Two of the most notorious unsolved homicides in the history of American crime – the murders of rappers Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls – have been the subject of exhaustive investigations, rumors, and conspiracy theories. Now, for the first time, the LAPD homicide investigation into these sensational cases will be laid bare in Murder Rap: Inside the Biggie and Tupac Murder Investigations. Produced by award-winning filmmaker Mike Dorsey, the film is led by Greg Kading, the LAPD’s lead homicide detective on the task force that built a compelling case against the true culprits behind both Biggie and Tupac’s murders when the LAPD investigation was reopened from 2006-2009, before the case was shut down by the very department that was running it.
With more access to a murder case than has ever been seen on film before, Kading will take viewers through every step of this stunning investigation, supported by 1,000s of pages of never-before-seen case files, 911 tapes, witness statements, videos, and photos, exposing the shocking story behind the brutal murders of these two music icons. Fans of both artists will see and hear evidence that has never seen the light-of-day, until now, thanks to the film’s complete access to the case.
Rhyme Junkie recently had the chance to discuss the film during a Q & A with it’s director Mike Dorsey & Det. Kading.
What drew you to this subject?
KADING: In 2006, I was assigned to investigate the cold case murder of Christopher “Biggie Smalls” Wallace in response to a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles.
DORSEY: I come from a true crime documentary background; this is my fifth true crime project. In 2012 I came across an article about Greg Kading’s Murder Rap book, and it blew my mind. I thought it sounded credible – it was well-grounded and backed by hard evidence. I’m not interested in some wild theory based on speculation that only grabs the public’s attention because it’s salacious. When I discovered that I could probably get access to the case files for these murders, then it became a movie that I had to make.
Who’s music do you like better?
DORSEY: I don’t want to alienate fans by picking favorites. I didn’t come at this from a super-fan perspective – I tried to stay objective and focused on the official investigations. Generally, I appreciate Tupac more as a poet and as someone who had a message. But Biggie’s a lot of fun to listen to.
KADING: They both have unique voices that I appreciate, however, Tupac’s body of work is more impressive, in my opinion.
How much vetting did you do of the sources?
DORSEY: Tons. It took 2 1/2 years to make this film, and a lot of that time was spent by me doing my own research. I had about 100 police interview tapes and over 2,500 documents from the case files at my disposal. I wasn’t limited to only what Kading or anybody else wanted me to see; I felt like I had everything. And the story that Kading had told in his book and to me in his interviews for the film were backed by the evidence every step of the way. There were so many instances where he would recall from memory what a witness said, and then I’d listen to that police interview, and there it was, word-for-word. If he had fabricated any part of this story, then my complete access to the case files would have exposed that; instead, they only increased my confidence in his story.
Do you think that if Jake Robles had never died that all this would have been avoided?
KADING: Perhaps, but it’s impossible to know. The egos of Suge Knight and Puffy Combs might be insatiable. As long as they were standing in each other’s way, trouble was going to follow.
DORSEY: Maybe, but it seems like things were so heated that if it wasn’t Robles’ death, it would have been something else that sparked the violence.
Do you believe Tupac was raped in Clinton?
KADING: Personally, I doubt it. However, those things do happen.
DORSEY: I don’t know. Cathy Scott only says in the film that there were rumors. I think the point was that Clinton Correctional was a really bad place to be, and Tupac had motivation to sign his Death Row deal and to get out of there.
If Tupac survives the fatal shooting is the aftermath better or worse than the actual events?
DORSEY: Better for Tupac, of course. His contemporaries are 100-millionaires now. There’s no ‘Beats By Tupac’ or pop-star wife and mansions for him. Maybe Biggie gets to live, too. I don’t see how things could have been worse than how they actually played out.
KADING: Hard to get worse than being murdered, but maybe fate would have twisted and Suge would have had his facts right about who all was involved in Pac’s murder. Biggie might still be around and Puffy would be dead.
How did you meet Greg Kading?
DORSEY: I read the article about his book and immediately reached out to him. He sent me a copy of Murder Rap, I read it, was even more convinced, and set up a meeting. I come from a law enforcement family – my dad grew up in Compton and was a sheriff’s deputy, and my mom was a 911 dispatcher. So I understand that world a little better than most people. Kading and I met in person for the first time at the Petersen Automotive Museum in LA, where Biggie was partying the night he was killed, and I brought my dad along with me because we’re both car guys, and because I figured he and Kading could trade cop stories, which they did.
Some question his credibility what convinced you his story was not only authentic but correct?
DORSEY: “Some” still question whether the Earth is round. Anybody can say anything about anybody. What people have to ask is “How credible or biased is the source?” I think there are some conspiracy theorists out there who have an interest in Kading being wrong – for financial and ego-related reasons – regardless of the merits of his case, and their primary weapon is character assassination. I made a WWII film and had to deal with people who were Holocaust deniers. I made a Manson Family doc and had to deal with nuts who think Manson was framed. So this is nothing new for me. But Kading is just the messenger; it’s the case files that have convinced so many people that his task force got it right. The film isn’t limited to just what they found over the course of three years of investigating – it also connects evidence from every other investigation into these murders over the course of nearly 15 years. A lot of the evidence and witness interviews in the film were actually collected by Russell Poole and the many other investigators that worked this case over the years. Kading didn’t make up any of that evidence or put words into witnesses’ mouths a decade before he inherited the case – his team just connected the dots and did great police work to get the confessions. Also, he’s still in contact with a lot of the witnesses and other central players. He still talks to Voletta Wallace fairly regularly, for example, and one day when we were filming B-roll in Compton, we were trying to find an address, so he just called a witness right then and got the information. He’s still plugged into this on a personal level that most people don’t realize.
Did anyone ever collect on the Death Row chain bounty Puffy allegedly had set?
KADING: There is no information in the investigative files to support a bounty was ever collected upon.
DORSEY: This is a good spot to point out that if it’s not backed by the evidence, it’s not in the film. We tried to avoid feeding fans more unsupported speculation.
Do you believe that Tupac’s death was a direct result of Puffy hiring Crips to kill him?
KADING: No, it was an indirect result. If Tupac had not attacked Orlando Anderson, nothing would have happened in Las Vegas. It’s impossible to know how things would have transpired after that.
DORSEY: I think it’s broader than that. From what I’ve heard, Orlando Anderson was not a guy to be messed with – there was probably going to be retaliation when they jumped him at the MGM, contract or no contract. I think the alleged contract for the hit was just added incentive. But I think it’s broader in that these gang members should have never been involved in this feud in the first place, because without them it’s just a war of words. But when you add in violent gang members on both sides who don’t value human life, words turn into actions.
How significant do you think the diss records exchanged back and forth between the camps were?
KADING: They were significant to the public because it gave them a sense of how bitter the rivalry actually was.
DORSEY: I think it’s obvious from Hit ‘Em Up that Tupac was pissed about Who Shot Ya, so those tracks weren’t something that either side was just brushing off. Instead of recording diss tracks, it’s too bad Big and Pac didn’t just pick up the phone and try to talk it out.
If the shooters had lived do you think Puffy and/or Suge would have been prosecuted for either death?
KADING: If the shooters had lived and the police investigators had been more creative and pro-active from the onset, there is a strong likelihood charges would have been filed. However, Russell Poole’s tunnel vision was very disruptive to the Biggie investigation, and Las Vegas PD was disconnected from the activities taking place in Compton and Los Angeles that were critical to solving Tupac’s case.