Exagerated as it may have been, the fatal fued between Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G is still one of the most contentious and influential moments in hip hop history. Heavily mythologised and often used as a reference point for when “rap beef goes too far,” the rivalry is still constantly discussed and dissected in pop culture, not just because of what it led to (the deaths of both rappers – first 2Pac, then Biggie) but because of how polarising it was for the wider music industry. The Tupac and Biggie beef split much of the music world into two, even going so far as to rob us of certain collaborations we might have otherwise enjoyed. Case in point, the latest story to emerge revolves around none other than Michael Jackson rejecting work with Tupac Shakur simply because he was a fan of Biggie.
While it’s not groundbreaking news, and won’t lead anyone closer to the truth of both unsolved murders, it is interesting to hear that a 2Pac and Michael Jackson collaboration could have been a reality if the king of pop hadn’t aligned himself with the ostensible king of New York years before he was approached by ‘Pac.
Nowadays an allegiance with a specific musician is often treated as being a member of an exclusive faction, leading to cringe-worthy “fandoms” that are usually reserved for chart-topping pop artists and groups like One Direction, Nicki Minaj, Justin Bieber, Beyonce, Lady Gaga and BTS. It seems ridiculously petty that one would shun another based on being a fan of someone else, and yet that seems to have been the case here.
In the final weeks of his life, Tupac was sealing the deal on his fifth studio album, The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory. While the dark, incredibly moody and nihilistic project, best known for singles ‘To Live & Die In L.A.’ and ‘Hail Mary,’ was to be the final LP released by the rapper himself, it interestingly featured no notable guest appearances aside from some of Tupac’s closest associates from his group, The Outlawz and some other Death Row Records signees like Bad Azz. The only exception was Aaron Hall and K-Ci & JoJo (of Jodeci) on the New Jack Swing-influenced ‘Toss It Up.’
We now know none other than Michael Jackson was supposed to be on the album, and he would have been if 2Pac wasn’t at war with Biggie.
Uncovered by hip hop journalist Ural Garrett, who has been working on an oral history of the album for BET in honour of Black Music Month, the fascinating little factoid of hip hop history was revealed by Swedish music producer QDIII, son of legendary producer Quincy Jones.
QDIII had worked with Tupac before on the album All Eyez On Me and, for The 7 Day Theory, he was producing a song for the California-based rapper called ‘Thug Nature.’ Given, much like plenty of other hip hop songs throughout history, the cut was to sample Michael Jackson’s hit ‘Human Nature,’ QDIII wanted the pop icon to appear on the track with Tupac and subsequently set up a meeting between the two music titans at Jackson’s Neverland Ranch.
Michael Jackson was apparently quick to shut down such a request. Not because he found the sample too egregious – plenty of pop stars have refused to align themselves with rappers, like Australia’s own Gotye not clearing a sample for ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ that was meant for a song by T.I and Kendrick Lamar – but, as above, because he had already chosen a side in 2Pac’s beef with Biggie.
“I go up there and told Michael about [‘Thug Nature’],” recalled QDIII.
“And do you know what Michael said? He liked Biggie.”
‘Human Nature’ has been cleared as a sample for many hip hop songs in the past, most notably Nas’ ‘It Ain’t Hard To Tell.’ So it couldn’t have been for any other reason than Jackson simply not wanting to align himself with 2Pac in the East Cost vs West Coast beef.
In 1995, The Notorious B.I.G worked with Michael Jackson on a song called ‘This Time Around,’ which appeared on the double-disc HIStory: Past Present and Future, Book I album. It seems that moment solidified Jackson’s allegiance, although there’s another tidbit that could have been reason for the rejection.
According to comedian Boo Kapone, 2Pac and Michael Jackson actually once threw down in fisticuffs over a misunderstanding surrounding a young woman at a party. As Kapone retold on a podcast a few years ago, Michael and ‘Pac ended up scrapping at a party over a girl named Kidada, who Tupac was interested in and who apparently had a very close, platonic relationship with Jackson.
As Kapone recalled:
Michael is like Kidada’s uncle, they are close. He and Quincy Jones have known each other for a long time. Quincy did all of his music. She was with Jermaine Jackson’s daughter all the time. So Michael was at a party, there was a barbecue and Kidada sat on Michael’s lap, it was just affection, nothing more. 2pac arrives, along with Big Syke and Mopreme, and 2pac goes nuts. There was so much energy around, he was with Death Row, there was a lot of money, it was 95-96, they were super hot.”
“So Kidada was sitting on Michael’s lap, 2pac comes in and sees that and he says, ‘What the hell is she doing sitting on that negro’s lap? And Michael looks at Pac, and Pac comes in and he grabs Kidada. And so she’s in the middle of the two, Pac has his arm, Michael has his arm, there was a start of panic. Pac moves Kidada to the side, Michael intervenes, words are exchanged and they come to blows. Pac attacks first, Pac isn’t the type to talk a lot, he strikes first, Michael bends down to dodge and hits him, Pac kicks him, and they end up on the ground and we separate them.”
While refusing to be part of a potentially history-making collaboration because of either of the above reasons seems a bit childish on Michael Jackson’s behalf, it just goes to show how polarising 2Pac was when he was alive and how rap beef can send shockwaves that affect more behind-the-scenes happenings than fans seem to realise.
It also shows that it’s not just regular citizens that can fall into the immature pitfalls of fandom. Celebrities have their allegiances as well, and if all three were alive today you can be sure that Michael Jackson wouldn’t be caught dead following 2Pac on Instagram.