An attack on Tupac Shakur launched a hip-hop war
In 1994, Tupac Shakur was ambushed, beaten and shot at the Quad Recording Studios in New York. He insisted that friends of Sean 'Diddy' Combs were behind it. New information supports him.
By Chuck Philips, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
6:00 AM PDT, March 17, 2008
NEW YORK -- Cameras flashed as paramedics carried the victim into the glare of Times Square on a stretcher. Blood seeped through bandages from five gunshot wounds.
Tupac Shakur had been beaten, shot and left for dead at the Quad Recording Studios on New York's 7th Avenue. As he was borne to a waiting ambulance through a swarm of paparazzi on Nov. 30, 1994, the rap star thrust his middle finger into the air.
It was a portentous moment in hip-hop -- the start of a bicoastal war that would culminate years later in the killings of Shakur and rap's other leading star, Christopher Wallace, better known as the Notorious B.I.G.
The ambush at the Quad remains a source of fascination and frustration to music fans and law enforcement officials alike. No one has ever been charged in the attack.
Now, newly discovered information, including interviews with people who were at the studio that night, lends credence to Shakur's insistence that associates of rap impresario Sean "Diddy" Combs were behind the assault. Their alleged motives: to punish Shakur for disrespecting them and rejecting their business overtures and, not incidentally, to curry favor with Combs.
The information focuses on two New York hip-hop figures -- talent manager James "Jimmy Henchman" Rosemond and promoter James Sabatino, who is now in prison for unrelated crimes.
FBI records obtained recently by The Times say that a confidential informant told authorities in 2002 that Rosemond and Sabatino "set up the rapper Tupac Shakur to get shot at Quad Studios." The informant said Sabatino had told him that Shakur "had to be dealt with."
The records -- summaries of FBI interviews with the informant conducted in July and December 2002 -- provide details of how Shakur was lured to the studio and ambushed. Others with knowledge of the incident corroborated the informant's account in interviews with The Times and gave additional details.
According to this information, Rosemond and Sabatino, infuriated by what they saw as Shakur's insolent behavior, enticed him to the Quad by offering him $7,000 to provide a vocal track for a rap recording.
Three assailants -- reputedly friends of Rosemond -- were lying in wait. They were on orders to beat Shakur but not kill him and to make the incident look like a robbery, the sources said. They were told they could keep whatever jewelry or other valuables they could steal from Shakur and his entourage.
A member of Shakur's posse cooperated with the rapper's enemies, relaying their offer of a $7,000 payment and keeping them informed of his whereabouts on the night of the assault, according to the informant and the other sources.
Rosemond, who has served prison time for drug dealing and weapons offenses, has been described by Vibe magazine as "one of the most respected and feared players in hip-hop." His Czar Entertainment represents rappers Shyne, Too Short, Gucci Mane and the Game.
Rosemond has long denied any role in the Quad incident. He declined to be interviewed for this article, but his lawyer, Jeffrey Lichtman, dismissed the new information as "ancient double-hearsay allegations."
Lichtman noted that Rosemond had never been charged or questioned in connection with the attack -- a sign, Lichtman said, that federal authorities have "discounted" what the informant told them. Rosemond "was not involved in the assault and will not be prosecuted for it," Lichtman said.
Sabatino declined to comment.
Combs, whose business empire includes Bad Boy Records and clothing and fragrance lines, also declined to comment.
The FBI documents do not name the informant. The Times learned his identity and verified that he was at the Quad on the night of the assault. When contacted, the man said the FBI records accurately convey what happened, and what he told investigators. He and the other sources interviewed for this article discussed the events of Nov. 30, 1994, on condition that their names not be published.
Their accounts are consistent with Shakur's own. In interviews and on recordings, the rapper blamed Rosemond, Combs and their associates for the attack and promised to get even.