If all publicity is good publicity, then New York-based Bad Boy Entertainment and Los Angeles-based Death Row Records got better publicity than they ever could have purchased as a result of the feud that broke out between the two companies in the mid-1990s. As the artists associated with the two hip-hop record labels traded taunts and insults on their records and onstage, the hip-hop press covered every twist and turn, and soon the mainstream media were breathlessly declaring a so-called “bi-coastal rap war.” The rivalry was incredibly good for business. It propelled Sean “Puffy” Combs’s Bad Boy Entertainment and Marion “Suge” Knight’s Death Row Records into the spotlight, selling millions upon millions of both labels’ records in the process. But the “East Coast vs. West Coast” beef also took the lives of two of hip-hop’s biggest stars: Tupac Shakur and Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. “The Notorious B.I.G.” After dominating the hip-hop industry during years of record growth in the mid-1990s, that feud finally came to an end with the shooting death of Wallace on a crowded Los Angeles street on March 9, 1997.
Christopher Wallace was a Brooklyn-based rapper whose 1994 album, Ready to Die, was largely responsible for making Bad Boy Records a success. On the night he was killed, Wallace was riding in the passenger seat of a GMC Suburban when a Toyota Land Cruiser pulled up alongside him at corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue. The driver of the Land Cruiser opened fire on Wallace, fatally wounding him before speeding away. Dozens of eyewitness accounts allowed the Los Angeles Police Department to develop a detailed reconstruction of the shooting and a composite sketch of the gunman, but Wallace’s murder remains unsolved more than a decade later.
It was widely speculated that Wallace’s killing was in some way related to the similar killing of Tupac Shakur in Las Vegas some seven months earlier in similar physical circumstances. While no evidence has ever come to light of Wallace’s involvement in Shakur’s death, Shakur had publicly accused Wallace of involvement in a 1994 attempt on his life—an accusation that greatly escalated the East Coast-West Coast feud and made Wallace and Shakur into its most prominent participants.
In the months following Christopher Wallace’s death, the East Coast-West Coast feud may have faded away, but fan interest in its participants has not. Wallace’s second and most successful studio album, Life After Death, was released less than three weeks after he died, and “new” material by both Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. continues to be released posthumously more than 10 years after both artists’ passing.