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East Coast - West Coast hip hop rivalry

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East Coast - West Coast hip hop rivalry

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The East Coast-West Coast hip hop rivalry is probably the most famous rap feud of recent times is the early to mid-1990s rivalry between the East Coast's Bad Boy Records and the West Coast's Death Row Records, which was widely thought of and reported in the media as an East Coast vs West Coast dispute. Much of the what was conducted through the two most prominent rapper of that period, archrivals 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G..



Hip hop had originated in the streets of New York, and the city remained the undisputed capital of hip hop until 1992, when Dr. Dre's The Chronic became one of the biggest-selling hip hop albums in history, followed shortly by Snoop Doggy Dogg's breakout album Doggystyle in 1993. Dre was on Death Row Records, headed by Suge Knight, and he soon built up a roster of stars like - Tupac Shakur, Tha Dogg Pound and Snoop Doggy Dogg that reigned on the charts, and Los Angeles begun to rival New York for its place as the center for mainstream hip hop. This had already, and somewhat inevitably, created a tension between certain industry heavyweights on both coasts, each hungry for control of an increasingly lucrative market. The biggest stars on the East Coast at this time were Puff Daddy's Bad Boy Records crew, which was founded in 1993 and included Craig Mack, Mase and the Notorious B.I.G..


Bad Boy and Death Row were thrown into conflict with one another after Tupac Shakur was shot five times at a New York recording studio on November 30, 1994, and publicly blamed his former close friend Notorious B.I.G and his Bad Boy Records cohorts. This feud escalated after Suge Knight mocked Puff Daddy at the Source Awards in August 1995, announcing to the assembly of artists and industry figures: "If you don't want the owner of your label on your album or in your video or on your tour, come sign with Death Row." Despite Puff Daddy himself attempting to defuse the situation with a speech later in the evening, a later performance by Death Row's Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg was booed (to which Snoop famously responded "The East Coast ain't got no love for Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg?").

The feud continued to escalate through numerous incidents. First, in September 1995, a close friend of Knight's was gunned down at a birthday party thrown for producer Jermaine Dupri in Atlanta, Georgia, for which Knight publicly blamed Bad Boy Records. Then, in December, while filming the video for the Dogg Pound's song "New York, New York" in Manhattan, Snoop Dogg's trailer was shot at numerous times (though the trailer was in fact empty at the time). The video itself then become the source of further controversy on its release, featuring Death Row artists knocking over New York skyscrapers and landmarks, to which many East Coast artists and fans took offense. There was also suspicion that the song itself was also targeted at Bad Boy Records and New York in general, though this is unlikely as the song is in fact a remake of a Grandmaster Flash song, features only generic, non-specific braggadocio/battle rhymes with nothing that could be interpreted as a specific attack on any specific individuals, and was written and recorded before the Bad Boy/Death Row feud got off the ground.


In 1995, The Notorious B.I.G. released the track "Who Shot Ya." Tupac interpreted it as B.I.G. mocking his '95 shooting, and claimed it proved that Bad Boy had set him up. In early 1996, Tupac released the infamous dis track "Hit 'Em Up," in which he claimed to have had sex with the Notorious B.I.G's wife Faith Evans and that "this ain't no freestyle battle, y'all niggas getting killed" and was viewed as taking the feud to another level and critics today look on the song as one of the defining moments of the rivalry. B.I.G. soon responded on Jay-Z's track "Brooklyn's Finest" (a move which also caused Jay-Z to become embroiled in the dispute). In March 1996, at the Soul Train Awards in Miami, there was a confrontation in the parking lot between the respective entourages of Bad Boy and Death Row in which guns were drawn. Although an armed staring contest was all this confrontation eventually amounted to, it was readily apparent to hip hop fans and artists that this rivalry was getting very out of hand, and going far beyond the heated, but never violent, lyrical battles for the superiority of the past.

On September 7, 1996 Tupac Shakur was shot several times in Las Vegas, dying a few days later on Friday 13. On March 9, 1997, then Notorious B.I.G. was shot and killed in Los Angeles, California. Both murders remain unsolved, and numerous theories (some of them conspiracy theories) have sprung up. These include, most notoriously, that Shakur (and possibly Biggie) faked their own deaths.

In 1997, several rappers, including Bizzy Bone, Doug E. Fresh and Snoop Dogg met at the request of Louis Farrakhan, leader of the Nation of Islam and pledged to forgive any slights that may be related to the rivalry and deaths of Shakur and Biggie.


Prior to his death, Tupac had also come into separate disputes with several other East Coast rappers. Some friends of Tupac Shakur had been apparently snubbed by the group Mobb Deep at one of their concerts, and when word of the incident reached a then-jailed Tupac he sent out a message to Mobb Deep threatening violence. Mobb Deep immediately responded with the track "Drop a Gem on 'Em" which, although its official release on the Hell On Earth album occurred after Tupac's "Hit 'Em Up" single which mocked Mobb Deep, it had been circulating on mixtapes and radio in New York long before. Nas also angered Tupac by appearing to mock Tupac with the line "Fake thug, no love, you get the slug, CB4 gusto your luck blow..." in the track "The Message," although Nas denied that this line was ever aimed at Pac. Even Chino XL, an underground rapper from New Jersey with no eye on mainstream domination and no ties to Bad Boy Records, Nas or Mobb Deep, incurred Tupac's wrath on "Hit Em Up" by using him in a somewhat ambiguous simile "By this industry, I'm trying not to get fucked like Tupac in jail" (ironically, the track to which this line belongs is a duet with proud West Coast representative Ras Kass). Chino soon responded with a freestyle on live radio, but it was either ignored or not heard by Tupac. Since these rappers were all East Coast artists, and because they were often insulted in the same songs which Tupac insulted Bad Boy Records, they are often believed to be part of a greater "East Coast vs West Coast" war driven by allegiance and territory. Tupac was quick to diss any East Coast artist that had any kind of association with Biggie, and in fact was harsh on his Death Row labelmates who were reluctant to participate, such as Snoop Dogg and later Dr. Dre. Because of Tupac and Biggie's prominence on the West and East Coast respectively (both were believed to be the preeminent MCs of their time) the feud became widely known as East vs. West, rather than simply Bad Boy vs. Death Row. However, there were several different artists who, albeit less commercially successful, were relatively uninvolved in the beef; these included Nas, Redman, Busta Rhymes, and the Wu-Tang Clan. Some have claimed that the "East vs. West" paradigm amounted to media sensationalism; however, as previously stated, both artists were the preeminent rappers on their respective coasts, and often invoked their region in their music (the cover of Tupac's All Eyez on Me, for example, shows him flashing the "Westside" sign.)


Soon after the death of Shakur, Death Row Records folded as Afeni Shakur, Tupac's mother, sued the label for allegedly cheating her son out of millions. Label head Suge Knight ended up in jail for unrelated probation violations. Lady of Rage and Nate Dogg have also filed suits against Death Row with similar allegations. Puff Daddy has also had multiple legal troubles, including a much-publicized case resulting from a shooting in a New York club; he has been acquitted, though fellow rapper Shyne was not. Bad Boy Records had for the most part maintained its place at the top of the industry since the death of Notorious B.I.G, with artist Mase achieving success before his early retirement (and un-retirement) and Puff Daddy (now Diddy) himself achieving considerable commercial success. More recently, Bad Boy has struggled as a record label due to a lack of marketable talent and allegations that Puff is more concerned with his other ventures (i.e., Sean John clothing). After Suge Knight's release from prison, Death Row Records was reborn as "Tha Row," signing many artists including former Dogg Pound member Kurupt, and Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes. Unfortunately Lopes was killed in a car crash not long after signing to the label, and none of their other signings have achieved much in the way of commercial success. Mostly Deathrow focuses on dissing former label mates,such as Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre.

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