New Details Emerge About Tupac Ambushing A Tribe Called Quest’s Source Awards Speech (Video)
In the canon of Hip-Hop, the most famous Source Awards is the 1995 year. There, tensions between Death Row Records and Bad Boy Records came to a head, after Suge Knight aimed a thinly-veiled criticism at onetime associate Puff Daddy from the microphone podium. Snoop Dogg, Danny Boy, Dr. Dre, and others were part of the label entourage filmed reacting to crowd jeers in a year where The Notorious B.I.G. triumphantly won “New Artist Of The Year,” “Lyricist Of The Year,” “Live Performer Of The Year” and “Album Of The Year” for Ready To Die.
Notably, Tupac Shakur was not present at Madison Square Garden the night of that taping. He was incarcerated several hundred miles away for sexual assault charges from the year prior, and recovering from a Quad Studios ambush shooting. Knight addressed Shakur in solidarity during the same aforementioned speech. The rapper’s recently-released #1 album Me Against The World had lyrics and themes that overtly distanced himself from the city where he was born, and key Rap figures within.
However, one year prior, in 1994, Shakur’s antics would be one of the more controversial moments of the awards show presented by The Source magazine. The publications founder and then-publisher Dave Mays, and his partner in the venture, Ray Benzino, are the most recent guests on N.O.R.E. & DJ EFN’s Drink Champs podcast. Seated beside Dave, Benzino—who would record with Shakur, explained how the Thug Life MC’s antics would greatly upset A Tribe Called Quest.
Tribe, who had recently released Midnight Marauders, would take home honors of “Best Hip-Hop Group Of The Year.” As the acceptance and speeches transpired, a sound engineer began playing an unreleased Tupac song, “Out On Bail.” The star Interscope Records MC and his entourage (including Thug Life band-mate Big Syke) took not only the stage, but the microphone.
“That was the first [Source Awards],” explained Benzino, who with Mays, co-owns Hip-Hop Weekly now. “He did ‘Out On Bail,’ just snapped.” The Boston, Massachusetts native continued, “While [A Tribe Called Quest] is gettin’ an award, [Tupac and his entourage] are already settin’ up [and giving the sound engineer the DAT tape].” N.O.R.E. asked the guests if they had prior knowledge of Shakur’s plans. “We knew nothing about this, my nigga. [Somebody in the entourage] went to the sound-man and told the nigga, ‘Yo, you gonna put this in there—the ‘Out On Bail’ song…nobody knew that; they just had him hostage.”
Benzino estimates that Tupac was accompanied by more than a dozen people on this particular night. “He just went up there and Q-Tip was saying his speech, and [Tupac] just grabbed the [microphone] and said, ‘Yo, throw that shit on. Out on bail!‘ All them niggas just started [going crazy]. The music came on and he ripped that shit.”
Video of Shakur’s performance is below:
Benzino says he watched backstage, just feet away. “I remember backstage, all them niggas came back [with] Chris Lighty. One of them niggas was crying, like really upset.” The front man of Made Men and Almighty R.S.O. later clarifies that artist to be Tribe’s DJ/producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad, who Ray says was kicking things. “This was their big award.”
Also interestingly, Benzino says that Shakur’s then-friend-turned-foe was in attendance to watch the antics go down. “Biggie was in the audience though!”
The full Drink Champs episode of Benzino and Dave Mays is available at Crazy Hood.
Busta Rhymes would explain several years ago to Jack Thriller, that he was actively working to mediate tensions between Tupac and Tribe, following what he calls “a misunderstanding.” Hip-Hop Wired reported on Busta’s 2011 remarks:
“I don’t know if too many people knew about this at the time when it went down or even after, that it was a big misunderstanding. Me and [Tupac] had a conversation about that, and ‘Pac made it clear to me that he didn’t mean to do that, that wasn’t his fault and he don’t understand why or how it happened that way. But you know how it go, you’re music start rolling, you going to do what you supposed to do. ‘Pac was actually trying to see how we could coordinate getting a public truce going on BET; Rap City was still on the air. I was actually trying to coordinate that and I was communicating to [Q-Tip] via ‘Pac and ‘Pac via Tip, and the vibe was amazing. Everybody was like, ‘Yo, no doubt, no problem, let’s the world see it,’ and it never happened.”
A remixed version of “Out On Bail” (remixed by Eminem) would appear on 2004’s Loyal To The Game posthumous release. The original version was produced by Brand Nubian collaborator LG.
#BonusBeat: “Trying To Make It Through,” recorded by Tupac, Freddie Foxxx (a/k/a Bumpy Knuckles), and Benzino. Recorded in 1994, the song appeared on Benzino’s third solo album, 2005’s Arch Nemesis.