Much like my parents remember the day JFK was shot, I remember the day Tupac died. I grew up a hip-hop fan, and still am, and remember vividly my rapture with the Harlem-born, Los Angeles-based rapper. For me Tupac had all the qualities I still admire in poets, which have now only been transfigured on to more "respectable" literary models: defiance, brashness, charm, a temerity bordering on recklessness. So you can imagine how I felt when he was murdered in Las Vegas back in 1996.
The murderous culture of hip hop has, thankfully, ebbed in recent years, and younger rappers today mostly feign a bravado that is largely unearned. But all the present-day fronting conceals a disgraceful truth about the murders of yesteryear: they remain unsolved. No one has ever been tried for the murder of Tupac or his rival, Biggie. And that they were two black men, with their own criminal pasts, is largely the reason, lending the fact its shame. Tupac and Biggie were killed within a year of each other, and while many assume their murders are merely the rough justice of the streets--Biggie's death a blood retribution for Tupac's--the fact is that no one has any firm evidence to prove it.
That makes this revelation shocking: FBI files released this week investigating Tupac's murder suggest that Meir Kahane's Jewish Defense League may have something to do with it.
According to the files, Kahane's Brooklyn-based terrorist group had been extorting money from Tupac and another West Coast rapper, Eazy-E, not long before Tupac was murdered. The J.D.L. apparently had a habit of threatening rappers that they were targeted for murder, then demanding money in exchange for their protection. Or as the FBI files puts it: "The scheme involves (name redacted) and other subjects making telephonic death threats to the rap star...Subjects then intercede by contacting the victim and offering protection for a fee. The victim and their family are taken to a 'safe haven', usually a private estate, and are protected by gun-toting body guards associated with the Jewish Defense League."
Kahane's group was based in Brooklyn, not far from where Biggie was born and raised. Of course that is no evidence that the J.D.L. had anything to do with Tupac's actual murder, but that they are now implicated in a very ugly case raises the question. For a long time Jewish groups have ostracized the J.D.L., calling it a vile and criminal group. As the A.D.L. describes it's founder, the rabbi Meir Kahane on its website: "Kahane consistently preached a radical form of Jewish nationalism which reflected racism, violence and political extremism."
In the ADL's long chronology of J.D.L. business, though, the racist tag seems largely based on its anti-Arab focus. In return, Kahane was murdered by an Arab extremist. But it seems there may be another reason to deem his group racist; another thing, as it were, creepin' on a come-up: it's sinister plot against Tupac.
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