Hit 'Em Up

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"I was so unaware of the bi-coastal rap war that I suspected nothing when Faith Evans appeared with Shakur at Can Am. The estranged wife of Biggie was recording background vocals for "Wonda Why They Call U Bitch", a song which was at the time yet to be released." [1]

According to Shakur she had given him gifts of clothing, which he offered as proof of a relationship in an interview. Using this against Biggie in "Hit 'Em Up", Shakur continued to fuel the rumors of a sexual relationship with Evans in the song's line "You claim to be a player, but I fucked your wife." [4] Claims of an affair with Evans appear three times in the song. [5]

Shakur also attacked many other people associated with Bad Boy Records and with Biggie, [14] such as Lil' Kim and Junior M.A.F.I.A. [23] He exclaimed that their lifestyle and what they rapped about were fraudulent, and that they were not from the streets. He believed that they were only perpetuating the drama and did not understand the situation they were getting into. [5] Bronx rapper Chino XL was also insulted for vulgar comments he made about Shakur on his song "Riiiot!". [24] In the original recording, Shakur also insulted Jay-Z at the ending segment, but removed it after being convinced by Outlawz members that Jay-Z had nothing to do with the conflict between Death Row and Bad Boy. [25]

Music video

Shot from the music video, with stand-in Biggie on the left, Shakur in the middle, and Lil' Kim on the right. HitEmUpVideo.png
Shot from the music video, with stand-in Biggie on the left, Shakur in the middle, and Lil' Kim on the right.

The music video for "Hit 'Em Up" was filmed in a warehouse off Slauson Avenue near the Fox Hills Mall in Los Angeles on June 3, 1996. [26] [27] [28] It was filmed by the production company Look Hear Productions. [27] Shakur raps in a white room with The Outlawz, as well as in purple-caged room and a black room with bullet holes in the background. TV monitors in the background show clips of Shakur, Puffy, and Biggie Smalls, and even clips from the video "Made Niggaz." The video featured actors who were recalled from their prior roles in the music video for "2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted" to impersonate some of those who were attacked in "Hit 'Em Up." [29] This included Biggie, whose stand-in stares dully into the camera and sports a Kangol and jacket, similar to one Biggie would wear. During the moments where Shakur raps about his claimed affair with Evans, the Biggie impersonator crouches near the camera while Shakur yells in his face. Puffy is also impersonated, appearing with a high-top fade and leaning towards the camera, lowering and raising his sunglasses. [29]

Like the song, the video for "Hit 'Em Up" has also been called "infamous". [30] [ failed verification ][ self-published source ] The pro-West Coast track's music video featured the members crushing buildings in Manhattan, which was already done in another pro-West Coast music video for "New York, New York" by Tha Dogg Pound earlier. [31] The music video for "Hit 'Em Up" can be found on Tupac: Live at the House of Blues DVD. [32]

Release and reception

Finishing the recording of the song, Shakur felt very positively about the track, saying;

"[The] song is going to be playing in every club, every country. Deejays are calling from everywhere, wanting to get a piece of this." [33]

"Hit 'Em Up" appeared first as a B-side, [14] on the single "How Do U Want It", [34] by Shakur featuring The Outlawz. [35] On June 4, 1996, under the label Death Row Records, [13] "Hit 'Em Up" was released on compact disc, 12-inch, [34] and a 45 RPM. The original cover for the single had Puffy's head on a snake's body, and Biggie's head on a pig's. [26] It also appeared posthumously on several compilations, including the 2005 release of Shakur's last recorded live performance, Live at the House of Blues . [36] "Hit 'Em Up" was also remixed on Nu-Mixx Klazzics. Upon its release, "Hit 'Em Up" received frequent radio airplay, which was attributed to the public interest in the ongoing feud and radio stations' desire to garner high ratings. [9] However, some radio stations, such as the Los Angeles-based KPWR, refused to play it. [37] The follow-up to "Hit 'Em Up" was the song "Bomb First (My Second Reply)". [38]

"Hit 'Em Up" has been called "controversial," [37] "infamous," [14] "disturbing," [39] and "brutal." [11] Shakur's insults against virtually the entire East Coast scene of rappers were said to be ferocious. [3] The song, along with "Dear Mama," has been viewed as one of Shakur's songs that resonated with and was spoken of the most by young people. [40] [9] Among associates of Shakur, it was called a "bad-luck song." [33] Los Angeles radio director Bruce St. James called the song "the be-all, end-all, curse-word, dirty-lyric, violent song of all time." [37] Documentary filmmaker Carl Weston believed that "most people in Biggie's shoes would have wanted to at least hurt Tupac" in a Spin magazine interview. [41]

Among musicians, the song drew criticism from singer Dionne Warwick, [42] and disapproval from fellow rappers Kool Moe Dee and Chuck D, as written in their book There's a God on the Mic: The True 50 Greatest MCs. They felt that although Shakur was one of the most substantive rappers of that period, he had gone too far with "Hit 'Em Up," [43] causing some of Shakur's fans to turn on him, according to the two rappers. [44]


The song has been viewed as the turning point in the feud between Tupac and Biggie, where things were said and rapped which could never be taken back during the remainder of Shakur's life. [45] This has led to its being dubbed as the beginning of the war between the East Coast and the West Coast, [45] and the centerpiece in what became the most venomous battle in the history of hip hop. [46]

"Hit 'Em Up" has been studied by and with academics, [47] and it has been used as a part of a series of lessons for building the means to communicate with younger people. [48] Its main role in these lessons is to define anger in rap music. [49] Biggie was shot and killed six months after Shakur's death. [50]


From Biggie

After hearing "Hit 'Em Up", Biggie continued proclaiming his innocence in the shooting incident. He also remarked that the song "Who Shot Ya?" was written before Shakur was shot and thus, was not about him. [11] Regarding the lyrics aimed at his wife Faith, Biggie expressed an inability to find merit in what Shakur had claimed. He believed that Shakur intended to attack him through Faith, although he remained unsure of whether an encounter between them had occurred. Ultimately, he thought that if something had occurred it was none of his business, and that Shakur should not have publicly disclosed this information in a song. [4] Biggie responded to this matter in a similar fashion to "Hit 'Em Up", rapping in a joint release by himself and Jay-Z in the song "Brooklyn's Finest", [51] where he says "If Faye have twins, she'd probably have two Pacs. Get it? Tupac's?" [52] Shortly after the release of "Hit 'Em Up", Evans went on the radio and admitted that she had been with Shakur, but continued to deny their relationship was sexual. [52]

From other artists

Puffy had trouble understanding the sheer rage Shakur had expressed for Biggie in "Hit 'Em Up". He also responded by reinforcing his and Biggie's innocence regarding the shooting and went on to say that prior to the incident they "were friends", [53] and that they "would have never done nothing to hurt him." [53] In an interview with Vibe Magazine concerning Shakur's allegations of Biggie and Puffy having prior knowledge of the ambush, Puffy stated:

He ain't mad at the niggas that shot him; he knows where they're at. He knows who shot him. If you ask him, he knows, and everybody in the street knows, and he's not stepping to them, because he knows that he's not gonna get away with that shit. To me, that's some real sucker shit. Be mad at everybody, man; don't be using niggas as scapegoats. We know that he's a nice guy from New York. All shit aside, Tupac is a nice, good-hearted guy. [54]

Lil' Kim responded on the original version of her song "Big Momma Thang", which was aimed at Biggie's wife, Faith Evans, and Shakur. [55] Junior M.A.F.I.A. recorded a music video for the song "Get Money", which has been regarded as a diss to Shakur. Biggie denies these claims, stating: "It's just a video; ain't nobody got no time to make no diss on nobody." [56] Lil' Cease said after the release that Biggie still had love for Shakur, and even respected him. [41] The attack on Mobb Deep came as a response for their involvement on the song "L.A L.A" by Capone-N-Noreaga, which was a retaliation to Snoop Dogg and Tha Dogg Pound's song "New York, New York" music video in which members of Tha Dogg Pound and Death Row are seen knocking down buildings in New York City. Mobb Deep responded to Shakur with the track "Drop a Gem on 'em". [57] It was first released as a promotional single, and later appeared on their album Hell on Earth . Lyrically, it did not specifically name Shakur, but it did allude to the shooting incident. It has also been noted for erroneously stating the cost of the assets Shakur had taken from him during the shooting incident. [58] Bronx rapper King Sun also responded to Shakur with "New York Love (All Eyez On Sun)".


"Hit 'Em Up" was originally featured as a B-side on Shakur's single "How Do U Want It". [59] In 1998, it was released on Shakur's first compilation album, Greatest Hits. [60] A remix of the song was featured on Nu-Mixx Klazzics (2003), where the intro lyrics from the originally explicit version and the main lyrics from the edited radio version. [61] A live version of the song was included on the 2005 release of Tupac: Live at the House of Blues . [62] "Hit 'Em Up" was first released on Death Row Greatest Hits , [63] and was again released as a live recording on the 2004 album 2Pac Live . [64]

In the second half of Eminem's song "Quitter", the rapper attempts to remake "Hit 'Em Up" and in itself is a diss track aimed towards Everlast. Eminem has support from D12 on his version like the Outlawz supported Shakur on the original. [65] [66] "What I Think About You" by Bow Wow uses a reinterpolation of "Hit 'Em Up" and is a diss song to fellow rapper Soulja Boy Tell 'em. [67]

The song appears in 2Pac's Biopic, "All Eyez On Me" (2017), in which 2Pac performs the song during his 1996 House Of Blues Concert in the film as a message to Biggie, talking about having relations with Faith Evans, Biggie's wife.


"Hit 'Em Up"
2pac - Hit 'Em Up promo.jpg
1996 bootleg release
Song by 2Pac featuring the Outlawz
from the album Death Row Greatest Hits
A-side "How Do U Want It"
ReleasedJune 4, 1996 (1996-06-04)
Studio Can Am Studios, Los Angeles
Producer(s) Johnny "J"
Audio sample
Chart (2022)Peak
Hungary (Single Top 40) [68] 38


RegionCertification Certified units/sales
United Kingdom (BPI) [69] Silver200,000Double-dagger-14-plain.png

Double-dagger-14-plain.png Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

See also

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