2008’s Biggest Stories #4: Diddy Accused Then Exonerated in ’94 Tupac Shooting

14 years ago a shooting happened that forever altered

the course of Hip-Hop history and the lives of two of its greatest artists.

         

On November 30, 1994Tupac Shakur was shot five times,

pistol whipped, and robbed in the lobby of the Quad Recordings Studios in

Manhattan. His friends the Notorious B.I.G., Sean Combs, and Lil Cease were

present in the studio at the time of the robbery.

         

Over the last two years of life, Shakur publicly

accused Combs, Biggie, Jimmy Henchman, and several other New York rap figures

with masterminding the crime. The accusations culminated most famously with

“Against All Odds,” Shakur’s final track off the posthumous Makaveli album.

         

The details of the incident remained confined to

hearsay and innuendo until this past March, when Los Angeles Times writer Chuck

Phillips published an explosive piece claiming that Combs knew in advance that

Shakur would be shot at the Quad.

         

The allegation was based on FBI documents detailing

statements from James Sabatino, an informant and alleged son of captain in the

Colombo crime family.

         

Sabatino claimed he told Combs personally that Shakur

would be assaulted at the studio, and that he later did business with the mogul

during the 1997 No Way Out Tour. He also alleged to have planned the attack

with current Czar Entertainment CEO Jimmy “Henchmen” Rosemond.

         

Despite Sabatino currently serving a 12 year sentence

in federal prison for racketeering and wire fraud, writer Chuck Phillips

insisted he was a reliable source and the incident is what sparked the

East-West Hip-Hop feud.

         

 

“Tupac was mostly right about what he wrote about [in

his songs],” Chuck Phillips told AllHipHop.com in March. “Tupac’s shooting at

the Quad was really a catalyst for everything that happened afterwards

including his own death and including the death of Biggie. It started the whole

thing off and if you lay it out in a timeline which I do, you can see; it’s

obvious and kind of sad for two guys to be this talented. I ended up with a

much larger story than imagined.”

         

Combs immediately refuted the claims, calling them irresponsible

on the part of the Los Angeles Times and Phillips, who years before wrote a

story claiming Biggie had ventured to Las Vegas to personally ordered Tupac’s

1996 murder. That story that was later discredited by eyewitness accounts.

         

“The story is beyond ridiculous and completely false,”

Combs stated to AllHipHop.om. “Neither Biggie nor I had any knowledge of any

attack before, during or after it happened. It is a complete lie to suggest

that there was any involvement by Biggie or myself.”

             

Jimmy “Henchmen” Rosemond, long accused by some of

being involved in the shooting and named as a conspirator on Tupac’s “Against

All Odds,” pointed out that the story had no merit when one analyzed the

writer’s credibility.

         

“In the past 14 years, I have not even been questioned

by law enforcement with regard to the assault of Tupac Shakur, let alone

brought up on charges,” Rosemond explained. “Chuck Phillips, the writer who in

the past has falsely claimed that the Notorious Biggie Smalls was in Las Vegas

when Tupac was murdered and that Biggie supplied the gun that killed Tupac—only

to be proven wrong as Biggie was in New Jersey recuperating from a car

accident, has reached a new low by employing fourth-hand information from

desperate jailhouse informants along with ancient FBI reports to create this

fabrication.”

         

Combs’ and Rosemond’s claims proved true, when the

Smoking Gun website exposed that Phillips’ article was based on forged FBI

documents from Sabatino. Furthermore, the LA Times admitted that James

Sabatino’s alleged role as a confidant of Combs and Rosemond were also lies

created to add authenticity to his story.

         

Although the story was a retracted and a lengthy,

public apology was given to all involved; the LA Times was highly embarrassed.

The incident marked the second time a high-profile story involving Tupac Shakur

and the Notorious B.I.G. was proven wrong based on unreliable sources from

writer Chuck Phillips.

         

In the ensuing fallout, the LA Times laid off Chuck

Phillips from his longtime staff position, citing “budgetary constraints.”

         

Combs and Rosemond were and likely still are

contemplating legal action against the Times for what can be considered

libelous accusations made against them.

         

To date, there has been no investigation into whether

similar disinformation was supplied to Shakur while he was incarcerated after

his 1994 conviction.

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