Quad Studios Ambush
On the evening of November 28, 1994 Tupac was smoking pot as he made his way over to 723 Seventh Avenue, Times Square New York organized by manager, James ‘Henchman’ Rosemond who at the time was a close confidant with Pac to perform on a track for unknown Uptown Records artist named Little Shawn. He was promised $7000 paid in cash personally by Uptown CEO Andre Harrell, as he needed it badly for court costs. Biggie’s associate Lil’ Caeser greeted Tupac and his two companions, (Stretch and Oakland friend named Shorty) from an open window as they exited the car approximately 10pm en-route to the Quad Recording Studios lobby. On this same night Brooklyn rapper Christopher ‘Notorious BIG/Biggie Smalls’ Wallace and Bad Boy CEO, Sean ‘Puffy’ Combs were in house working in the studio. While waiting two hours for Pac to arrive, Andre Harrell and Henchman joined company with Combs, Biggie and their entourage. By the time Pac had reached the elevator downstairs two men in army fatigues (suspected assailants were Brooklyn friends of Henchman, Walter ‘King Tut’ Johnson and his promoter Jacques ‘Haitian Jack’ Agnant) brandishing identical 9mm pistols. Tupac was the only one shot, five times in the leg, abdomen, groin and one creasing his head. The shooters stripped him of his jewellery a $30,000 diamond ring and $10,000 in gold chains leaving only the diamond studded Rolex watch given to Pac as a present from Agnant. Tupac was still mobile and caught the elevator up eight floors to the recording studios bleeding profusely from the wounds where he was met by Harrell, Combs and Biggie who were all dripping in jewellery and when confronted with a bullet-ridden Tupac could not look him in the eye. Immediately Pac became convinced the party of men had banded together as rivals of his and sought to eliminate him. Over the next stages of his life Pac would venomously attack them as enemy.
A team of twelve doctors at Bellevue Hospital operated on Tupac during the early morning hours after the incident and were shocked when he checked himself out later that day, who claimed his life was in danger if he stayed there. He chose to spend that evening at the home of his friend actress Jasmine Guy. A group of Fruits of Islam soldiers guarded Tupac behind his wheelchair as he arrived in court the following morning for the jury’s verdict. Relieved by the acquittal of the sodomy and weapons charge against him only to be instantly shocked to hear that a guilty verdict on sexual assault meant he would serve a prison sentence. He was given two and a half months to convalesce for the injuries sustained in the Quad Studio shootings. He rested back in hospital and at Jasmine Guy’s apartment until Valentine’s Day where he received a sentence of four and half years. He was immediately housed at the infamous Rikers Island in New York. While in prison Pac campaigned heavily against Henchman, Bad Boy’s Combs and Biggie telling prison inmates and Interscope executives they were involved in bringing him down. Incidentally shortly after being locked down, on February 27, 1995 his third album ‘Me Against The World’ hit the streets selling over a million units in the US alone in it’s first week and remained number one for its first four weeks. It is today considered to be his most proficient recording accomplishment.
“If Thug Life is real, then let somebody else represent it, because I’m tired of it. I represented it too much.”
He commenced his sentence at New York’s Rikers Island where he opened his mind by reading books on Sun Tzu’s, The Art of War and Niccolò Machiavelli’s, The Prince until he memorized it. He even wrote a screenplay called Live 2 Tell. Then Pac announced to Vibe he was done with gangsta rap. At the time of his Me Against the World release he told magazine reporter “If Thug Life is real, then let somebody else represent it, because I’m tired of it. I represented it too much.”
He even hinted at retiring to Arizona with his new bride and starting a family.(The marriage was soon annulled.) It was at this time a rumour spread that he was raped in Rikers by a Latino gang, soon after he was transferred to Clinton Correctional facility in Dannemora. Here he became engaged to Keisha Morris, a John Jay College graduate who refused to sleep with him on their first date and does not smoke dope. Tupac claimed she was his first girlfriend ever. It was at this stage where Tupac ashamedly admitted in a Vibe prison interview to be responsible for the assault on Ayanna Jackson.
“Even though I’m innocent of the charge, I’m not innocent in terms of the way I was acting… I’m just as guilty for doing nothing as I am for doing things.”
He regretted not aiding in the defence of the young woman from the two men who actually did rape her. Behind the bars, Pac was plotting vengeance against the party he believed to be responsible for setting him up in both the sexual assault case and attempted murder at Quad studios. Sean Combs, Andre Harrell and Biggie. It was the back-stabbing by Biggie that cut Pac the deepest, as they were close homies through Pac’s early career in New York. He had been convinced with letters received in prison detailing the Brooklyn rapper’s involvement. It was this escalating feud that catapulted the ‘East/West’ beef that plagued hip-hop during the mid ‘90s.
Out On Death Row
“I know I’m selling my soul to the devil.”
Tupac had more pressing issues, as his attorneys hired to defend him through criminal charges and lawsuits across the country had exhausted his bank account. During the past few years Pac had become the sole supporter of his mother, sister and her child, his aunt and her children and assorted family members. Financially crippled and his career in need of a jolt, Suge Knight was never too far with promises of relieving all his problems. He also carried the ability to release him from prison. What he offered was a lucrative deal to join his Death Row Records. Pac had a visitor from childhood friend Watani Tyehimba who insisted he should not sign over to Suge Knight… between tears Tupac admitted to him, “I know I’m selling my soul to the devil.” On October 12th Tupac had signed a three-page hand-written contract drafted by Death Row’s lawyer, David Kenner and was released from Clinton Correctional the same day, Knight paying his $1.4 million bail. Waiting outside was a large white limo and together they flew back to LA on a private jet, straight into the studio, Tupac vowed to bring Death Row back to the forefront of the industry. Interviewed on The Source magazine, Tupac proclaimed, “Whether the odds are in your favour or appear to be stacked against you, the Death Row family sticks with you.”
Tupac entered the stage like Tyson entered the ring fresh out of prison, hungry to return to form, the environment he thrived on. His first post-New York state prison performance was in Suge Knight’s infamous 662 Las Vegas night spot in November ‘95. In front of a crowd including Mike Tyson, NFL/MBL legend Deion Sanders and actor Forrest Whittaker filled to twice its maximum capacity of 680, drooling in anticipation for this break-out explosion of pent up energy and expression. With the crowd getting completely out of hand, Las Vegas police did not appreciate dealing with such drunk and volatile dangerous gang members and private associates of Death Row. However Tupac tore the roof off the club busting out his most popular hits and freestyles with ferocious animosity for those who kept him caged. This was repeated in the spring of ’96 for Tyson’s fight against Frank Bruno which saw him regain his heavyweight title. Tupac and Snoop Dogg both performed to a star-studded crowd of entertainers and athletes, as the club was becoming notorious for post-fight parties with Death Row performances.