Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sean 'Diddy' Combs denies link to Tupac Shakur shooting

A Los Angeles Times investigation reports that Sean 'Diddy' Combs had advance knowledge of a 1994 attack on rapper Tupac Shakur in New York City.

Sean "Diddy" Combs and manager Jimmy "Henchman" Rosemond issued quick and angry denials about an L.A. Times report released Monday morning claiming they were behind the 1994 shooting of Tupac Shakur at Quad Recording Studios in Times Square.

"This story is beyond ridiculous and is completely false," Diddy said in a statement Monday. "Neither Biggie [Smalls, the rapper at the center of Combs' Bad Boy Productions company] 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. I am shocked that the Los Angeles Times would be so irresponsible as to publish such a baseless and completely untrue story."

Rosemond, now CEO of Czar Entertainment, said in a statement, "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."

Relying on information from an unidentified FBI informant and other interviews, the L.A. Times reports claims that Rosemond orchestrated the attack on Shakur on Nov. 30, 1994, as a response to perceived disrespect from the rapper. According to the Times, the attack was supposed to be a beating of Shakur disguised as a robbery, but escalated once Shakur pulled out a gun, resulting in him being shot five times.

Regardless of who started it, the incident touched off an East Coast-West Coast rivalry in hip-hop that resulted in a string of deaths. Tensions grew so high in March 1996, at the annual Soul Train Awards, that a scuffle broke out between the two camps, halting the show. Six months later, Shakur was shot and killed in Las Vegas. Six months after that, Biggie Smalls was shot and killed after a Soul Train Awards party in Los Angeles.

Both murders remain unsolved, however, L.A. Times reporter Chuck Phillips, who authored Monday's report, claimed in another controversial story that Smalls was involved in Shakur's death.

"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," Rosemond said in a statement. "I simply ask for all rap fans and fans of Tupac to analyze this fiction for what it is along with Phillips' motives behind it. I am baffled as to why the LA Times would print this on its Web site when a simple and fair investigation would reveal that the allegations are false. I am currently consulting with my attorneys about my legal rights regarding this libelous piece of garbage."

Reaction to the story has been mixed, with some hip-hop fans claiming it simply confirmed what Shakur had been saying in interviews and in his music since the 1994 shooting. Others said Phillips had lost credibility in the hip-hop community.

"There were stories written by Chuck Phillips in the past that I really enjoyed," wrote Hot 97's Miss Info on her blog. "But after that 'Biggie provided gangbangers with the gun that killed Pac' story…I just couldn't take the guy seriously." Phillips has stood by the earlier story about Shakur's murder.

Shakur was beaten and shot five times on the night of Nov. 30, 1994, at Quad Recording Studios on Seventh Avenue. He survived the incident, which some say launched a hip-hop war that eventually claimed him and Christopher Wallace -- Notorious B.I.G.

No one was ever charged in the 1994 attack on Shakur.

Now, The Times reports that informants allege it was orchestrated by Rosemond and promoter James Sabatino to, among other things, "curry favor" with Combs. Part of the motive, the story said, was that Rosemond and Sabatino wanted Shakur to leave Interscope Records to sign with Bad Boy, the then-fledgling company of Combs.

But Shakur had refused.

According to an FBI document, Sabatino, who is now in prison for unrelated crimes, "set up the rapper Tupac Shakur to get shot at Quad Studios" -- mostly after becoming "infuriated" at what they saw as Shakur's "insolent behavior." The Times reports that three assailants, reputedly friends of Rosemond, had orders to beat Shakur, but "not kill him."

Sabatino, then 19, had ties to the Mafia, according to the story, which said federal authorities had identified his father was a captain in the Colombo crime family. Sabatino is currently serving an 11 1/2-year prison sentence for racketeering and wire fraud.

Rosemond denied any role in the shooting of Shakur in a 2005 interview with Vibe magazine, though he described how Shakur accused him of being in on the ambush, quoting Shakur as saying: "Why you let them know I'm coming here?" Shakur was later fatally shot in a drive-by in Las Vegas on Sept. 7, 1996. The Notorious B.I.G. was shot in a drive-by in Los Angeles six months later.

Meanwhile, Combs has transcended the hip-hop scene to become an international celebrity. He has recorded Grammy-winning rap albums and acted in off-Broadway plays. He has a weekly show on MTV.

He also owns a restaurant in Atlanta and presides over the Sean John clothing line and the fragrance line Unforgiveable. Forbes estimated his income last year at $23 million.