By: Juan Ignacio Pazmiño
Everything ended up as an unresolved case for the police department. Unknown assailants murdered both leaders of the hip-hop scenario, and created the never-ending, East Coast-West Coast Rivalry.
During the 1970’s hip-hop emerged in the streets of South Bronx. This new genre grew in popularity among the city’s neighborhoods. However, during the early 1990’s there was a shift in roles, and as the political scene approved a reform on the welfare policy, hip-hop became the voice of the Afro-American community in the public sphere. This political turmoil gave hip-hop more popularity, since everyone was delighted with the authentic and lingering nature of the lyrics. Over time hip-hop became a commercial tool for the record labels, where everyone searched for profit in the lucrative business of music.
In 1986, hip-hop begun growing rapidly, and gave rise to the emergence of the West Coast hip-hop spotlight. Songs like “6 in the mornin” started to appear in the west, and soon Eric Wright (Eazy-E) saw the future of hip-hop, and started recording artists on his parent’s garage. Soon he founded Ruthless Records with the help of Jerry Heller. With the help of artists such as Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Arabian Prince, The Fila Fresh Crew, The D.O.C, they produced an album that redefined hip-hop genre and cemented the West Coast’s presence in the nation’s rap scene. Later on, as the group separated due to economic difficulties, they went in their own direction producing music on their own. Dr. Dre co-funded Death Row Records with Suge Knight, where he released “The Cronic”, one of hip-hop’s most influential albums, featuring, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Warren G, The Lady of Rage, Nate Dogg, Daz Dillinger and Kurupt of Tha Dogg Pound. By the early 90’s the West Coast had become the dominant region in hip-hop.
But what happened to the East? In 1994 the revival of the east came upon, with the release of Nas’ album Illmatic. The album reached top lists within weeks, and gave rise to the so-called East Coast Renaissance. Opening the way so Notorious B.I.G. release his album “Ready to die”, which helped Bad Boys Records back on the game.
Sadly the rivalry will soon come, as both coasts fought to gain the most popularity. In 1993, record producer “Puff Daddy” Sean Combs founded the New York-centered hip-hop label, Bad Boy Records. Soon afterward the releases as debut albums from “The Notorious B.I.G.” (Also known as Biggie Smalls) and Long Island-based rapper Craig Mack, became immediately a commercial success, and helped the East Coast Renaissance. Meanwhile, the New York born and California-based rapper Tupac Shakur, forged a rivalry with Notorious B.I.G. as he accused him of robbery and attempt of murder in the Quad Recordings Studios on November 30, 1994. However, the artists denied having anything to do with the shooting. Soon after the West Coast musicians released the album “Who shot ya?”, but they declared the album was released before the shooting. However, Tupac and the majority of the hip-hop community interpreted it as B.I.G.’s way of taunting him. Tension grew as Suge Knight, CEO of Death Row Records, attended a party were Jake Robles, a close friend of his was shot dead. The same year, Knight posted the $1.4 million bail of the then-incarcerated 2Pac, in exchange for his signing with Death Row Records. Shortly after the rapper’s release for five counts of sex abuse in October 1995, he proceeded to join Knight in furthering Death Row’s feud with Bad Boy Records.
The whole rivalry ended up in the dispute of B.I.G. and Tupac. After the release of “Who Shot Ya?”, Tupac released several tracks insulting Biggie, Bad Boy Records, and anyone related to him. During this time the media became heavily involved and named the rivalry a coastal rap war, reporting on it regularly. This caused fans to take sides on either the East Coast or the West Coast. On September 13, 1996, Tupac Shakur died after being shot multiple times six days earlier in a drive by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada. Reporters said that the shooting was carried out by a Compton gang called the Southside Crips, to avenge one of his members who were beaten by Shakur a few moments earlier. Other reports say that East Coast rappers were involved, including Notorious B.I.G. and other music figures. Six months after Tupac’s death, on March 9, 1997, The Notorious B.I.G. was also shot to death in a drive-by shooting by an unknown assailant in Los Angeles, California.
To this day, the murders of both Tupac and Biggie are unsolved, though many believe they killed each other in dispute over personal problems and power. However, their legacy as musicians will never be forgotten. They opened up the way to give hip-hop/rap popularity around the world, and make the path so artists like Kendrick Lamar or A tribe called quest keep the fight over east and west.