STAKES IS HIGH
Puffy and Biggie break their silence on Tupac, Death Row, and all the East-West friction. A tale of bad boys and bad men. By the Blackspot.
Now, we can settle this like we got some class, or we can get into some gangster shit. –Max Julien as Goldie in The Mack
It’s hard to believe that someone who has seen so much could have such young eyes. But the eyes of Sean “Puffy” Combs, bright, brown, and alert, reflect the stubborn innocence of childhood. His voice, however, tells another story. Sitting inside the control room of Daddy’s House Studios in Midtown Manhattan, dressed in an Orlando Magic jersey and linen slacks, Puffy speaks in low, measured tones, almost whispering.
“I’m hurt a little bit spiritually by all the negativity, by this whole Death Row-Bad Boy shit,” says Puffy, president of Bad Boy Entertainment, one of the most powerful creative forces in black music today. And these days, one of the most tormented. “I’m hurt that out of all my accomplishments, it’s like I’m always getting my most fame from negative drama. It’s not like the young man that was in the industry for six years, won the ASCAP Songwriter of the Year, and every record he put out went at least gold…All that gets overshadowed. How it got to this point, I really don’t know. I’m still trying to figure it out.”
So is everyone else. What’s clear is that a series of incidents—Tupac Shakur catching bullets at a New York studio in November ’94, a close friend of Death Row CEO Suge Knight being killed at an Atlanta party in September ’95, the Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac facing off after the Soul Train Music Awards in L.A. this past March—have led to much finger-pointing and confusion. People with little or no connection to Death Row or Bad Boy are choosing up sides. From the Atlantic to the Pacific, hip hop heads are proclaiming their “California Love” or exclaiming that the “the East is in the house” with the loyalty of newly initiated gang members. As Dr. Dre put it, “Pretty soon, niggaz from the East Coast ain’t gonna be able to come out here and be safe. And vice versa.”
Meanwhile, the two camps that have the power to put an end to it all have yet to work out their differences. Moreover, Suge Knight’s Death Row camp, while publicly claiming there is no beef, has continued to aggravate the situation: first, by making snide public comments about the Bad Boy family, and second, by releasing product that makes the old Dre-vs.-Eazy conflict look tame. The intro to the video for the Tupac/Snoop Doggy Dogg song “2 of Americaz Most Wanted” features two characters named Pig and Buff who are accused of setting up Tupac and are then confronted in their office. And the now infamous B-Side, “Hit Em Up,” finds Tupac, in a fit of rage, telling Biggie, “I fucked your bitch, you fat motherfucker,” and then threatening to wipe out all of Bad Boy’s staff and affiliates.