New York in the mid-1990s was a crazy time for hip hop music. From Nas and Big jostling for the throne to an up-and-coming Jay-Z to Wu-Tang beginning their takeover, competition was thick in the air at that time.
Then you throw 2Pac into the mix and it was like lighter fluid catching fire. On the opening track for Nas’ sophomore album, “The Message,” the Queensbridge rapper claimed the King of New York crown and fired shots at Big and Jay-Z. But word made its way back to Pac and he thought Nas was dissing him on the song, especially with the opening line, “Fake thug, no love, you get the slug, CB4 Gusto.”
Suddenly, it wasn’t just Big, Puff and Bad Boy that 2Pac had a problem with, Nas got dragged into it as well. It didn’t help that Nas was running with Mobb Deep, who had their separate beef with Pac.
The 2Pac vs. Nas beef came to a boil at the 1996 MTV Video Music Awards, where Nas’ brother, Jungle, always the wilder one out of the two brothers, was walking around at the awards show yelling “Mobb Deep.”
“I yelled it out, ‘Yo, Mobb Deep in the house. I will take a Death Row chain,’” Jungle told Complex. “They came right back with Pac, and he’s looking like, ‘Who said that?’ And I was like, ‘Oh god.’ And I was with his guy, Moose, and Moose was like, ‘Man, yo, I got you. I see everybody and they don’t even know I’m with you.’ And he’s like this karate expert from Queensbridge. I said it again, ‘Mobb Deep, what’s up Pac? What’s up? I’ll take your chain right now.’ And then they surrounded me again. They surrounded me, all, ‘What’s up with you? All it is. And Death Row, we here to die. You don’t know Death Row.’ They had razors in their hands, everything.”
After the awards ceremony, Pac with his Death Row entourage and New Jersey-based Outlawz crew faced off with Nas and his Queensbridge goons at Bryant Park. There have been numerous versions of this story circling for a while, so we need to take them each with a grain of salt.
According to Snoop Dogg, who was right there with Pac during the confrontation, Nas had 100 Queens shooters with him who were starting to surround the outnumbered Death Row crew.
Snoop Dogg: [Tupac] had seen Nas in the park, and him and Nas had words, but Nas didn’t want none. But Nas had 100 niggas with guns. So, listen to what I’m telling you, by me saying [Nas] didn’t want none [does not] mean he [was a punk]. It just means he didn’t want to [go] all the way there. Cause we was in New York, in Central Park, with 100 goons from New York [circling] us. Pac didn’t even see them; I did, ’cause I got a gang-bang mentality. I seen when niggas started circling, puttin’ they hands in they pockets while Pac is in this nigga’s ear, tellin’ him, ‘Nigga, I made a song about you, nigga, dissin’ you, Jay-Z, Biggie [Smalls]’ [Nas said], ‘I ain’t got no problem with you, Pac.’ [Tupac responded], ‘Alright, nigga, well if you ain’t got no problems with me, when the song comes out, you better not say a motherfuckin’ word.’ [Nas said], ‘I love you, Pac,’ and shook the nigga’s hand. That’s why I love Nas to this day. And Pac walked off.Snoop Dogg: 2Pac Confronted Nas in New York, Nas Had 100 Guys with Guns | DJ Vlad
In a more recent interview with Hot 97’s Ebro Darden, Nas clarified the story, adding that him and Pac had seen each other prior backstage during the MTV awards.
“I heard Snoop told the story a few times, but he had it wrong, a little bit,” Nas explained. “He had said Pac stepped to me. Rest in peace Pac, but he was in New York and there was a lot of tension flaring. Nobody was really there, I think he got into it with Jungle, my brother, at the award show. I seen him backstage and I said, ‘Do you your thing’ and he said, ‘You do yours.’”
From Nas’ story about the incident, 2Pac thought he was dissing him on “The Message” and also on various mixtape joints. He then recounted the confrontation.
Nas: Where I was coming from really wasn’t an all love place ‘cause there was a rumor Makaveli was coming out, so I really wanted to check the temperature with him. It was necessary for us to address the situation. We had to step to our business. We had a great convo. He thought I was dissing him on the song ‘The Message’ and I heard he was dissing me at clubs. It was back and forth and like, ‘Nas we brothers man, we not supposed to go through this.’”Nas Recalls The Time 2Pac Confronted Him About The Lyrics To “The Message” | Genius
Another version of this story comes from Outlawz member, Napoleon, who corrected Snoop’s little detail about Pac’s crew being outnumbered. According to Napoleon, with the New Jersey-based Outlawz and Death Row security, both crews were extremely deep and had a lot of guns with them at the time.
Napoleon: Ever since that day, I respected Nas. It could have went either way. We had so many guns that day and I’m sure Nas and them did to. That’s why I thank God that Nas and Pac was able to come together and talk like man instead of being ignorant because it would have probably been a bloodbath.Outlawz Member Napoleon Corrects Snoop’s Story About Nas & 2Pac In Central Park | Hip-Hop Lately
After reconciling with Nas in New York on September 4, 1996, and talking about a potential collaboration in the future, Pac flew to Vegas to attend the Bruce Seldon vs. Mike Tyson fight, where he was ultimately gunned down and killed.
“I was scheduled to meet him in Vegas,” Nas revealed in a 2012 interview with his former manager, Steve Stoute. “You [Stoute] and Jimmy Iovine called me at 4am and told me he might not…[survive the shooting].“