Rapper remains in critical condition as record labels battle on

By Tom Sinclair
Updated September 20, 1996 at 04:00 AM EDT

For trouble-plagued gangsta rapper Tupac Shakur, life continues to imitate his violence-tinged art. On Sept. 7, an unknown gunman shot Shakur several times in the chest while he rode in the passenger seat of a car driven by Death Row Records CEO Marion ”Suge” Knight in Las Vegas. At press time, Shakur was unconscious and in critical condition, and doctors had removed his right lung. Knight, meanwhile, sustained minor injuries.

Initial speculation was that the shooting (the second such attack on the rapper — he was also shot in Nov. 1994) was simply the latest, most violent chapter in the bitter feud between the L.A.-based Death Row and its East Coast rival, Bad Boy Entertainment, headed by Sean ”Puffy” Combs. Knight reportedly holds Combs responsible for the fatal Oct. 1995 shooting of a Death Row employee. Shakur, for his part, fanned the flames with ”Hit ’em Up,” released earlier in May, in which he boasts, ”I f—ed your bitch, you fat motherf—er,” purportedly referring to his relationship with the ex-wife of Bad Boy artist Biggie Smalls (a.k.a. The Notorious B.I.G.). Combs declined to comment.

However, in the days following the attack, some in the industry suggested Knight may have been the actual target. The controversial exec, who has admitted to having L.A. gang ties, has boasted of at least three contracts on his life. Says one industry source: ”Most likely they were aiming for Suge and missed their mark. He’s got a lot of enemies.”

Ironically, three days before the incident, Death Row rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg was maintaining ”everything is cool out here now.” Dogg asserted that he was ”running for president of rap” in order to ”bring peace and unity back to the rap family.” If he can deliver on that promise, he’s got our vote.