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Hip-Hop became part of black history from the mid 20th century. Created by black Americans to replace the outdated disco era, the genre has evolved to become a symbol of black culture, black excellence and black confidence in the realm of music. The emergence of Hip-Hop saw the rise of two spectacles in the 90s, Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. These men changed the face of music, filling stages, parties and studios with heartfelt beats and lyrics.

Though Tupac Shakur began his career before The Notorious B.I.G., both had great success and enjoyed a friendly relationship. In the course of their careers, they became worst enemies, taking the East-West feud triggered by the rise of Hip-Hop to a whole new level, as they engaged in what has been termed the greatest rivalry in Hip-Hop history. On September 7th, 1996, Tupac Shakur was killed in Las Vegas in a drive-by shooting. Six months after on March 9th, 1997, The Notorious B.I.G was murdered in Los Angeles, in a drive-by shooting. These sad events marked the apex of the East-West rivalry and have remained unsolved mysteries till date.

Where it all started: The birth and rise of Hip-Hop

In the early 70s, disco music began losing popularity as many perceived it as being too mechanical. This sparked the need for more enjoyable styles of music. Thanks to black creativity, August 1973 saw the birth of Hip-Hop, an unprecedented style of music first recorded and released by DJ Kool Herc at a party in the Bronx in New York city. The genre was quickly embraced by Afrika Bambaataa, The Sugarhill Gang, DJ Kool Herc, Run D.M.C and Grandmaster Flash, all of them artists from the East Coast of the United States, who first experienced success with Hip-Hop. They cemented their style and presence in the music industry through a continuous mixture of metaphors, deep lyrics and more pleasant beats.

In 1987, a group of artists including Dr. Dre, Eazy E and Ice Cube formed N.W.A, short for Niggaz Wit Attitudes. They introduced the gangsta rap genre of Hip-Hop in the West Coast of the United States. Their 1988 album, 'Straight Outta Compton' made headlines as it portrayed racism, black marginalisation and police brutality, notably the now famous single "Fuck tha police". This success engerered widespread media coverage, audience admiration and popularity for West Coast in Hip-Hop. The East and West coasts had stepped into an era of ruthless competition. While West Coast rapidly rose to fame, the East Coast, determined to remain in the spotlight saw the birth of hit albums such as Wu-Tang Clan's 'Enter The Wu-tang (36 chambers)' in 1993 or Nas' 'Illmatic' in 1994. The East-West competition deepened with the creation of two record labels: Death Row Records and Bad Boy Records.

Death Row Records for the West and Bad Boy Records for the East

In 1991, after leaving N.W.A group, Dr. Dre in collaboration with Suge Knight, The D.O.C and Dick Griffey created the record label Death Row Records in Los Angeles. The gangsta rap label produced major artists such as Snoop Dogg, Tupac Shakur, Nate Dogg and The Lady of Rage and stood as the reference for West Coast Hip-Hop. Suge Knight became reputed for breaking barriers, even through illegal means, to signing new artists into the label and benefiting from their success.

On the other hand, Sean "Puffy" Combs founded Bad Boy Records in 1993 in New York and produced hit artists such as Mase, 112 and The Notorious B.I.G. The festive label speedily turned to the reference for East Coast as it perfectly combined Hip-Hop and R&B. Puffy became the center of Bad Boy Records, making major appearances in all songs of his artists. Death Row Records and Bad Boy Records fueled the careers of Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G, two powerful artists who took both Hip-Hop and the East-West rivalry to a whole new level.

The birth of two emblems: Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G.

Tupac Amaru Shakur was born on June 16, 1971 at East Harlem, New York as Lesane Parish Crooks. Before joining music, he attended the Baltimore School of Arts but failed to graduate as his family relocated to California before the end of his course. In California he joined Digital Underground rap group and featured on, 'This Is an EP Release' and 'Sons of the P', albums of Digital Underground. In late 1991, Tupac released his first solo album, '2Pacalypse Now'. His songs depicted racism and social injustice in the US. The album was marked by high sales, making Shakur hit the spotlight of fame.

Christopher George Latore Wallace known by the stage name The Notorious B.I.G. was born on May 21, 1972 in Brooklyn, New York. Wallace was enrolled in a Roman Catholic school and later moved to a Government High School. He droped out of school, took to the streets and groomed his talents in gangsta rap. Britannica reports that he recorded a memo under the stage name "Biggie Smalls". In 1993, Sean "Puffy" Combs signed The Notorious B.I.G. to Bad Boy Records and soon after, he released his first single 'Party and Bullshit'. The track caught the attention of Tupac who at this time was already a well known artist.

Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. rise to stardom

From his first album '2Pacalypse Now' Tupac had become famous in the music industry, adding to his acting career. He released a second album, 'Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.', in 1993 then a third hit album, 'Me Against the World', in 1995 while he was arrested and imprisoned for sexual assaults. Shakur served eight months in prison and was released on bail by Suge Knight who signed him to Death Row Records. He became the darling of Death Row Records and West Coast. In 1996, Tupac released his fourth album, 'All Eyez on Me'. The album sold more than five million copies within a year and occupied 1st position on the Billboard chart. Tupac also made appearances in movies like 'Poetic Justice' in 1993 alongside Janet Jackson, 'Bullet' in 1996 and 'Gang Related' in 1997.

By this time, The Notorious B.I.G. and Bad Boy Records were rocking the East. After the release of his debut album 'Ready to Die' in 1994, The Notorious B.I.G. became the star artist of Bad Boy Records. The album was a huge success and maintained Bad Boy Records as leading label in the East. During this time, Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. developed close ties.

A short-lived friendship

Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G. allegedly met on the set of the movie 'Poetic Justice' and became friends. They appeared together on stage and partied in private. Being on the spotlight as an entertainer and movie actor, Tupac acted as a mentor for The Notorious B.I.G. which at the time was little known outside Brooklyn. After Tupac's rise to stardom, The Notorious B.I.G. followed suit. Their friendship lasted until November 1994.

The Split: Attempted assassination of Tupac Shakur in the stronghold of The Notorious B.I.G.

On November 30th 1994, Tupac was invited to Quad Recording Studio in New York by rapper Lil' Cease, an associate of The Notorious B.I.G. Upon arrival he was beaten, robbed and shot five times to near death by thugs. The presence of The Notorious B.I.G. and Puffy in the studio at the time of the attack convinced Tupac that the two had orchestrated this attempt on his life. This led to the split in their friendship. After his recovery in 1995, Tupac was arrested and imprisoned on sexual assault charges.

On February 21, 1995, The Notorious B.I.G. released the single "Who Shot Ya?". It sounded like a response to the accusations by Tupac though he and Puffy swore it had nothing to do with Tupac's accusations as they claimed to have recorded the track long before the attack. In October 1995, Tupac was released from prison and was bent on destroying The Notorious B.I.G. The rivalry which had separated fans between East-West saw verbal confrontations and a violent crusade between the two artists.

On June 4, 1996, Tupac released the single, "Hit 'Em Up", where he vented insults and threats on the lives of The Notorious B.I.G., Puffy, a host of East Coast rappers and boasted of having slept with The Notorious B.I.G.'s wife Faith Evans. The single saw the culmination of the rivalry. Three months later on September 7th 1996, Tupac was shot in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas. He died 6 days later. The news of his untimely demise came as a shock to artists and fans of both the West and East coasts. It was rumoured that Tupac's death resulted from the rivalry between he and The Notorious B.I.G.

On February 12, 1997, Snoop Dogg from Death Row Records and Puffy from Bad Boy Records held a press conference calling for an end to the East-West rivalry that cost Tupac his life. Snoop said,

"Kids around the world are watching... By calling for a truce we're giving them something to live for."

Their efforts were futile. On March 9, 1997, The Notorious B.I.G. was killed in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles. The death of Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G was the peak of the East-West rivalry in Hip-Hop.

A reassuring end

Although it took until the deaths of Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G., their death brought an end to the ruthless East Coast - West Coast rivalry as both wings began working in close collaboration. As an illustration, Dr. Dre one of the founding fathers of West Coast gangsta rap put 50 Cent, an East Coast artist in the spotlight.

Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. transformed rap, grabbed several awards and sealed their legacies in Hip-Hop. In 2017, Tupac was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. A Netflix documentary titled; 'Biggie: I Got A Story To Tell', which focused on the life of The Notorious B.I.G. was released in March 2021. The memories of Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G., and the impact they had on the music industry will live on forever.

Le Hip-Hop est entré dans l'histoire des Noirs à partir du milieu du XXe siècle. Créé par des Noirs américains pour remplacer l'ère disco dépassée, le genre a évolué pour devenir un symbole de la culture noire, de l'excellence noire et de l'assurance noire dans le domaine de la musique. L'émergence du Hip-Hop a vu l'essor de deux phénomènes dans les années 90, Tupac Shakur et The Notorious B.I.G. Ces hommes ont transformé le visage de la musique, remplissant les scènes, les fêtes et les studios de musique avec des sonorités intenses et des rimes profondes.

Bien que Tupac Shakur ait commencé sa carrière avant The Notorious B.I.G., les deux ont connu un grand succès et entretenaient une relation amicale. En cheminant dans leur carrière, ils sont devenus les pires ennemis, portant la rivalité Est-Ouest déclenchée par l'essor du Hip-Hop à un tout autre niveau, alors qu'ils s'engageaient dans ce qui a été qualifié de plus grande rivalité de l'histoire du Hip-Hop. Le 7 septembre 1996, Tupac Shakur a été assassiné à Las Vegas lors d'une fusillade en voiture. Six mois plus tard, le 9 mars 1997, The Notorious B.I.G a été assassiné à Los Angeles, lors d'une fusillade en voiture. Ces tristes événements ont marqué l'apogée de la rivalité Est-Ouest et sont restés des mystères non résolus jusqu'à ce jour.

Là où tout a commencé : la naissance et l'essor du Hip-Hop

Au début des années 70, la musique disco a commencé à perdre de sa popularité du fait que beaucoup la trouvait un peu trop mécanique. Cela a suscité le besoin de styles musicaux plus agréables. Grâce à la créativité noire, août 1973 a vu la naissance du Hip-Hop, un style de musique sans précédent enregistré et diffusé pour la première fois par DJ Kool Herc lors d'une soirée dans le Bronx à New York. Le genre a été rapidement adopté par Afrika Bambaataa, The Sugarhill Gang, DJ Kool Herc, Run DMC et Grandmaster Flash, tous des artistes de la côte Est des États-Unis, qui ont connu leurs premiers succès avec le Hip-Hop. Ils ont forgé leur style et leur présence dans l'industrie de la musique grâce à un mélange continu de métaphores, des rimes profondes et des sonorités plus agréables.

En 1987, un groupe d'artistes constitué de Dr. Dre, Eazy E et Ice Cube a formé N.W.A, abréviation de Niggaz Wit Attitudes. Ils ont introduit le style gangsta rap du Hip-Hop dans la côte Ouest des États-Unis. Leur album "Straight Outta Compton", sorti en 1988, a fait la une des journaux en dépeignant le racisme, la marginalisation des Noirs et la brutalité policière, notamment le désormais célèbre single "Fuck tha police". Ce succès a suscité une large couverture médiatique, l'admiration du public et la popularité de la côte Ouest dans le Hip-Hop. Les côtes Est et Ouest étaient entrées dans une ère de concurrence impitoyable. Alors que la côte Ouest est rapidement devenue célèbre, la côte Est, déterminée à rester sous le feu des projecteurs, a vu naître des albums à succès tels que "Enter The Wu-tang (36 chambers)" du Wu-Tang Clan en 1993 ou encore "Illmatic" de Nas en 1994. La concurrence Est-Ouest s'est accentuée avec la création de deux labels de musique : Death Row Records et Bad Boy Records.

Death Row Records pour l'Ouest et Bad Boy Records pour l'Est

En 1991, après avoir quitté le groupe N.W.A, Dr. Dre en collaboration avec Suge Knight, The D.O.C et Dick Griffey ont créé le label de musique Death Row Records à Los Angeles. Le label de gangsta rap a produit des artistes majeurs tels que Snoop Dogg, Tupac Shakur, Nate Dogg et The Lady of Rage et s'est imposé comme la référence du Hip-Hop de la côte Ouest. Suge Knight s'est fait la réputation de briser les barrières, même par des moyens illégaux, pour signer de nouveaux artistes dans le label et bénéficier de leur succès.

D'autre part, Sean "Puffy" Combs a fondé Bad Boy Records en 1993 à New York et a produit des artistes à succès tels que Mase, 112 et The Notorious B.I.G. Le label festif s'est rapidement établi en référence de la côte Est du fait qu'il mêlait parfaitement Hip-Hop et R&B. Puffy est devenu le centre d'attention de Bad Boy Records, faisant des apparitions majeures dans toutes les chansons de ses artistes. Death Row Records et Bad Boy Records ont impulsé les carrières de Tupac Shakur et The Notorious B.I.G, deux artistes puissants qui ont propulsé à la fois le Hip-Hop et la rivalité Est-Ouest à un tout autre niveau.

La naissance de deux emblèmes : Tupac Shakur et The Notorious B.I.G.

Tupac Amaru Shakur est né le 16 juin 1971 à East Harlem, New York sous le nom de Lesane Parish Crooks. Avant de rejoindre la musique, il a fréquenté la Baltimore School of Arts mais n'a pas obtenu son diplôme car sa famille a déménagé en Californie avant la fin de son cursus. En Californie, il a rejoint le groupe de rap Digital Underground et a joué sur les albums "This Is an EP Release" et "Sons of the P" de Digital Underground. Fin 1991, Tupac a sorti son premier album solo, "2Pacalypse Now". Ses chansons dépeignaient le racisme et l'injustice sociale aux États-Unis. L'album a été marqué par des ventes élevées, faisant de Shakur une célébrité.

Christopher George Latore Wallace connu sous le nom de scène The Notorious B.I.G. est né le 21 mai 1972 à Brooklyn, New York. Wallace était inscrit dans une école catholique romaine et a ensuite déménagé dans une école secondaire publique. Il a abandonné l'école, s'est fondu dans la rue et a développé ses talents dans le gangsta rap. Britannica rapporte qu'il a enregistré un mémo sous le nom de scène "Biggie Smalls". En 1993, Sean "Puffy" Combs signe The Notorious B.I.G. chez Bad Boy Records et peu de temps après, il sort son premier single "Party and Bullshit". Le morceau a attiré l'attention de Tupac qui à cette époque était déjà un artiste bien connu.

L'ascension vers la célébrité de Tupac Shakur et The Notorious B.I.G.

Dès son premier album "2Pacalypse Now", Tupac est devenu célèbre dans l'industrie de la musique, ceci ajouté à sa carrière d'acteur. Il a sorti un deuxième album, "Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.", en 1993, puis un troisième album à succès, "Me Against the World", en 1995 alors qu'il était arrêté et emprisonné pour agressions sexuelles. Shakur a purgé huit mois de prison et a été libéré sous caution par Suge Knight qui l'a signé chez Death Row Records. Il est devenu le chouchou de Death Row Records et de la côte Ouest. En 1996, Tupac sort son quatrième album, "All Eyez on Me". L'album s'est vendu à plus de cinq millions d'exemplaires en un an et a occupé la première place au classement Billboard. Tupac a également fait des apparitions dans des films comme "Poetic Justice" en 1993 aux côtés de Janet Jackson, "Bullet" en 1996 et "Gang Related" en 1997.

À cette époque, The Notorious B.I.G. et Bad Boy Records faisaient vibrer l'Est. Après la sortie de son premier album "Ready to Die" en 1994, The Notorious B.I.G. est devenu l'artiste vedette de Bad Boy Records. L'album a été un énorme succès et a maintenu le statut de Bad Boy Records en tant label leader dans l'Est. Pendant ce temps, Tupac Shakur et The Notorious B.I.G. développaient des liens étroits.

Une amitié de courte durée

Tupac Shakur et The Notorious B.I.G. se seraient rencontrés sur le tournage du film "Poetic Justice" et sont devenus amis. Ils ont fait des apparitions ensemble sur scène et faisaient la fête en privé. Étant sous le feu des projecteurs en tant qu'artiste et acteur de cinéma, Tupac a agi en mentor pour The Notorious B.I.G. qui à l'époque était peu connu en dehors de Brooklyn. Après l'ascension de Tupac vers la célébrité, The Notorious B.I.G. a emboîté le pas. Leur amitié aura duré jusqu'en novembre 1994.

La scission : Tentative d'assassinat de Tupac Shakur dans le fief de The Notorious B.I.G.

Le 30 novembre 1994, Tupac a été invité au Quad Recording Studio à New York par le rappeur Lil' Cease, un associé de The Notorious B.I.G. À son arrivée, il a été battu, volé et s'est fait tirer cinq fois dessus et laissé pour mort par des voyoux. La présence de The Notorious B.I.G. et Puffy dans le studio au moment de l'attaque ont convaincu Tupac que les deux avaient orchestré l'atteinte à sa vie. Cela a conduit à la rupture de leur amitié. Après son rétablissement en 1995, Tupac a été arrêté et emprisonné pour agression sexuelle.

Le 21 février 1995, The Notorious B.I.G. a sorti le single "Who Shot Ya?". Cela ressemblait à une réponse aux accusations portées par Tupac bien que Puffy et lui aient juré que cela n'avait rien à voir avec les accusations de Tupac car ils prétendaient avoir enregistré le titre longtemps avant l'attaque. En octobre 1995, Tupac a été libéré de prison et était déterminé à détruire The Notorious B.I.G. La rivalité qui avait séparé les fans entre l'Est et l'Ouest a vu des affrontements verbaux et une violente croisade entre les deux artistes.

Le 4 juin 1996, Tupac a sorti le single "Hit 'Em Up", où il profère des insultes et des menaces de mort en vers The Notorious B.I.G., Puffy, et pléthore de rappeurs de la côte Est et se vante d'avoir couché avec la femme de The Notorious B.I.G., Faith Evans. Le single a vu la culmination de la rivalité. Trois mois plus tard, le 7 septembre 1996, Tupac se faisait tirer dessus lors d'une fusillade en voiture à Las Vegas. Il décèdera 6 jours plus tard. La nouvelle de sa disparition prématurée a été un choc pour les artistes et les fans des côtes Ouest et Est. Une rumeur laissait entendre que la mort de Tupac résultait de la rivalité entre lui et The Notorious B.I.G.

Le 12 février 1997, Snoop Dogg de Death Row Records et Puffy de Bad Boy Records ont tenu une conférence de presse appelant à mettre fin à la rivalité Est-Ouest qui a coûté la vie à Tupac. Snoop a déclaré :

"Les enfants du monde entier regardent... En appelant à une trêve, nous leur donnons une raison de vivre."

Leurs efforts ont été vains. Le 9 mars 1997, The Notorious B.I.G. était abattu dans une fusillade en voiture à Los Angeles. La mort de Tupac Shakur et The Notorious B.I.G a marqué l'apogée de la rivalité Est-Ouest dans le Hip-Hop.

Une fin rassurante

Bien qu'il aura fallu arriver jusqu'aux décès de Tupac Shakur et The Notorious B.I.G., leur mort a mis fin à la rivalité impitoyable entre la côte Est et la côte Ouest alors que les deux ailes commencaient à travailler en étroite collaboration. A titre d'illustration, Dr. Dre, l'un des pères fondateurs du gangsta rap de la côte Ouest, a mis 50 Cent, un artiste de la côte Est, sous le feu des projecteurs.

Tupac Shakur et The Notorious B.I.G. ont transformé le rap, raflé plusieurs récompenses et scellé leur héritage dans le Hip-Hop. En 2017, Tupac a été intronisé au Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Un documentaire Netflix intitulé, "Biggie: I Got A Story To Tell", qui documente la vie de The Notorious B.I.G. est sorti en mars 2021. Les souvenirs de Tupac Shakur et The Notorious B.I.G., et l'impact qu'ils ont eu sur l'industrie de la musique vivront pour toujours.

November 4, 2022 . 9 min . by Vanessa Forlemu

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