Had he not been cut down in his prime by a (presumably) still-at-large assassin in 1996, rapper/actor/activist/poet/cultural lightning rod Tupac Shakur would have turned 40 years old today.
But on a day when we would normally be discussing his legacy—or what his creative place in today’s hip-hop world might have been had he lived—the attention has now turned instead to a man named Dexter Isaac, who gave an interview to AllHipHop wherein he admitted to being the man who shot Shakur in a famous unsolved incident outside a New York recording studio back in November of 1994.
Isaac claims he was paid $2,500 by James “Jimmy Henchman” Rosemond to take out Shakur. The New York Police Department is currently investigating the issue, and if they find the claims to be credible, they plan to speak with Isaac, who according to AllHipHop is currently serving a life sentence in prison. Will the information that Isaac has—or claims to have—have any bearing ultimately on the notoriously still-unsolved cases of both Tupac’s and Biggie’s murders?
The crime for which Isaac is claiming responsibility goes back nearly 17 years, when Shakur was shot and robbed of his jewelry while exiting Quad Studios in Manhattan. Bellevue Hospital immediately operated on the rapper, who suffered a total of five gun shot wounds (two in the head, two in the groin, and one in the arm).
Remarkably, he not only survived but also checked himself out of the hospital a mere three hours after his surgery was complete. (Shakur was in town to record and also attend a court hearing; he was found guilty of sexual assault and went to jail a few months later. All in all, not a great visit to the Big Apple.)
Tupac famously accused the Notorious B.I.G. and Sean Combs—he was still “Puffy” then—of being involved in the shooting, which helped heat the already simmering rivalry between rappers from the two coasts (a ridiculous feud that mostly centered around Suge Knight’s Death Row Records roster and Combs’ Bad Boy label). The East Coast/West Coast rivalry finally ended in March of 1997, when Biggie Smalls was gunned down in Los Angeles, only five months after Shakur was murdered on the streets of Las Vegas.
Tupac’s claim was later thought to be confirmed by a story in the Los Angeles Times back in 2008, though the documents that supposedly corroborated it turned out to be false (the paper issued Combs a formal apology), and proved the case to be as seemingly opaque and unsolvable as ever—even as information from FBI documents linked to Biggie’s murder were released earlier this year.
Isaac says that part of the reason that he decided to come clean was to give the mothers of both Biggie and Tupac some closure, but even if his claims are true, it seems unlikely that they’ll contribute much to the cold cases both murders seem to have become.
And since neither of their deaths occurred in New York, it would be extremely difficult for the NYPD to advance either investigation even if there was concrete evidence of Isaac’s involvement.
At worst, this is opportunistic headline-grabbing on the part of Isaac (though it’s hard to tell what he really has to gain here, other than some attention from the outside world in the otherwise-sequestered environment of prison), and at best it’s probably just a red herring.
Like JFK or Jimmy Hoffa, Biggie and Tupac will constantly be the subject of conspiracy theories, but the likelihood of a resolution slipped away long ago.