Why Is The Notorious B.I.G.'s Murder Still An Unsolved Mystery?
Hip-hop culture has been the dominant force in entertainment for the last 25 years. It has minted new words for your Webster’s, created and destroyed popular trends, and made global icons out of personalities who escaped society’s harshest environments. Or, more accurately: almost escaped. Though 2Pac, The Notorious B.I.G., Jam Master Jay and Big L live on as cultural icons, the lives within them — Tupac Amaru Shakur, Christopher Wallace, Jason William Mizell and Lamont Coleman — were all too mortal men first. Regular human beings, taken away from their families and the competitive sport they loved much too soon.
Although these boldened names jump out at us, they are only the most famous of a crowded field of fallen cultural icons. XXL Magazine recently compiled an investigation into the status of every murdered rapper’s legal case and uncovered some startling facts. For those that haven’t been keeping score (or too busy hitting the ‘Quan’) — of the 52 criminal cases involving rappers, 36 (some 69.2%) remain unsolved. In Law & Order terminology, that amounts to about a 30% clearance rate, which is abysmal to say the least, especially considering their high-profile nature. So abysmal, in fact, it almost demands an examination of police conduct in investigating murders of highly visible African and African American celebrities. What is the real problem here?
We decided to break down the rhyme and reason dictating why these cases—from DJ Scott La Rock’s murder in 1987 to the shooting of Dex Osama (Byron Cox, 21) earlier this year—remain unsolved. “To put that number in perspective,” XXL writes before continuing, “NPR reported this March that the national ‘clearance rate’ for homicides in the United States stands at 64.1 percent. Those numbers are so far apart they’d almost be laughable if they weren’t so sobering.”
In a game where the tenets are “keep it real” and “no snitching,” we must take a hard look at how these mottos play into the frightening stats—or if they do at all. XXL’s “Current Status of Every Rapper’s Murder Case” spurred us to think, here, on this 19th anniversary of 2Pac’s The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory about what factors go into convincing witnesses to remain mum, where the families of these tragedies go to seek redress as the years add up, and to ask ourselves: why do we profess so much love for performers that we’re not ready to help seek justice for?
Only nine out of the 52 murders profiled have definitively been solved, while four additional cases have defendants awaiting trial. Three others are either unclear or still being disputed in a court of law. The staggering statistic of the 30% clearance rate means that there are a host of individuals who remain in or around the entertainment industry who have ties to some of our most prolific voices being cut down and placed in the morgue.
The mafioso lifestyle has been rapped about ad nauseum in rap and hip-hop for the latter part of three decades. Rhyming about the lifestyles of the rich and shameless has been a fixture in the game since Kool G. Rap all the way up to Rick Ross. And no matter how true or false, high or mighty these MCs are, the truth is that the streets give the performers the stories that go on to become the chart-topping, mega-hit songs that are sung by suburban white kids around the world. In the early stages of rap’s global domination, it was a necessity that you lived the life that you rhymed about. Real life situations played themselves out in this weird life-imitating-rap way wherein rappers would have weapons, entourages would have arsenals, and if anyone tried to check them — the resulting problems could be serious.
When money became the commanding factor determining whether rappers were successful or not, the stakes got higher, though there was nothing else quite like the East Coast versus West Coast “rap war” of the late ‘90s that tipped the scales and broke hearts in the process. But whether it was the insanely absurd death of Randy Walker (Stretch), which occurred one year almost to the minute from when Tupac Shakur was attacked at New York City’s Quad Studios or the vicious attack and murder of Jam Master Jay in 2002 — rappers, publicists, moguls, DJs, and their fans have remained mum as to who was behind what.