mark of “Many Men.”) If Pac’s Bad Boy status isn’t a typo, it means the FBI could be sitting on a batch of unreleased 2Pac demos embellished with the sound of Puffy breathing heavily in the background.
Biggie Saw Who Shot Him
Listening to “My Downfall,” from Biggie’s last album Life After Death, is a discomforting experience, with the rapper appearing to predict his own death in grisly circumstances, not least with the song opening with a phone call featuring an anonymous caller vowing, “Kill you motherfucker.” (In typically morbid humor, Big raps, “I was high when they hit me/Took a few cats with me/Shit, I need the company.”) According to CI#3–one of 10 witnesses to Biggie’s murder who were willing to speak on the investigation–the song was scarily prescient; the informant claims that “BIGGIE [redacted] saw shooter who killed him.”
The Inter-Coastal Mark-Up On Cocaine
Biggie’s lyrics were shot through with references to the street-level drug game, and on “Everyday Struggle” he detailed the early hustle of shifting drugs across state boundaries, not least when he “went to see Papi to cop me a [cocaine] brick.” It’s a tactic the FBI alleges Suge Knight’s Death Row record label was also up on, with the report claiming that it too was involved in interstate drug peddling: “Word on the street was cocaine could be purchased for $14,000/kilo on the west coast and sold on the east coast for $24,000/kilo.” Premier white-powder-rappers The Clipse were unfortunately unavailable to comment on the mathematical accuracy of this statement. (Sanitary Note: “Everyday Struggle” also includes hands down the best-ever rap reference to a “potty.”)
2Pac Threatened Biggie To Other People
When it came to taunting Biggie in rhyme, 2Pac never took any shorts–his ferocious dis song “Hit ‘Em Up” opens with boasts that he “fucked your wife,” was a “Bad Boy killer,” and, playground-style, that B.I.G. was a “fat motherfucker.” But according to an FBI investigation dated April 16th, 2004, ‘Pac didn’t confine his threats to rhymed verse. An informant is said to have overheard 2Pac “talking with other Death Row employees stating how the West Coast is his (Tupac’s) and that if ‘Biggie,’ who used to be a friend of Tupac’s, ever comes out to the West Coast, he will be gunned down.” The informant then addresses “the stories about how Tupac slept with ‘Biggie’s’ estranged wife [Faith Evans],” says that Biggie “had Tupac shot up while recording some music in New York,” and describes a scene where 2Pac and “several unknown males carrying guns” jumped out and approached Biggie and his entourage, before “another unknown male” gave the order not to shoot B.I.G. The report appears to refer to events that occurred in the run-up to 2Pac’s own fatal shooting, on September 7, 1996, and the informant suggests that B.I.G.’s “Coming Back To Cali” was subsequently interpreted by certain unnamed people as a gloating statement.
Biggie’s Killer Maintained A Shrine Devoted To 2Pac
A unnamed prime suspect in B.I.G.’s murder is said to have taken musical idolization to new extremes, by having what the FBI’s files describe as a “shrine of TUPAC SHAKUR” in the garage of the subject’s residence. (No word on whether the “shrine” was a collage of pictures cut out from Sister 2 Sister magazine and decorated with glitter glue.) More eerily, the FBI also discovered “radios, scanners and other tactical items” on the premises, and, rather ominously, the report states that such equipment would have been “highly useful in coordinating the BIGGIE murder.”
Biggie And Puffy Were There When 2Pac Was Shot In New York
When The Notorious B.I.G. released “Who Shot Ya?” in 1995, perennial rap paranoid 2Pac took it as a sly jab that Big and his entourage were behind robbing and shooting him at Quad Studios the year before. It’s a charge Big and Puffy largely denied having anything to do with, although the FBI’s report backs up Biggie’s presence in the building, stating, “BIGGIE and members of his entourage were inside the same studio at this time.” But then comes the exoneration: “Without evidence, TUPAC and members of DEATH ROW believed BIGGIE had knowledge [of] or involvement in the shooting.”
Biggie’s Tour Security Was Made Up Of Pros
“Biggie didn’t use much security when he toured around,” reveals an L.A.P.D. interview from March 1997 with a bodyguard who had previously worked for B.I.G. and the wider Bad Boy crew. The source goes on to say that Biggie took a quality over quantity approach to security when on the road, selecting the services of only “high tech guys, militia men or cops.”
The East Coast Vs. West Coast Rap War Theory Was Deadly
The FBI seems convinced that the well-publicized inter-coastal hip-hop dis war between Biggie and Puffy’s Bad Boy camp and 2Pac and Suge Knight’s Death Row Records label graduated from insults on records to deadly physical acts of violence. Sketching out the backdrop of the beef, the report states, “TUPAC was killed in Las Vegas in September, 1996, six months prior to WALLACE being shot. It is alleged that the WALLACE murder was in retaliation to the TUPAC murder. TUPAC worked for DEATH ROW records at the time he was shot (west coast) while WALLACE worked for BAD BOY records (east coast). Both were worth millions and their [sic] was a ‘rivalry’ going on between east coast rap vs. west coast rap.” Suggesting that both factions introduced non-musical parties into the dispute, the report continues: “LAPD Officer [redacted] and other alleged LAPD Officers were Mob Piru Blood gang members that worked with and affiliated with DEATH ROW records. When TUPAC was killed, it is alleged by many that WALLACE was killed in retaliation and that this was orchestrated by [redacted] his good friend [redacted] and other LAPD Officers that [redacted] associated with.” Fill in your own blanks.
The Unceremonious Re-Naming Of B.I.G.
Kinda bizarrely–at least for rap nerds–the FBI’s file routinely opts for more familial Biggie Smalls nickname when addressing the deceased rapper, instead of the technically official The Notorious B.I.G.. (The case files are attributed to Christopher “Biggie Smalls” Wallace – perhaps the Bureau were just stuck on his pugnacious early verse on Super Cat’s “Dolly My Baby (Remix).”) The rotund rapper’s name is also botched as “Notorius [sic] B.I.G.,” “Big E Small,” and “Biggy.” A timeline on B.I.G.’s life also sticks with the original pre-release title to his second album, Life After Death… ‘Till Death Do Us Part, as opposed to the shorter, posthumously released name.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 13, 2011