When icons die, everyone swept up in their gigantic mythos remembers where they were or has some anecdote about when they met them or the first time they fell under that spell. I imagine the greatest generation knows exactly where they were when Kennedy was murdered in Dallas. Similarly, the Baby Boomers know where they were when Lennon was gunned down in front of his New York home. For Generation X, they remember Courtney Love’s tears after learning of Cobain’s suicide, And for the Hip-Hop generation, you know what Vegas means. You know what happened at the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax in Los Angeles. But unlike those other events, we never had the closure of an arrest or someone to actually blame. Until now. Detective Greg Kading’s explosive book, Murder Rap, ties up all the loose ends in these two landmark shootings. We attempt to get the juice on both cases and all connecting points
***DISCLAIMER*** While Detective Kading’s casework was done under the employ of the Los Angeles Police Department, the murders officially remain unsolved. In this country everyone is innocent until proven guilty and many of the principals mentioned in this story never saw their day in court.
Planet Ill: This book is powerful stuff man. What led you to self-publish rather than, I mean I’m sure at different times, someone could have offered you a ton of money to release Murder Rap. Why Self publish?
Greg Kading: You know it was actually a situation where I had no other choice. I was offered a very lucrative publishing contract which I accepted. I had a considerable publishing deal with Random house and they had bought the rights to the book and I had delivered the manuscript and everything was great. And then once their lawyers got their hands on it, and they realized the controversy that it might create, they decided to decline on publishing and their explanation was it was reckless endangerment. They thought that putting people like Suge Knight’s girlfriend and Keefe D and all those people on blast, something might get messy and then Random House would have blood on their hands. They were concerned about the welfare of the crooks actually.
Planet Ill: Is the movie industry enamored of that kind of protection? If Frank Lucas can come out with his story I’m sure this story would probably be worth in terms of the rights. Would there be any consideration on that level? Or is it like a JFK thing where we’ll come out with this when everybody is dead?
Greg Kading: Well I hope that’s not the case. It’s been shopped around. I think right now, everybody is in a holding pattern. I think that there’s this whole issue of the film industry producing something that points a finger directly at a major icon like Puffy Combs and makes accusations. It’s something that I call the “Puffy Factor.” We’ll have to wait and see. It surely deserves to be preserved on film and presented to the public.
Planet Ill: This story is like an octopus; there’s a body with so many tentacles and tributaries leaking off of it. Let’s start before the beginning. Quad studios 1994. Tupac gets supposedly shot. There are differing stories; some say he got shot, some say he shot himself when he went for his gun and was just pistol whipped. Whatever. How did that incident serve to fan the flames between Puffy and Tupac?
Greg Kading: Well certainly, Tupac’s impression was that the guys in the studio, including Puffy, had orchestrated that. Whether that’s true or not, we really don’t have enough to say at this point. There are some people that are in a position to know that allude to that but we just don’t know at this point. But certainly Tupac believed it. And because he believed it, that helps to establish that hostility from then on. At least from his standpoint.
Planet Ill: Let’s talk about that, did he really believe that? There’s an interview that he did where he kinda acknowledges that Biggie tried to tell him that some of the people that he was hanging with were a little bit over his head. I’ll throw a name at you, Jacques Agnant. We’ll come back to him later because I know he moved out to LA for a stretch and you may know some things about that and I’ll come back to that later. There’s a difference between being an artist and being a legitimate street cat. And there’s only so much I can’t tell you; I still gotta live here. So on a certain level, he knew that they weren’t really party to that Quad City shooting. There are certain circles where they are saying a lot of that initial Death Row/Bad Boy beef, at least the Tupac beef was kind of like Ali and Frazier, where one side is inciting it to sell records. What kind of evidence leads to saying Tupac really thought it was Puffy or Biggie?
Greg Kading: Well certainly, and this is a complex question, cause there’s quite a bit in what you said and actually there’s a lot of answers to those questions. Most certainly Tupac initially thought that. And anybody would, anybody in his position, if you’re invited to go somewhere and the next thing you know, you’re getting stuck up, pistol whipped and shot, you’re immediately going to have that common sense conclusion like, “Hey, I just got set up!” It makes a lot of sense. I think in time, like you said, maybe he began to realize, “That’s just my initial reaction, but I’m starting to think there was more to it.”
So I think he was backing off from that whole, definitely that Biggie was behind it, but also began to back off of the idea that Puffy was behind it. And then he began to see those more shady characters like maybe [Haitian] Jack and James Rosemond and maybe whether those guys were actually behind it. Keep in mind, just prior to that, Tupac was hanging out with Jack and developing a movie deal with him.
Planet Ill: How often do you think the criminal element filter in to the music business? We’re going back to Frank Sinatra gangstering his way out of a recording contract. Why is it that some of these entertainers, particularly in the music business are always so susceptible to getting muscled. In LA you got the Hell’s Angels muscling in on some of the artists; you got the Bloods and the Crips on some of the artists. What makes them so susceptible to that kind of pressure?
Greg Kading: That’s a great question. If we could stay maybe just focused on the Hip-Hop and even more focused on gangsta rap, that’s a pretty easy question to answer. But when we get into a very general term like the “music industry” then it becomes a little more complex, because those issues are different. Certainly the urban music, the Hip-Hop and the gangster music, that comes from the streets and those streets, in many instances contain criminal activity. Let’s just be real about it; he was dealing dope. And there were issue where there were illegal firearms at his house and that type of thing. And that’s not to indict Biggie, that’s not to say anything negative…
Planet Ill: Nah the facts are the facts. That’s what we’re here for.
Greg Kading: With that kind f music, and whether it was the stuff coming out of Compton, or whether it was the stuff coming out of Brooklyn, that was the voice of the streets. And those voices were reflecting some of the criminal activity that was taking place so it just naturally evolved into the music. You had the guys from the street talking about what it’s like being on the streets and the rest of America eating it up.
Planet Ill: How did the Jewish Defense League end up getting involved with Easy E’s situation with Suge Knight?
Greg Kading: That’s a great question that I don’t have an answer for, but the only thing I can speculate on is that it would have been though Knight’s attorney, David Kenner. Maybe there’s some association there with the Jewish Defense League. I wish I could elaborate on that but I really don’t know.
Planet Ill: Let’s go back to ’94. Jake Robles. Party in Atlanta, Jermaine Dupri the host. Ruckus goes on. Jake Robles is murdered. The streets say it was an associate of Puffy’s. Wolf [Further research puts Wolf on the scene but not as the man who shot Robles. There are conflicting reports of the incident– Ed.] Was that an exacerbating incident in terms of how this whole thing evolved?
Greg Kading: Well it certainly played its part. I would not say that it was a critical incident, but it certainly was an incident that influenced in combination with other things. J Robles was certainly one of Suge Knight’s closest friends and confidantes. He gets killed by Wolf, Anthony Jones, and you’ve got Puffy there. And really if you talk to the people that were there and know them most, really was the result of a thing over a girl. Plus you have these opposing factions, it kind of spilled over into the Death Row/Bad Boy thing and it kind of really started out in the club over a girl. Or from people from these two groups. That incident and the consequences of that incident just contributed to a problem that already existed.
Planet Ill: So there’s animosity and this thing is building and building. And now you add a Tupac faux beef with a Suge Knight beef and now they’re on the same team. ’96 comes and Tupac is ON Death Row. Still, on some level I assume he’s still friends with Biggie. Keefe D stated that Puffy put a bounty on Suge and Tupac. What would incite that? Is there a trail that leads to there? We hear that it was a million dollar bounty, but what incited that? That’s taking it to an extra level. What there a chain of events that directly led to the bounty?
Greg Kading: there certainly was and there’s clearly for anyone taking the time to look, the evolution of that conflict just grew and grew and it involved things like the J robles murder, it involved things like the blatant disrespect that Suge showed to Puffy when he was in New York for the Source Awards. So there were these things going back and forth and I think one of the most telltale things that occurred was that on the Christmas of 1995, one of Puffy’s friends, a guy by the name of Mark Anthony Belle was out in California he was at a Christmas party and a bunch of Death Row guys, including Suge and Tupac and other of Suge’s gangster associates they grab this guy, take him upstairs, beat the living shit out of him and torture him. All in an attempt to find out where Puffy and his family live out here on the West Coast; where they would stay when they were out here. Literally, Suge was hunting Puffy down.
Inevitably, Puffy finds out about this. He doesn’t want to stay away from the West Coast; Puffy’s a business man he wants to expand and take his music as far as he can. But he has a problem if he comes to the West Coast. He’s got a target on his back. Suge’s got the means the motive and the ability to back up that threat and so that’s how the Crips come into this whole thing. At some point in time, I’m sure Puffy had to realize that this problem’s not going away. “I’m not going to spend my life on the East Coast. What do I do about it?”
And whether he was frustrated, whether he was boasting, whatever his actual mindset was, we don’t know but he certainly tells Keefe D, “Listen I need these things knocked out the way. And it was definitely about Suge. Tupac kind of himself on that list because of his antics. It was really just Puffy trying to get Suge out the way. Cause if it wasn’t for him getting Suge out the way, it was going to be Puffy himself; it was a pre-emptive strike to preserve himself.
Planet Ill: There were stories about Bad Boy being on the road and in hotels and people calling the hotel rooms like, “I’ll fucking kill you!” Getting threatened when supposedly no one was supposed to know where they were. How deep did this go before he decided, okay fuck it, it’s time to rock?
Greg Kading: I really think that once that happened where they would essentially kidnap a guy and torture him trying to find out where Puffy was, and of course the impression that everybody had was that Suge had a bunch of cops in his pocket. I mean what do you do then? If you’re Puffy Combs and your enemy out there already has law enforcement working for him, or at least that’s the perception, you’re going to be very desperate. What do you do?
I can kind of see how this evolved and I can understand how t got to where it was. I personally think that when Puffy heard that Tupac had been murdered in Las Vegas, he probably had an “Oh shit” moment, like here it is. It’s really on.
Planet Ill: Why the South Side Crips? I know a lot of people that go out there contract Navy Seals for protection. I know Jay-z and Dash I think those guys used to use Navy Seals and a lot of others…there’s a security company comprised of Navy Seals that handles logistical things like that. Why, if you have that kind of access to money would you use a gang, rather than a professional outfit?
Greg Kading: That’s a great question? Are you talking about Puffy?
Planet Ill: Or anyone that uses gangs, going back to the Rolling Stones when they used the Hell’s Angels for that concert and the guy ended up getting stomped to death. Why wouldn’t people use a professional outfit rather than a gang?
Greg Kading: That’s a great question and I think that for instance, Death Row, he was taking the best of both worlds. He had the right way security, comprised fo off-duty cops, mostly from Compton, led by a guy named Reggie Wright. They were doing the legitimate type of security; they were the armed, legit enforcement arm fo Death Row. But then there’s all these armed gangsters from the street that bring their own intimidation, their own kind of ability to provide security on that street level.
So they get the South Side Crips to being to associate and kind of provide at least some layer of protection for you made a lot of sense because these were the natural enemies of Suge’s thug associates. The MOB Piru. They’re all from Compton, Blood vs. Crip and that’s how it all started. So I think it was kind of a smart move, and the whole thing was kind of facilitated by Puffy’s friend, a guy named Zip, Eric Martin, who was dealing PCP with Keefe D.
They had this pre-established relationship already going on, Keefe D supplying Eric Martin PCP out in New York, and of course we’ve got Eric Martin who’s directly tied to Puffy. SO when Puffy’s having these problems out on the West Coast with Suge Eric Martin is in a position to say here, I got some boys out there, I got some bad asses out there; some bona fide gangsters who already are just naturally opposed to Suge. That’s how that evolved. So these guys kind of fell into place as Puffy’s quasi security because of this pre-established relationship between Zip and Keefe D from the drug world.