Biggie Smalls and 2Pac will forever be linked in hip-hop history. As the greatest emcees of the 90s, and two of the most revered musical figures in all of rap, the duo’s journey from friendship to feud is one that’s been ingrained in popular culture. They were the spokesmen of their respective coasts, and their subsequent falling out ushered in the deadliest–and most tragic– consequences the genre has ever seen.
Today is the twentieth anniversary of Biggie’s death. Still, his music, his persona, and his beef with 2Pac (born Tupac Shakur) has never been far from the hip-hop’s collective conscious– immortalized through documentary (Biggie & Tupac), biopic (Notorious), and, later this year, cable television (Unsolved). Here are five fast facts you need to know about their legendary relationship.
1. They First Met In 1993
In the book Original Gangstas: The Untold Story of Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Tupac Shakur, and the Birth of West Coast Rap (2016), author Ben Westoff reveals that Biggie and 2Pac first met in Los Angeles in 1993. Biggie reportedly asked to meet 2Pac, who was already an established star, and the two of them bonded over marijuana and a shared passion for the culture.
“While we were running around,” recalled Biggie’s label intern Dan Smalls, “Pac walks into the kitchen and starts cooking for us. He’s in the kitchen cooking some steaks. We were drinking and smoking and all of a sudden ‘Pac was like, ‘Yo, come get it.’ And we go into the kitchen and he had steaks, and French fries, and bread, and Kool-Aid and we just sittin’ there eating and drinking and laughing. And you know, that’s truly where Big and ‘Pac’s friendship’s started.”
2. Biggie Asked 2Pac To Be His Manager
After this initial meeting, the two remained great friends. 2Pac gifted Biggie a bottle of Hennessy, and the Brooklyn rapper would often sleep on 2Pac’s couch whenever he went to California. The two even freestyled together during a legendary performance at Madison Square Garden, just as Biggie was beginning to receive more notoriety. 2Pac took on something of a mentor role for Biggie, saying that he “trained the n*gga, he used to be under me, like my lieutenant. I used to tell the n*gga… do not rap for the n*ggas, the b*tches will buy your records, and the n*ggas want what the b*tches want.”
According to Westoff, Biggie was concerned that he wouldn’t hit big with his debut album Ready to Die (1994), and asked 2Pac to become his manger instead of Puff Daddy. “Things weren’t happening for him quickly enough” writes Westoff. But 2Pac felt that Puff had what it took to succeed, and correctly told Biggie that “he will make you a star.”
3. 2Pac Accused Biggie of Setting Him Up
Later that year, things started to go bad. 2Pac’s legal troubles, mixed with his aggressive public image, landed him in some hot water with East Coast gangster Haitian Jack. According to Westoff, 2Pac traveled to New York to record a guest verse for rapper Little Shawn, but while there, he found himself surrounded by men in combat fatigues. The “California Love” rapper then said that he was jumped, shot several times, and robbed of his jewelry. The NYPD said it was a response to what 2Pac was saying about Haitian Jack. Not long after, however, 2Pac caught wind that Biggie knew about the shooting in advance, and did nothing to stop it.
“He owned me more than to turn his head and act like he didn’t know n*ggas was about to blow my f*cking head off,” he said, “And even if Biggie hadn’t set me up, he should at least have been able to find out who did it.” Biggie adamantly denied any knowledge or involvement.
4. 2Pac Tried To Solicit Sex From Biggie’s Wife
The myth goes that 2Pac had sexual relations with Biggie’s wife, R&B singer Faith Evans. She would shoot down these speculation, however, in her memoir Keep The Faith (2009), where she gave an account of what actually happened. Evans was asked to record vocals for 2Pac’s song “Wonda Why The Call U B*tch” (1996) and traveled to Death Row Records, the enemy of her parent label Bad Boy, to do so. “I was pretty oblivious to the things that had gone on prior to that, until probably a few years later.” When it came time to collect her $25,000 check, 2Pac asked the singer for oral sex.
“He asked in a very surprising and offensive way for sure. By that time it was pretty clear to me, it seemed to me that that was kind of like a plan,” recalled Evans, “That is totally not how I operate, that ain’t how I do business and that was never up for discussion.” Biggie later addressed the incident on his verse for “Brooklyn’s Finest” (1996) rapping “If Faye has twins, she’ll probably have two ‘Pacs” in mockery. Watch Evans’ interview with VladTV above.
5. They Each Released Diss Records
As to be expected from such a high profile feud, there were diss tracks on both sides. Biggie struck first with the subliminal-ridden record “Who Shot Ya” in 1995. The song was reportedly written prior to the 2Pac shooting in New York, but many fans took the song’s release–two weeks after the shooting– and the lyrical content (“Separate the weak from the obsolete/hard to creep them Brooklyn streets/it’s on n*gga, f*ck all that bickering beef”) to mean otherwise. The latter half of the song even creates a scenario not dissimilar to the robbery that Biggie was accused of knowing about.
2Pac struck back with “Hit ‘Em Up” in 1996, the scathing attack that saw him take shots at Biggie’s wife, his weight, and the fact that he helped put him on. The music video extended the mockery, as 2Pac hired actors to impersonate Biggie and Puff Daddy, while vowing to destroy Bad Boy Records as a label (“and a motherf*ckin’ crew!”). His aggression practically leaps out of the speakers. Sadly, 2Pac and Biggie were never able to make peace before their respective murders in 1996 and 1997.