In the 50-year history of hip-hop, there have been no two stars whose lives – and deaths – have been more studied than Tupac Shakur and Christopher Wallace, the rapper known professionally as “Big Notorious BIG” or “Biggie Smalls.”
Both men are as loved and missed now as they were nearly 30 years ago when they were murdered — Shakur in September 1996 in Las Vegas and Wallace in March 1997 in Los Angeles.
“We lost two senseless giants,” rapper Fat Joe told CNN. “That’s what bothers me when it comes to Biggie and Pac. We lost two giants for nothing.”
Their deaths are now being reexamined after Duane Keith Davis, known as “Keffe D,” was arrested last month in connection with Shakur’s death, 27 years after the rapper was shot while leaving a boxing match on the Las Vegas Strip.
The body camera of Davis’ arrest shows him referring to the murder as “the biggest case in Las Vegas history.”
But Shakur’s death reverberated beyond Nevada’s borders and foreshadowed Wallace’s death. The question now is when or if an arrest will be made in connection with Wallace’s death.
The murder of two influential rappers who started out as friends and later became rivals has always been culturally relevant, due to the time period and circumstances.
“It was almost like that [the death] “Tupac was the first movie and then Biggie was the second movie,” P. Frank Williams, who produced the 2017 TV special “Who Shot Biggie and Tupac?” He told CNN. “The two biggest deaths in hip-hop history.”
Both men came from poor backgrounds and were raised by single mothers who cherished and honored them through the music that made them famous. Each of them had problems with the law earlier in their lives before they were heralded as untouchable superstars when it came to their profession.
The duo was also at the heart of “East Coast vs. West Coast” rap in the 1990s after Shakur, a West Coast-based artist, became convinced that Wallace, who was from Brooklyn, had helped groom him as a He shot five times In a recording studio in Manhattan in 1994. Wallace denied any involvement and was never charged in connection with the crime.
Ultimately, they were both victims of a fatal drive-by shooting while out with others for a night of partying.
There is even a connection between the investigations into their deaths.
Now retired Los Angeles Police Department Detective Greg Kading He interviewed Davis in 2009 As a person of interest in Wallace’s death, Davis was present at a party at the Peterson Auto Museum in Los Angeles that Wallace had left just before he was shot.
In a transcript of Clark County grand jury proceedings last month, retired Las Vegas City Police Detective Clifford Moog said investigators theorized that Shakur’s murder and Wallace’s crime “were connected.”
Mogg did not specify what their theory was, but he testified that Davis was not involved.
Another person who was in Los Angeles on the night of Wallace’s death was Chew Hodari Coker.
While he worked in film and television, with credits including Netflix’s “Luke Cage,” Coker was at the time a journalist on assignment to talk to Wallace in what would become the rapper’s final interview.
Coker said he was supposed to be part of the entourage traveling with Wallace when he was killed, but the rapper failed to call him back to contact him. Coker said the deaths of Shakur and Wallace are bound by “history and emotion,” and have resonated more and more in the years that have passed.
“Not just dead, he was murdered. “I think that sometimes, in our celebration of music and music…that gets lost over the years,” Coker said. “These were intentional deaths on someone’s behalf and that is very painful. Especially since all of us who went through this are now in our 50s and understand how much life is lost when you die at 25 and 24 years old.
Those unfulfilled futures particularly haunt Coker, who said his final conversation with Wallace focused on his childhood and aspirations that may be surprising to those who only watched him through his rhymes.
“The life he described was basically being a football dad in Atlanta,” Coker said. “He just wanted to ditch his daughter at her wedding, play with his kids, and wanted to build a house in Atlanta.”
Shakur was also a multi-faceted man.
Williams, who as a journalist covered Shakur’s killing for the Los Angeles Times and Wallace for The Source magazine, recalls that a Latina grandmother called a Los Angeles radio station after Shakur’s death to talk about how much his song “Dear Mama” meant to her.
However, he’s the same guy who got “Thug Life” tattooed on his stomach and was a hardcore rap star.
“Tupac reached people on an emotional and spiritual level,” Williams said. “He was going to go [his single] “Wonda Why They Call UB**ch” to “Dear Mama,” which was about the human experience. This was the kind of stuff he talked about, and it was a far cry from the image you had of him.
“Biggie on a lyrical level is probably one of the best performances,” he said of Wallace. “I think he was a star and was loved for his music and his brilliance as a writer and artist.”
“Both were gifts at the time.”
Coker hopes that with renewed spotlight on Shakur’s death, there will be action on Wallace’s case.
CNN has reached out to the Los Angeles Police Department for comment on the investigation into Wallace’s murder.
“I hope the revelation comes with the pressure,” Coker said.
A revelation, and perhaps finally, a measure of justice for his loved ones.
Those close to Wallace and Shakur are still waiting.
“We are in a constant state of sadness and remorse and pain because we have to relive it and relive what happened,” Moprime Shakur, Shakur’s half-brother, told CNN last week. “We have been through decades of pain.”
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