Newly released FBI files about Tupac (“2Pac”) Shakur reveal that he and Eazy-E, another ‘90s-era gangsta rapper associated with the West Side camp, were extorted by Meir Kahane’s militant Jewish Defense League. Specifically, the Jerusalem Post reports, the JDL issued death threats against 2Pac and then sent intermediaries to demand protection payments. The files do not offer evidence that the JDL was responsible for 2Pac’s 1996 murder in Las Vegas, though undoubtedly that question will now be raised.
What the files do conclusively show, however, is which side won a very big battle. You see, 2Pac, though born in Harlem and raised in Baltimore, was based at Los Angeles’s Death Row Records, along with acts such as Dr. Dre (who founded the pioneering N.W.A. with Eazy-E) and Snoop Dogg. And, led by 2Pac, Death Row feuded with Notorious B.I.G. and his Bad Boy cadre (Notorious was killed about a year after 2Pac was, in what is widely seen as an act of retaliation). Biggie, of course, was no West Side-r: He proudly hailed from Clinton Hill, Brooklyn—not too far from where the JDL itself was based. So while 2Pac may indeed (as he bragged on the legendary dis track “Hit ‘Em Up”) have enjoyed relations with Biggie’s wife, these new revelations demonstrate that he would not have lasted in the neighborhoods that Notorious called home. I think we can declare a victor, and it ain’t the West Side. Sorry, man: Hard to creep them Brooklyn streets.
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.