East Coast–West Coast hip hop rivalry

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The East Coast–West Coast hip hop rivalry was a feud in the 1990s between artists and fans of the East Coast hip hop and West Coast hip hop scenes in the United States. Focal points of the feud were East Coast-based rapper The Notorious B.I.G. (and his label, Bad Boy Records) and West Coast-based rapper 2Pac (and his label, Death Row Records), both of whom were murdered by unknown assailants.

Backgrounds of the Coasts[edit]

Origins[edit]

Hip hop emerged in the 1970s on the gritty streets of South Bronx. Powered by DJs such as Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, and Afrika Bambaataa, the new genre became popular throughout the city's neighborhoods. The New York City area remained the forefront for rap music throughout the mid-80's, becoming home to numerous stars like Run-DMC, LL Cool J, KRS-One, Dougie Fresh, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie, Slick Rick, Salt & Peppa and others. In the early 1990s hip hop functioned to give the black community a voice in the public sphere.[1] Hip hop gained appeal within the black community because of the authentic and relatable nature of the lyrical content. Over time, hip hop and gangsta rap became a tool for competing record labels and associated gangs. Record labels wanted to build up a reputation in order to achieve commercial success and profit off of the lucrative music business.

Emergence of the West Coast[edit]

In 1986, inspired by Philadelphia rapper Schoolly D, Crenshaw-based Ice-T released the song "6 in the Mornin'". It is considered by many critics as the very first gangsta rap song. The LA gangsta rap scene exploded afterward. A young drug dealer named Eric Wright saw the potential profits and fame of the hip hop lifestyle. He began recording songs in his parents' garage. Wright, going by the name Eazy-E, befriended two local artists named Dr. Dre and Ice Cube. Along with locals DJ Yella and Arabian Prince, the group became N.W.A (Niggaz Wit Attitude).

With the help of friend Jerry Heller, Eazy-E founded Ruthless Records on March 3, 1987. Shortly afterwards the group released the Panic Zone EP. It contained the title track (Arabian Prince), "8 Ball" (Eazy-E), and the well-known "Dopeman" (Ice Cube). Despite its popularity, "Dope Man" was never released as a single proper. In a way, the song set the bar for later hits with its profanity-driven and vulgar lyrics.

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 it was written primarily by Dr. Dre and Ice Cube, Eazy-E was the one who appeared on the vocals.

Due to a money disagreement, Arabian Prince left N.W.A just before they released their ground-breaking Straight Outta Compton. Eazy-E's friend MC Ren filled his place. Backed by hit singles such as the title track, "Fuck tha Police", and "Gangsta Gangsta", the album redefined hip hop genre and cemented the West Coast's presence in the nation's rap scene.

Economic issues led to dispersing 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, Warren G, The Lady of Rage, Nate Dogg, Daz Dillinger and Kurupt of Tha Dogg Pound. By the early 90's the West Coast had separated itself as the dominant region in hip hop.

Revival of the East[edit]

In April 1994, a 20 year old, Queens-based emcee by the name of Nas released Illmatic. Five of the album's ten tracks reached single status. It featured simple, menacing beats and dark street narratives. The release was vital in flipping the spotlight back to the east coast, facilitating the so-called East Coast Renaissance.

A few months later, another New York rapper recorded one of the classic albums. The 22 year old Notorious B.I.G. released Ready to Die. This album helped put Bad Boy Records on the map, following up on the success of Craig Mack's famous "Flava in Ya Ear". The growing popularity of The Wu-Tang Clan and their debut album also helped the east re-soar in popularity.

The rivalry[edit]

Tim Dog[edit]

In 1991, disgruntled by the 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 NWA. The music video contained violent gestures towards Eazy-E and Dr. Dre look-a-likes, as well as DJ Quik.

There were several responses from numerous West Coast artists, but none reached the fame of Tim Dog's diss. The most notable was a song called "Fuck wit Dre Day (And Everybody's Celebratin')" which featured Snoop Doggy Dogg dissing Tim Dog & a skit called the "$20 Sack Pyramid" featured on Dre's landmark album, The Chronic.

Bad Boy vs. Death Row[edit]

"Puff Daddy" Sean Combs
Suge Knight

In 1993, fledgling A&R executive and record producer "Puff Daddy" Sean Combs founded the New York-centered hip-hop label, Bad Boy Records.[2][3] The next year, the label’s debut releases by Brooklyn-based rapper "The Notorious B.I.G." (also known as Biggie Smalls)[4] 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.[5] New York born and California-based rapper Tupac Shakur, meanwhile, forged a rivalry with Biggie, publicly accusing him and Combs of having facilitated him being robbed and shot five times in the lobby of Quad Recording Studios in Manhattan on November 30, 1994.[6][7][8][8][9] Shortly after 2Pac’s shooting, “Who Shot Ya?,” a B-side track from BIG’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,[10] 2Pac and the majority of the hip hop community interpreted it as B.I.G.’s way of taunting him.[11][12]

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!”[13]

It was a direct reference to Combs’ tendency of ad-libbing on his artists’ songs and dancing in their videos.[14] 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 many boos from the crowd.[15]

Tensions escalated 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.[16] Knight accused Combs (also in attendance) of having something to do with the shooting.[7][17][18] The same year, Knight posted the $1.4 million bail of the then-incarcerated 2Pac, in exchange for his signing with Death Row Records.[19] Shortly after the rapper’s release for five counts of sex abuse in October 1995, he proceeded to join Knight in furthering Death Row’s feud with Bad Boy Records.[20]

2Pac vs. The Notorious B.I.G.[edit]

C'mere c'mere...open your fucking mouth...Didn't I tell you not to fuck with me?...Can't talk with a gun in your mouth huh?...Bitch-ass nigga, what?

—The Notorious B.I.G., “Who Shot Ya?[21]

Who shot me? But ya punks didn't finish now you 'bout to feel the wrath of a menace nigga, I hit ‘em up!

—2Pac, “Hit 'Em Up

After the release of "Who Shot Ya?", which Shakur interpreted as a diss song mocking his robbery/shooting,[22] 2Pac appeared on numerous tracks aiming threatening and/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".[23][24] During this time the media became heavily involved and dubbed the rivalry a coastal rap war, reporting on it continually.[25][26] This caused fans from both scenes to take sides.[5]

Although an official retaliation record was never released by the Brooklyn MC in response to Shakur's slurs, certain lyrics from Biggie's catalog of songs were interpreted by listeners as subliminal shots aimed at Shakur, most notably on the track "Long Kiss Goodnight", which Lil' Cease claimed was about 2Pac in an XXL magazine interview. Puffy, however, steadfastly denied this theory, affirming that if Biggie were to diss 2Pac, he would have called him out by name.[27]

On September 13, 1996, Tupac Shakur died after being shot multiple times six days earlier in a drive by shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada. A two-part 2002 article by journalist Chuck Philips called "Who Killed Tupac Shakur?" reported 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." Philips's article also implicated East Coast rappers including Biggie and unnamed East Coast music figures and criminals .[28][29] Six months after Tupac's death, on March 9, 1997, The Notorious B.I.G. was also shot to death in a drive-by shooting by an unknown assailant in Los Angeles, California. To this day, both murders remain officially unsolved, though many believe Suge Knight to be involved in the death of Wallace.[30]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Iton, Richard (2008). In Search of the Black Fantastic. Oxford University Press. 
  2. ^ "Interview with Mark Pitts". HitQuarters. April 26, 2006. Retrieved November 14, 2011. 
  3. ^ Bad Boy’s Good Man - March 2004
  4. ^ "Slain rapper Notorious B.I.G. was 'ready to die'". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. March 10, 1997. 
  5. ^ a b "Why the West is Winning: Milwaukee players talk about the rap wars between the coasts". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. May 10, 1995. Retrieved November 14, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Hollywood or bust-up". The Observer. July 7, 1996. 
  7. ^ a b "The Homeboy as Mogul, And the Mogul as Rapper". NY Times. July 20, 1997. Retrieved December 17, 2013. 
  8. ^ a b "A History of Modern Music: Part three: Hip-hop and R&B: 35. The death of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls, 1996 - 1997". The Guardian. June 13, 2011. 
  9. ^ "Ex-LAPD detective: 'Suge Knight and P Diddy were behind hits on Biggie and Tupac'". NME. October 4, 2011. Retrieved December 17, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Big Life: The rise and fall of Biggie Smalls". The Guardian. January 31, 2009. 
  11. ^ "Gangsta rap: East Coast vs West Coast". New Straits Times. May 21, 1997. Retrieved December 17, 2013. 
  12. ^ "Requiem for a Gangsta". Newsweek. March 24, 2997. Retrieved December 17, 2013. 
  13. ^ "A Source Of Trouble Shots, suits & shaky circulation threaten to rip apart hip-hop mag". Daily News NY. August 3, 2005. Retrieved December 17, 2013. 
  14. ^ "The Turbulent Life and Times Of a Rap Mogul". The Washington Post. June 17, 2007. Retrieved December 17, 2013. 
  15. ^ "THE RAP COLUMN : NOTORIOUS WINS B.I.G., MINOR REGIOAL FRACAS AMONG HIGHLIGHTS OF AWARDS". Billboard. August 26, 1995. 
  16. ^ Gamble, Ronnie (August 25, 2010). "Dangerous Crew's Shorty B Preps Book About His Life In The Music Biz". Baller Status. Retrieved 5 January 2014. 
  17. ^ "MTV party shooting revives rap wars". The Times. August 29, 2005. Retrieved December 17, 2013. 
  18. ^ "Police probe Puff Daddy on Atlanta killing". The Sunday Times. January 28, 2001. 
  19. ^ "Tupac Shakur out on $ 1.4-million bail". St. Petersburg Times. October 14, 1995. 
  20. ^ "Notorious B.I.G. Lyrics- "Who Shot Ya"". AZ Lyrics. 
  21. ^ "Notorious B.I.G. Lyrics- "Who Shot Ya"". AZ Lyrics. 
  22. ^ "L.a. times links diddy to 1994 shooting of tupac". The Boom Box. March 17, 2008. Retrieved December 6, 2011. 
  23. ^ "Man Says He Shot Tupac at Quad Studio". The Root. June 16, 2011. Retrieved December 6, 2011. 
  24. ^ "Biggie Smalls was murdered 12 years ago. Now Jamal Woolard's portrayal of the rapper in Notorious is bringing pain among the plaudits, such is his uncanny likeness to him". The Scotsman. January 13, 2009. Retrieved December 6, 2011. 
  25. ^ "THE RAP WARS / EAST COAST VS. WEST COAST". Newsday. September 23, 2996. 
  26. ^ "Gangsta Life And Death; For Tupac Shakur, Violence Was Part of the Act". The Washington Post. September 16, 1996. Retrieved December 17, 2013. 
  27. ^ "8 Subliminal Diss Records That No One Claims". XXL. November 5, 2010. Retrieved December 6, 2011. 
  28. ^ Philips, Chuck (6 September 2002). "Who Killed Tupac Shakur?". LA Times. Retrieved 15 July 2012. 
  29. ^ Philips, Chuck (September 7, 2002). "How Vegas police probe floundered in Tupac Shakur case". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 23, 2012. 
  30. ^ Notorious (Film) (2009)

External links[edit]