Who killed Biggie? Hip Hop trial begins
A trial is underway in Los Angeles that promises to shed light on the unsolved murders of two rappers in the mid-1990's that sparked a decade of intense rivalry and violence between two of America's leading recording studios. Today is second day of proceedings in a civil lawsuit brought against the city of Los Angeles by the family of Notorious B.I.G, a rapper from New York who was shot in the city in March 1997. The family of Notorious B.I.G, who was also known as "Biggie Smalls" and whose real name was Christopher Wallace, believe that Los Angeles police officers played a role in the killing, and that it was organised by the head of Death Row Records, an LA-based record company. The family believe Wallace's murder may have been revenge for the shooting of one of his fiercest and most talented rivals, Tupac Shakur, who was shot in a drive-by shooting in Las Vegas six months earlier.http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,7434-1664579,00.html
At the time, Wallace and Shakur were best-selling rappers for America's rival hip-hop record labels.
Shakur was signed to the West Coast label, Death Row Records, while Wallace was the 24-year-old star of Bad Boy Entertainment, the East Coast label run by Sean "P Diddy" Combs.
No one has ever been charged with either murder. In eight years, the police and the FBI have failed even to identify suspects for the shootings, which were both carried out in front of witnesses on busy city streets.
As a result, the killings have been shrouded in rumour and lurid theories of complicity between police officers, hip-hop impresarios and gangs. Fans remember Wallace's final album, Life after Death, when he sang: "You're nobody 'til somebody kills you".
And the feud continues. Violence seems to break out every year between artists from the rival labels, which have reported links to the famous gangs, the Bloods and the Crips.
The court case, which has started under heavy security, will be similarly controversial. The trial is expected to last four weeks and the Wallace family's case is said to rely heavily on rumoured confessions made in jail. Adding to the drama, witnesses who promised to testify have changed their mind in the last few days.
Vincent Marella, the lawyer acting for the city of Los Angeles, told the jury yesterday that the case was "a house of cards" supplied by "incredible witnesses and unreliable informants."
The main allegation of the Wallace family is that off-duty police officers from the Los Angeles Police Department were involved in the shooting of Notorious B.I.G, who was killed when his car was sprayed with bullets as he left an awards party.
The Wallace family believe the murderers were acting under orders from Marion ''Suge'' Knight, the owner of Death Row Records.
At the time, off-duty police officers often provided private security to rappers and their entourages, and the Wallace family have claimed that a former LAPD-officer, David Mack, used police radios, security plans and knowledge of the rapper's route to carry out the murder.
But Mack, who is now serving a 14-year sentence for bank robbery, has repeatedly denied having anything to do with the killing, and along with his purported accomplice, was dropped from the lawsuit by a judge last week.
The trial continues.
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