Mike D of the Beastie Boys might not have been involved in the infamous “East Coast vs. West Coast” rap feud of the late 1990s, but the influential emcee still had a firsthand look at the entire conflict. In a new interview with Vanity Fair, Mike D recalls his thoughts during that tumultuous period, what it meant for rappers like himself who were on the periphery, and his thoughts on the feud’s two biggest casualties, Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G.
While Mike D refers to Biggie as a “seminal rapper” and a “compelling figure,” he describes Tupac as more of an enigma. “Yeah, he was ‘Thug Life’ and everything, but he was more of an artistic kid,” he said, outlining Tupac’s affiliation with the alt-rap group The Digital Underground as well as his background attending a performing arts school. “He was so determined to be authentic, it ultimately killed him, which is kind of a sad and tragic thing.”
He added, “But if I look back at it now or when it happened at that time, it was super surreal. When everyone got the news that Biggie was shot, it was like ‘What? Biggie got shot?’ It just seemed like it couldn’t be true.”
He goes on to shed some light on how the East versus West rivalry was more of a specific dispute between Puffy, Suge Knight, Tupac, and Biggie rather than a full-on coastal feud. Despite being a Brooklyn emcee, he admits to never feeling nervous as he checked out acts like Cypress Hill and Pharcyde at various Los Angeles clubs. Still, he said he recalls metal detectors becoming common practice at hip-hop clubs to make sure “people’s guns were in their cars.”
Watch Mike D’s entire commentary below: