On September 7, 1996, West Coast hip-hop legend Tupac Shakur was gunned down in Las Vegas. Six months later, Brooklyn heavyweight Biggie Smalls—The Notorious B.I.G.—was fatally targeted in a L.A. drive-by shooting. Biggie’s death was also the final nail in the coffin of the West Coast-East Coast, Death Row Records-Bad Boy Records feud that came to define hip-hop’s 1990s glory days. On the anniversary of Biggie’s murder 20 years later, it’s difficult to remember a time when coastal allegiances amounted to more than a preference for Shake Shack or In-N-Out.
While Biggie and Tupac may have been enemies by the end—with Tupac rapping about sleeping with Biggie’s wife, and ‘Pac turning against Biggie in the wake of the 1994 Quad Studios shooting — death is the great equalizer: Now, the once-beefing rappers are equally likely to be found immortalized on the dorm room wall of a college freshman, or momentarily resurrected as a headlining hologram. But incredibly advanced lasers aren’t the only forces bringing these hip-hop legends back to life. Two decades later, the lives and deaths of Tupac and Biggie are getting the USA network treatment. The upcoming series Unsolved, which dives deep into the two cold case murder investigations, stars Wavy Jonez and Marcc Rose as Biggie and Tupac, respectively. For Rose, it will be his second time playing 2Pac, reprising his role from 2015’s Straight Outta Compton.
And while watching Jonez and Rose channeling the rappers on set is unsettling, life is even stranger than fiction. In a new Daily Mail interview Voletta Wallace, the 64-year-old mother of Biggie Smalls, insists that a “conspiracy” is standing in the way of justice being served. Wallace confidently points fingers at the LAPD, claiming, “I have a very good idea who murdered Christopher and I genuinely believe that the LAPD knows exactly who did too.” She adds, “They’ve done their investigation, but they just refuse to move forward. I don’t know why they haven’t arrested who was involved. It seems to me that it’s one giant conspiracy, and someone is definitely being protected somewhere down the line.” For Biggie’s mother, “There’s no closure for me until that murderer is behind bars and sentenced.”
Of course, Wallace isn’t the first to weigh in on Biggie’s killing, and she certainly won’t be the last. The still-unsolved murders of Biggie and Tupac have launched more conspiracy theories than Alex Jones could ever dream of. Among the more outlandish claims are theories that the FBI shot both of the rappers in an effort to curb hip hop-related violence, or that Biggie and Tupac are actually alive and kicking it in a small resort town in New Zealand. Hey, if it’s good enough for Peter Thiel, it’s good enough for Biggie and ‘Pac.
While we don’t have a name or a face to link to Wallace’s claims, there are a good number of details for would-be conspiracists to comb through, courtesy of a cache of FBI files on the case. In 2011 The Daily Beast went through the documents to get a more vivid picture of Notorious B.I.G’s murder. Twenty years ago, Biggie was leaving a Soul Train Awards afterparty in a three-car motorcade; Biggie was in the second car, and his friend and label founder Sean Combs was in the first. At around 12:45 a.m., “An African-American male dressed in a blue suit and bow tie” fired six shots at the vehicles, with four of them hitting Biggie Smalls in the chest. The rapper was pronounced dead at 1:15 a.m.
Death Row Records executive Suge Knight was a main suspect, in keeping with the theory that Biggie’s death was a direct response to Tupac’s murder. Knight denied any and all involvement in B.I.G’s death. The LAPD, which was accused of corruption in the case, made the decision in tandem with the FBI to close the investigation into Biggie’s murder, abandoning the 18-month case they had been trying to build against Knight. Four years later, the case was reopened after new information allegedly surfaced. Biggie’s mother brought a $400 million wrongful death suit against the LAPD in 2006, which was eventually dismissed.
The FBI files are full of juicy details, such as information about LAPD Officer David A. Mack, a suspect in the case who had a Tupac shrine in his garage, along with guns and ammo. Other interesting tidbits include one informant’s accusations that Notorious B.I.G. had secret ties to New York City’s Genovese crime family, and the revelation that the rapper was carrying marijuana, a pen, an asthma inhaler, and three magnum condoms on his person at the time of his death. But according to a new Daily Mail source, Biggie wasn’t even the intended victim. The source, who was allegedly with Biggie on the night of his death, “is convinced the bullets were meant for P. Diddy.” There’s a certain logic to that, seeing as many fans believe that the artist formerly known as Puff Daddy played a pivotal role in Tupac’s death. According to this theory Sean Combs, one of hip-hop’s biggest living moguls, was just one lucky Suburban away from meeting his maker.