Former Los Angeles Times investigative reporter Chuck Philips has spent the last 10 plus years of his life dissecting and investigating the circumstances surrounding the murders of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. Philips has particularly concerned himself with the 1994 shooting of Tupac, which ultimately started the East Coast/West Coast rap beefs.
Phillips points to the 1994 shooting at New York's Quad Recording Studios as the beginning of the East Coast/West Coast beef that ultimately ended with the murders of both Biggie and Tupac.
Implicated in the 1994 shooting was music mogul and drug lord James "Jimmy Henchman" Rosemond, who has denied accusations of his involvement in the ambush - until now.
GlobalGrind sat down with Philips, who broke the story last week that Rosemond admitted to setting up Tupac in 1994, while telling us what really happened the night Tupac was shot.
Phillips says that Rosemond admitted to the government about the Tupac shooting in hopes that the information given won't be used to prosecute him and that his confession would serve as catalyst that would eventually lead to a reduced sentence.
Philips also shared with us the cohorts and players that helped Rosemond pull off the 1994 shooting.
Check out the exclusive interview below.
GlobalGrind: In 2008, you wrote that Jimmy Henchman set up Tupac in the 1994 Quad studio shooting and now he confessed. How does it feel to be vindicated?
Chuck Phillips: A lot has happened since then, but it feels good to get the truth out there. I was in the courtroom for Jimmy’s trial but was kicked out only after 10 minutes.
Basically someone told me I should be there and that’s when I learned that Jimmy gave a statement to the government about the shooting. But I’m glad I went, it was worth it just for that 10 minutes.
How long have you been following the Tupac case; from the Quad Studio shooting to his murder in Las Vegas?
At first I didn’t pay much attention to the Quad Studio shooting. I primarily was following the music business in 1994 when I worked for the LA Times. I really started paying attention to the Quad shooting in 2000 as I started investigating Tupac’s murder.
I had written stories about Biggie’s murder, but I didn’t really know what was going on because the police had no idea. And when I decided to launch my own investigation in early 2000, by then it started to make sense.
I didn’t really believe the whole East Coast/West Coast thing back then. But then I started to meet the people who knew about it. They informed me and I followed it seriously for 12, 13 years, something like that.
What was Jimmy’s motive for setting up Tupac, was it jealousy?
He was definitely jealous of Tupac. Tupac, if you ever met him, was quite a character; he was a star. Everybody loved him, all the girls loved him; he was one of those guys.
So at the time, he was making that basketball movie Above the Rim and he was hanging out with Haitian Jack and Jimmy Henchman; they were good friends back then.
Around '92-'94 is where it all started; all that corporate money started coming into the rap business, Death Row Records got money from Time Warner and other guys got money to start their own labels.
And so, Jimmy and a lot of the Brooklyn gangsters were watching this go down, and they were saying, more money is coming into rap then you could get through drugs.
And they all were dealing drugs back then. And so he (Jimmy) wanted to get into that field. And then he and Haitian Jack, they started a management company and they said they were going to represent an artist for labels, and Puffy wanted Tupac on Bad Boy.
This is when Bad Boy just started and they told Puffy, they couldn’t get him (Tupac) to go to Bad Boy, but Tupac turned Puffy down.
He was under contract at Interscope and they couldn’t get him out of the contract. Then after that, Jimmy Henchman promised him; we’ll get him - no problem, we’ll get him for you.
So they wined and dined Tupac for a long time. Tupac then met all the major gangsters through Jack and through Jimmy, so he started wearing the Rolexes and they started doing all that stuff that Jack did.
In fact, some people say Tupac’s first movie, Juice, was based on Haitian Jack.
Jimmy became a bit jealous, because people didn’t think Jimmy was as important as Jack. Because Jack was flashy, you know; Madonna liked Jack, all the girls liked him.
Jimmy was not dressing in suits back then, he was dressed down, and he was dealing drugs, robbing people. And so he was deterred that Tupac paid more attention to Jack.
Eventually Tupac turned both of them down, as he would not sign with Bad Boy.
Did Haitian Jack know that Jimmy was going to set up Tupac?
No, they were just trying to sign him as an artist. They were hustlers, he was just one more hustle; and he didn’t pay off.
So now Jimmy was pissed off. And another thing happened. During that period, when Tupac was dealing with the rape trial at a club in New York, a reporter asked him about his case and Tupac responded, ‘I didn’t have anything to do with that, they’re a bunch of hanger-ons.’
He’d called Jack and Jimmy hanger-ons. And ultimately this is what pissed off Jimmy.
In a VIBE magazine interview, Jimmy admits he set it up. He had a conversation with Tupac telling him to stop telling everybody that he was involved, that Puff was involved, that Biggie was involved; nobody came there to kill you that night, you’re talking all this sh*t and you don’t know what you’re talking about, we came there to discipline you.
As for the night of the shooting, Jimmy tells Dexter Isaac, (the man who confessed to carrying out the order): ‘I want you to come down to do this thing at the Quad for me.’
They did it for that reason, to teach him a lesson. Jimmy wants to say:
“You think Haitian Jack is the real gangster? Well he’s not the real gangster, I’m the real gangster.”
And what happened at the Quad changed history; he changed history with what he did.
Hours before the shooting, Tupac was arguing on the phone with Jimmy right there, telling him ‘you know you’ve got to pay me in cash, you’ve got too much money,' etc.
All of this is happening as Jimmy’s men are on their way to the studio. When Tupac was interviewed by VIBE while he was in jail he describes it saying, “they didn’t go after Stretch and he was the biggest guy in the group, they came after me.”
They wanted to send him a message.
And here’s the thing about Jimmy, he was very smart and cunning, he wanted everyone to think that Tut (a notable New York gangster at the time) was the one responsible for the Quad Studio ambush.
But the truth is, Tut had nothing to do with it and he was not there.
There have always been rumors that Jimmy was an informant, what do you know about that?
Jimmy was an informant for a long time. He was an informant on the night Tupac was at the studio; in fact Jimmy booked that studio, but was never interviewed by the police.
The ripple effects of what Jimmy did made everyone in the music industry take notice, that if a guy like Tupac can get touched, so can anyone else.
And so it was a message to Tupac, and everybody he would deal with. At that time he hadn’t joined up with the West Coast. But it was a message like, you think you’re big, you’re not big; I just f**king kicked your ass.
The message was clear, you better not mess with Jimmy Henchman, or this is what’s gonna happen to you; he got to Tupac and he’s a star and I just did this to him.
What are some unanswered questions revolving around the Tupac and Biggie saga that still need to be answered?
No one’s ever been charged in either murder. I know who killed both of them. I wrote a story about who killed Tupac, I also know who shot Biggie; and it will be written eventually, and the thing is, this is a war that didn't need to happen.