Tupac, Biggie Murders Still Drive Writer to Investigate

Tupac and Biggie / Photos by Getty Images

The back story: In 2008, Pulitzer-winning former L.A. Times staff writer Chuck Philips wrote a story naming names in the murder of Tupac Shakur, who died 16 years ago today. He’d been faithfully, doggedly researching and writing about rap’s East-West rivalry and the deaths of its two stars, Pac and the Notorious B.I.G.; but the 2008 story was retracted over an allegedly forged document, and Philips left the Times shortly thereafter. On Wednesday, he announced that he’d unveil “an exclusive 1200-word news scoop” the very next day via a series of tweets. Well he did just that — it’s all now bundled up in article form on his website — but we’re still looking for the scoop.

The play-by-play: After introducing us to the recently deceased Eric “Von Zip” Martin, Philips sorta maybe (?) alludes to an alleged sexual relationship between “Uncle” Zip and “Nephew” Puff. He then gives a fairly breezy recap of the events leading up to the infamous murders: Bad Boy aligns with the Crips; Death Row is in league with the Bloods; lines are drawn, shots are fired, Pac and Biggie are dead.

Okay, now that the boring stuff is out of the way, Philips goes in for the big reveal: “Zip was at both crime scenes. With Foxy Brown at the MGM, when Pac got lit up. With Keyshawn Johnson on Fairfax Avenue, before Big wound up in the morgue.” This does seem significant, like the beginning of some real news, yet we delve no deeper into why Zip was present, nor what proof exists that he was there at all. The next line is truly unexpected: “These are facts you won’t find on Sean Combs’ Wikipedia Page.” From there, we learn that Diddy, a celebrity/actor/musician/entrepreneur worth $550 million, has probably made an effort to distance himself from some of his old unsavory associations.

Then, we get a pair of anecdotes: 1) Philips remembers riding with Zip in an Escalade on a brisk Manhattan eve, powwowing over music, crime, and “California hemp”; 2) Later visiting Zip at the old gangster’s Harlem club Zipcode, drinking whiskey and kibitzing over the fact that Diddy doesn’t stop by to visit anymore. And just when we think Philips might share some heretofore unknown nugget spoken by Zip in one of their many scotch-soaked soirees (or perhaps on his deathbed), we get this: “His secrets die with him.” The end.

So, here’s a recap of what we’ve learned from Philips’ tweet-reveal.

The beef: “Hey guys, I’m really onto something here. This guy Diddy — you know, the one who’s always changing his name — I’m pretty sure he’s edited his Wikipedia page to make himself look better.”

The revelations: None, nada, zero, zip, zilch. Rest in peace. Unless we missed something — did we miss something? — because we’d love to be wrong on this. Seriously.

The takeaway: “I, Chuck Philips, was a better friend to ‘Uncle’ Zip than his ‘nephew’ Diddy. Nah-nah-na-na-naah. So there.” Pounds chest, throws peace, closes laptop, leaves room.


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