East Coast–West Coast hip hop rivalry
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The East Coast–West Coast hip hop rivalry was a feud between artists and fans of the East Coast hip hop and West Coast hip hop scenes in the United States, especially from 1994 to 1997. Focal points of the feud were East Coast–based rapper The Notorious B.I.G. (and his New York–based label, Bad Boy Records), and West Coast–based rapper Tupac Shakur (and Dr. Dre’s Los Angeles–based label, Death Row Records, which he was part of), who were both murdered in drive-by shootings. Orlando Anderson (a.k.a. Baby Lane) is believed to be the person responsible for the murder of Shakur. The person responsible for the murder of The Notorious B.I.G. remains unknown.
Origins of hip hop
Hip hop emerged in the 1970s on the streets of the South Bronx. Hip Hop was powered by DJs such as Kool Herc, who many consider its founding father, Grandmaster Flash, and Afrika Bambaataa. The new musical style became popular throughout the city's neighborhoods. MCs, Graffiti, and Hip Hop were huge cultural influences at this time. The New York City area remained the forefront for rap music throughout the mid-'80s, becoming home to numerous stars such as Run-DMC, A Tribe Called Quest, LL Cool J, KRS-One, Doug E. Fresh, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie, Slick Rick, The Beastie Boys, Salt-n-Pepa, and others. In the early 1990s hip hop functioned to give the black community a voice in the public sphere, and had spread from New York to across the country in the East Coast as well as worldwide. Hip hop gained appeal among African-Americans because of the "authentic" nature of the lyrical content. It transitioned into gangsta rap in the 1990s, which involved rapping about drugs, violence, and other issues faced by black communities.
Emergence of the West Coast
With the help of friend Jerry Heller, Eazy-E founded Ruthless Records on March 3, 1986. Shortly afterwards, his group N.W.A released the Panic Zone EP. It contained the title track (Arabian Prince), "8 Ball" (Eazy-E), and the well-known "Dope Man" (Ice Cube).
The group's debut album was released later in the year. It featured the Fila Fresh Crew and a young The D.O.C. The most popular song on the release was the famous track "Boyz-n-the-Hood". Although the track was written by Ice Cube, Eazy-E handled the vocals. Eazy E began as a solo artist but then joined the group.
A disagreement over money saw Arabian Prince leave N.W.A just before the release of their ground-breaking Straight Outta Compton. Eazy-E's friend MC Ren filled his place. Backed by hit singles such as "Straight Outta Compton (song)", "Fuck tha Police" and "Gangsta Gangsta", the album redefined the genre and cemented the West Coast's presence in the nation's rap scene.
Financial issues led to the break up of the group. Eazy-E remained the wealthy owner/manager of his Ruthless label. Ice Cube released a string of successful albums that included AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted and Death Certificate. Dr Dre would go on to co-own Death Row Records with Suge Knight.
At Death Row, Dr Dre released one of the most influential hip hop albums of all time in The Chronic. It revolutionized the G-Funk movement. Other successful stars on the label included Snoop Doggy Dogg, Tupac Shakur, Warren G, The Lady of Rage, Nate Dogg, Daz Dillinger, and Kurupt of Tha Dogg Pound. By the mid 1990s the West Coast had separated itself as the dominant region in hip hop.
Revival of the East
New York group The Wu-Tang Clan's 1993 debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) led to a revival of public interest in East Coast hip-hop, due in part to its lo-fi sound quality and its technical and wordy lyricism. Later in April 1994, 20-year-old Queens-based MC Nas released Illmatic, five of whose ten tracks were released as singles and which received a coveted five-mic rating from The Source. The release of these two albums was vital to renewing interest in East Coast hip-hop, facilitating the so-called East Coast Renaissance.
A few months later, the then 22-year-old Notorious B.I.G. released Ready to Die, which was certified gold within two months of release and helped to establish Bad Boy Records as notable. On June 25, 1996, Brooklyn native Jay-Z released his debut album Reasonable Doubt, drawing further attention to the East Coast.
In 1991, angry at record companies' rejections of East Coast artists and the growing popularity of West Coast hip hop, Bronx rapper Tim Dog decided to voice his anger on the notorious diss track "Fuck Compton". It contained shots at the entire LA rap scene, particularly the members of N.W.A. The music video featured violent threats aimed at Eazy-E, Dr. Dre and Michel'le look-a-likes, as well as DJ Quik and Ice Cube.
There were several responses from numerous West Coast artists, including the "Fuck wit Dre Day (And Everybody's Celebratin')" which featured Snoop Doggy Dogg dissing Tim Dog (as well as Eazy-E and others), and a separate skit, "$20 Sack Pyramid". Both featured on Dr. Dre's The Chronic album. Compton's Most Wanted responded with "Who's Fucking Who?" Eazy-E responded to Dr.Dre with "Real Muthaphuckkin G's", "It's On", "Ole School Shit", and "Wut Would You Do". Eazy-E was from the east side of Compton and Ruthless Records was battling Death Row Records until 1995, when Eazy-E died of HIV and B.G Knoccout released “D.P.G Killa”, which went against The Dogg Pound, a Death Row member.
Bad Boy vs. Death Row
In 1993, fledgling A&R executive and record producer Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs founded the New York-centered hip-hop label, Bad Boy Records. The next year, the label's debut releases by Brooklyn-based rapper The Notorious B.I.G. (also known as Biggie Smalls; born Christopher Wallace) and Long Island–based rapper Craig Mack became immediate critical and commercial successes, and seemed to revitalize the East Coast hip-hop scene by 1995. New York born and California-based rapper Tupac Shakur publicly accused The Notorious B.I.G., Andre Harrell, and Sean Combs of involvement in his shooting (and robbery) in the lobby of Quad Recording Studios in Manhattan on November 30, 1994. Shortly after the shooting, "Who Shot Ya?," a B-side track from Biggie's "Big Poppa" single was released. Although Combs and Wallace denied having anything to do with the shooting and stated that "Who Shot Ya?" had been recorded before the shooting, 2Pac and the majority of the hip hop community interpreted it as B.I.G.'s way of taunting him.. Aside from what Tupac took as pretty personal, "Who Shot Ya?" by Biggie was itself a response to Tupac's general more amicable battle rap single, "Old School" by Tupac, which refers to various rappers as being in a different time era than current.
In August 1995, Death Row CEO Suge Knight took a dig at Bad Boy and Combs at that year's Source Awards; announcing to the assembly of artists and industry figures: "Any artist out there that want to be an artist and stay a star, and don't have to worry about the executive producer trying to be all in the videos ... All on the records ... dancing, come to Death Row!"
It was a direct reference to Combs' tendency of ad-libbing on his artists' songs and dancing in their videos. With the ceremony being held in New York, to the audience, Knight's comments seemed a slight to the entire East Coast hip-hop scene, and resulted in boos from the crowd.
Problems continued when Knight later attended a party for producer Jermaine Dupri in Atlanta. During the bash, a close friend of Knight's (Jake Robles) was fatally shot. Knight accused Combs (also in attendance) of having something to do with the shooting. 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 sexual abuse in October 1995, he proceeded to join Knight in furthering Death Row's feud with Bad Boy Records.
Tha Dogg Pound's single "New York, New York", supported by a music video featuring a gigantic Snoop Dogg destroying various NYC buildings, was interpreted as a direct insult towards New York and the East Coast. Tha Dogg Pound was allegedly even shot at while making the video in New York City.
2Pac vs. The Notorious B.I.G.
- The Notorious B.I.G.
After the release of "Who Shot Ya?", which Shakur interpreted as a diss song mocking his robbery/shooting, 2Pac appeared on numerous tracks aiming threatening or antagonistic insults at Biggie, Bad Boy as a label, and anyone affiliated with them from late 1995 to 1996. Examples include the songs "Against All Odds", "Bomb First (My Second Reply)" and "Hit 'Em Up". During this time the media became heavily involved and dubbed the rivalry a coastal rap war, reporting on it continually. This caused fans from both scenes to take sides.
Although an official retaliation record was never released by the Brooklyn MC in response to Shakur's slurs, a certain number of Biggie's lyrics were interpreted by listeners as subliminal shots aimed at Shakur, in particular the track "Long Kiss Goodnight", which Lil' Cease claimed was about 2Pac in an XXL interview. Puffy, however, steadfastly denied this theory, affirming that if Biggie were to diss 2Pac, he would have called him out by name.
On September 7, 1996, Tupac Shakur was shot in a drive-by shooting at the intersection of Flamingo Road and Koval Lane in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was taken to the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada, where he died six days later. In 2002, Chuck Phillips wrote the article "Who Killed Tupac Shakur?" reporting that, "the shooting was carried out by a Compton gang called the Southside Crips to avenge the beating of one of its members by Shakur a few hours earlier ... Orlando Anderson, the Crip whom Shakur had attacked, fired the fatal shots. Las Vegas police discounted Anderson as a suspect and interviewed him only once, briefly. He was later killed in an "unrelated gang shooting" nearly 2 years later on May 29, 1998. The Phillips article and its follow-up, "How Vegas Police Probe Floundered in Tupac Shakur Case" also implicated East Coast rappers including Biggie Smalls.
Hip-hop peace summits
On September 22, 1996, a peace summit was convened at Mosque Maryam by Louis Farrakhan in the wake of the murder of Tupac Shakur, and another after the shooting of Biggie Smalls. Minister Farrakhan continues these summits, which have been held since the 1980s, where he calls for peace.
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