All Eyez On The Score: A Breakdown Of The Beef Between Tupac & The Fugees (Video)
On February 13, 1996, two of the biggest, and best-selling Hip-Hop albums of all time were released. That Tuesday, Tupac Shakur made his Death Row Records debut with double LP All Eyez On Me. The Fugees followed a tepid response to 1994’s Blunted On Reality with a critical and commercial grand slam in The Score. Pac was at the apex of his career, while Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean, and Pras were embarking on a rocket to the top. Somehow, those worlds collided along the way. Before Shakur’s death that September, he would openly take shots at the New Jersey trio, believing it was a response—not an offensive.
The beef never got the air-time or public recognition reserved for Pac and Tha Outlawz’ “East vs. West” feuds with Biggie Smalls, Puff Daddy, Nas, Mobb Deep, and Junior M.A.F.I.A. However, like jabs involving De La Soul, Chino XL, A Tribe Called Quest, and JAY-Z, it’s relevant and worth unpacking. This week’s TBD does just that.
With some input on The Score from ‘Clef, host Justin “The Company Man” Hunte looks closely at the song “Cowboys.” A video single that lives in the shadow of other hits, the song has been storied for its diss (and subsequent response) to Gang Starr Foundation’s Jeru The Damaja. Outsidaz member Pacewon’s opening background vocal, “you shot your bullet, but your bullet went…” was considered by some to reference the 1994 Quad Studios shooting of Tupac. Moments later, Wyclef spits, “Rappers want to be actors / So they play the Jesse James Character / (And get they bones fractured) / You ain’t got no guns, you off to the precinct / Inside tough guys are feminine like Sheena Easton.” In 1996, Pac had joined Ice Cube, Ice-T, and Will Smith as one of Rap’s biggest acting sensations. In the last several years, he had played gun-toting villains in Juice and Above The Rim. Pac responded to the Newark trio on “When We Ride On Our Enemies.” A remix version of the widely-circulated bootleg landed on 2002’s Better Dayz. “Heard The Fugees was tryin’ to do me / Look, b*tch, I’ll cut your face, this ain’t no motherf*ckin’ movie / Then, we watch the other two die slow / Castrated entertainin’ at my motherf*ckin’ sideshow / Bam! Set my plan in mo’ / Time to exterminate my foes, I can’t stand you h*es,” he charged.
“The Company Man” points out another connection. “Wyclef was close with Jimmy Henchman and Haitian Jack. Haitian Jack told Hip Hop Wired the two were blood-related through their fathers.” From calling him out by name on “Against All Odds” to the plot in this year’s All Eyez On Me film, Haitian Jack (aka Jacques Agnant) is an important, shadowy figure in Tupac’s life and trajectory. Both Jack and Jimmy’s names were cited in rumors linking the men to the Quad City shooting. City High front-woman Claudette Ortiz also spoke to VladTV about Haitian Jack’s strong presence in the extended Fugees circle during the ’90s and 2000s. ‘Clef later alluded to Pac’s problems with The Fugees as not being rooted in Rap, “It was geared by association.”
The rest of the TBD episode takes a deeper dive into “Cowboys.” The song was a critical platform for Pace, Young Zee, and close affiliate Rah Digga. Soon after The Fugees’ look, The Outsidaz unit (signed to a RuffHouse subsidiary, Ruff Life) was making moves with Eminem, Ski Beatz, and making their way with 1999’s “Rah Rah.” Digga would be a crucial part of Busta Rhymes’ (who was welcomed to Tupac’s One Nation) Flipmode Squad. 1996 was a time when Hip-Hop was trying its hand at cowboy themes (see: Jeru, Sadat X, Mo’ Thugs, Warren G, etc.). The Fugees and their possé seemed to be pushing frontiers and staking out their territory—from sparking “Fu-Gee-La” to killin’ ’em softly, to standoffs with some of the biggest names in the game.